In my post on the world's best shopping cities, I mentioned that one of my favorite stores in the UK is Liberty of London. Like most old British retailers (Harrod's, Burberry, Boots), Liberty of London has a history almost as memorable and rich as its fantastic wares.

Started by Arthur Lasenby Liberty in 1875 on Regent Street, the store enjoyed a modest beginning, selling only ornaments, fabric and objects d'arte from the east. After a few years, Liberty realized that the fabric created in Asia was too delicate for his customers' furniture and clothing, so he turned to the British textile producers for a solution. Wanting unique fabric that was slightly more rugged than his previous inventory, he eventually imported woven textiles, then used British printers to embellish the fabrics with hand-block designs. The fabric soon became known as "Liberty Art Fabrics."

The original fabrics were closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Art Nouveau and Aestheticism. Artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lord Frederick Leighton and Edward Burnes-Jones were known fans of Liberty's Art Fabrics. Even today, more than 100 years later, Liberty of London continues its commitment to unusual, eclectic fabrics and delicate, but striking design.