Reinventing a classic

When it comes to tweed, a Hove designer is doing things differently as Charlotte Pearson discovers.

Thursday, 8th September 2016, 7:14 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:48 am
Liberty Kelly

When it comes to tweed, a Hove designer is doing things differently as Charlotte Pearson discovers.

Not many businesses can claim to have started because of Tim Burton but Liberty Kelly’s can.

It was while working as a costume designer on the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that Liberty was given a piece of Harris Tweed by the American director.

Liberty Kelly

“One of the ‘grandparents’ had a suit made from the material and we had some left over so Tim Burton gave it to me,” she explains.

“I made myself a poncho and started to get compliments from friends and this grew to more and more people asking me to make them one.”

As a costume designer Liberty got to travel the world and work with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, but when she had her children she found it harder to juggle motherhood and film work.

“I spent a lot of time on the M4 driving to Pinewood Studio,” she recalls. “Starting my own business meant I could be home more for my kids.”

Liberty Kelly

Creating classically inspired modern British heritage tweed jackets, ponchos and parka coats Liberty launched the business five years ago.

And it was her children that inspired her to add jackets to her clothing line.

“We were at my daughter’s christening and I forgot to bring any layers for my son so my mum gave me one of her tweed jackets,” explains Liberty.

“I looked at it and took it up, moved the buttons and it had this cowl neckline that I really liked and I just thought I want something like that.”

All the items are made using tweed from Marton Mills in Yorkshire and are created in London.

“I used to make it all myself but it got to the point and I couldn’t do it anymore,” reveals Liberty. “My sewing machine started to fail me and would throb under the weight of what I was doing, so I found some very talented seamstresses in London who now sew everything.”

From the start Liberty was keen to do things differently and change people’s perceptions in relation to tweed.

“I love contrasting collars and a bit of colour,” she smiles. “The first time Duncan came from Marton Mills he had this old leather case full of tweed.

“I spent hours supplying him coffee while I looked at the different colour ways and designs.”

Alongside the core collection there are also limited edition collections which are released throughout the year.

“Sometimes I just fall in love with a fabric and have to create something using it,” enthuses Liberty. “These usually sell really quickly and sell out before I know it.

“I get people who have had a jacket which they bought when we launched and come back year after year for the different colourways.”

Liberty believes that items of clothing shouldn’t be left for best and wants her jackets and ponchos to be worn all the time.

“People always pick up the tweed and say about how stiff it is, but I explain to them to take it home, wear it and it will soften and mould to you,” she says.

“I love wearing them as often as I can, it is great to be out and for people to ask where I got it from.

“I get great feedback from my customers as well.

“One told me the other day that they were out and saw Dame Vivienne Westwood who said she loved the jacket, that was such an honour for me as I love her style.”

Although ideal for colder weather, Liberty says the ponchos are great to put on in the spring and summer evenings when it gets chilly.

Liberty has also created silk and linen jackets which are perfect for warmer days.

A self-confessed fan of her own items, she does explain how it is starting to cause issues at home.

“I do have a few of my own jackets ... so many that the coat hook actually broke the other day as I had too many on there,” she laughs.

But it is no wonder when you see the quality and care that has gone into making them.

Liberty’s clothes certainly have an air of the ‘theatrical’ about them, which isn’t surprising considering how the business started and continues to turn heads.

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