As Buying Manager for Home and Gifting at Liberty, Bryony Sheridan might just have the dream job. As the doors to London’s most iconic shop re-open this week, we meet her to find out what it’s like behind the scenes.
What’s it like working for Liberty?
There’s this sense of family here, everyone treats it almost like their own business so there’s a great deal of freedom and power, as well as the weight of responsibility. I love our ability to support independents as well as the chunky commercial players. Home and Interiors is just flying at the moment – the challenge is procuring enough stock!
When you’re looking for new brands to bring in, what are you looking for?
Ah the famous question! Well, firstly there’s got to be something magical and different about it. I have this attitude that we don’t sell things that you need at Liberty, we sell the things that you want. And that’s how I look at it in my head. The whole shop is a gift. So it needs to be something special that you would either give as a gift or buy yourself as a gift.
Who is the Liberty customer?
Everyone. I feel it’s really important that you can come into Liberty at any salary and be able to buy something, whether it’s one special card or a dining table.
What do you collect for yourself?
Astier de Villatte. I’ve always loved it and I started buying it as a junior, one plate at a time. A couple of years ago I hosted Christmas and decided it was time to complete the set. My favourite ever piece is this Rocaille vase. It makes flowers look amazing and it works well on a shelf as it’s not too deep:
I also collect jars. I have a whole wall in my kitchen full of Kilner jars filled with things picked up on my travels, coloured pastas from Italy etc. It’s become a bit of a joke, I scour foreign supermarkets for interesting things. I think I’ve got some marigold petals that I’ve never cooked with and never will!
What are your buying missions like?
We’re pushed to find product that nobody else has. We’re given a budget for procuring and sourcing and I am quite brave about where we go. We try to go somewhere new every year, I might have a few addresses and we follow google maps to get there, and knock on the door…
Gosh that must be a dream when you coming knocking!
You have to remember that in the world, not everyone knows Liberty or loves it like we do. I get asked, ‘how big is your shop, it is a big shop or a small shop?’ Hmm it’s quite a big shop! I think to myself.
What can we look forward to seeing when it re-opens?
Newness! Lots of new lockdown brands like Vaiselle which has done really well. Also lots of colour. My favourite product at the moment is the art candle. It’s an affordable way to change up a mantelpiece.
What are the top homewares trends this summer?
Coloured glass and cocktails. People have really got into mixology as a way to pass the time! Splatterware is also huge, we want to be able to blur our eyes, and imagine we’re in Puglia with a burrata in front of us. Those summer holiday vibes are big this year.
What’s been the shift in the customer over the 14 years you’ve worked for Liberty?
I think we’re attracting a wider audience through home and interiors and that’s really exciting. We’ve seen Generation Rent investing in their homes a lot more. There’s a focus on dressing your home now, the way previously you might have dressed yourself. Whereas you might have invested in a classic handbag, now it could be a piece of art or a set of beautiful cushions for your home. The sort of things that will fit in the Uber with you when you move.
What’s your favourite Liberty print?
It’s impossible to choose, there are so many. In April we’re launching a new furnishings range called The Modern Collector that will see old and new Liberty designs on a range of furnishing fabrics and wallpaper. That’s exciting.
Beyond the actual prints themselves, my favourite thing is being able to play with them. So for example, it’s about taking a print that you’ve maybe been looking at for 10 years and suddenly making it feel new. Recently I developed a set of bags with Maison M. I loved the shape and thought they would be perfect in Liberty prints. They sold out almost immediately – but we have more stock coming in the next few weeks. One of the best things about my job is that hybrid between product development and buying.
What’s it like being in the shop after hours?
It’s amazing. The building is such a special place. I have travelled the world and can honestly say that there really aren’t many shops like it. I think that’s the reason people continue to make the pilgrimage to Liberty.
Where do you live in London?
Brixton. I bought a house in Brixton 2.5 years ago and have been renovating it ever since. The reality of doing it all on my own as a single woman has been quite vast. But my Dad is a retired cabinet-maker and he has made my perfect kitchen. Its pink! And holds my vast quantities of ceramics.
Where do you like to eat out?
Brunswick House. There’s just something about eating a delicious plate of food and looking up and seeing all those beautiful chandeliers from Lassco above you. It’s so London! You get this amazing food from Jackson Boxer and then this eccentric experience to go with it. It’s also on the Vauxhall gyratory which is a bizarre setting for such a historic building, surrounded by skyscrapers. Go there in spring when the wisteria is out – it’s also a great place to take people who are not from London.
What are you most looking forward to post-lockdown?
Shopping! There’s only so much you can do in Waitrose. I mean I have obviously looked at every single spice available. But it’s about that sensory overload. Aside from Liberty I will be going to Summerill and Bishop, I adore their shops. Also walking up and down Marylebone High Street, and going to John Lewis for the comfort factor.
Which are the best cities in the world for shopping?
Marrakech – I love that you can barter!
New York – my favourite haunts include Roman and Williams Guild and Creel & Gow. Of John Derian‘s trio of shops I love the newest one in the West Village. It’s one of the oldest shops in Manhattan and the whole street is wonderful. There’s a place where they still sell puppies in the window – only in New York! It’s a city I really miss, I feel a different sense of confidence when I’m there.
Florence – The Richard Ginori shop is the mecca for ceramics but I really just love all the stationery shops, especially when you can watch them hand-marble all the papers. For a really local supper, my colleague introduced me to Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco and we always go… it’s our tradition! My mother always has a shopping list for me from the Madova glove shop.
Paris – my beloved Astier de Villatte‘s two shops are mind-blowing.
Which are your favourite accounts to follow on instagram?
Skye McAlpine is a great friend of mine @skyemcalpine. She was my saviour in the first lockdown as she lives very close to me and we went on lots of walks together. The amazing thing is that her life really is the way it seems on Instagram. Even something thrown together she somehow makes look like a banquet. It’s effortless and inspiring. She’s also let me in on a few secret places in Venice that I’ve bought from in the past. One of which I’ll share – the wonderful Rigattieri Liliana, Sestiere di S. Marco, 3535, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy.
Liberty re-opened on Monday 12 April. It’s opening hours are Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 12-6pm (with browsing from 11.30am). You can follow Bryony Sheridan on Instagram @bryonyrae
Shop Bryony’s favourites at Liberty: