Liberty Open Call – Britain’s Next Big Thing


I really enjoyed watching Britain’s Next Big Thing on BBC2 last night. Fronted by Theo Paphitis, it could have ended up as a Dragon’s Den for designers, but instead the programme highlighted the difficulties designers face getting their products into top stores and showcased how much fabulous design talent we have in Britain. Admittedly there were also some cringe-worthy and comedy moments such as the middle aged man in a glittering jock strap, the stuffed lamb in a box and the necklace consisting of various bits of junk welded together, but this was entertainment after all.

Liberty, a retail mecca for any design lover, invited anyone (literally anyone) with a great product to come and sell their idea in a five minute pitch to the discerning buying team at the London store. More than 600 people queued from dawn to present their ideas to the Liberty team and the result was a fascinating insight into the buying department of one of the most respected design stores in the world. Ed Burstell, Liberty’s Head of Buying, made compulsive viewing with his combination of acid wit, commercial savvy, impeccable taste and fabulous personal style. I was pleased to see David Nicholls, who was my editor at the Telegraph Magazine, as one of the judges alongside the Liberty staff, as his impeccable taste and eye for design are well respected in the design industry. David also champions British design in his weekly column ‘Made in Britain’ and has curated an exhibition at Liberty, so is well qualified to pass judgment on the interiors products that made it through those imposing Arts and Craft doors.

These are some of the designers whose beautiful products made it into the Liberty store…


Ayshire carpenter Thomas Hopkins-Gibson had only been producing ceramics for a year when he brought his designs along to the Liberty Open Call. He had lost his job a few years previously and decided to retrain, completing an art degree at the age of forty. His turned wooden bowls and ceramics inspired by drift wood, are breathtakingly beautiful.

Richard Weston cut an eccentric figure as a professor of architecture who had discovered he could digitally reproduce amazing images of ammonite and natural minerals on silk.  The result was beautiful organic shapes with vivid swirls of colour, perfectly suited to large silk scarves and therefore perfect for Liberty.

Charlotte Sale’s stunning hand crafted glass bowls were a hit with the Liberty team. Her dynamic creations are visually arresting and are sure to become collectable pieces of art.

Last week saw the return of Liberty’s Open Call and you can see how it went here via YouTube:

A further date for this year has been added and you can pitch your product to the Liberty buyers on 20th August 2011. Best of luck!

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2 responses

  1. Hi Emily

    I have just read your article with great interest. I am a textile designer who has a collection of digital fabrics/soft furnishings and hand painted silk which I would like to sell in the higher end market. Do you know if liberty are having any more open calls. I have had interest in my designs from Canada and China, but would like to promote my products over here.

    Kind regards

    Mandy Bensley

    • Hi Mandy, sorry it’s taken a while to get back to you! Yes, I think Liberty is doing more open calls. You should be able to find details through their web site or by calling the store direct. Good luck! Emily x

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