Selvedge Magazine

On Pattern Savannah

Founder and editor of Selvedge magazine Polly Leonard delves into the origins of our new fabric capsule

Shop Pattern Savannah


The continent of Africa has had a long association with pattern and with Liberty. The famous Liberty Fabric Tana Lawn was named in the 1920s, and is a reference to Lake Tana in Ethiopia, where the Egyptian cotton used to make it had been grown and discovered. The long staple fibres give Tana Lawn its famous silk-like feel, and this is the fabric that is used for the famous prints, produced first in Lancashire in the 1930s, and now in Italy, near Lake Como, at Liberty Fabrics’ own printing mill.

Each year, South Africa celebrates the anniversary of the first free elections. This year will be special, as the country prepares to mark their 25th anniversary on April 27 2019. A generation after Nelson Mandela, a fan of the patterned shirt himself, became president, South Africa has established itself as a go-to design destination. South African designers such as Marianne Fassler and Laduma Nxgokolo are spearheading a pattern renaissance; their work is filled with a dynamic energy and movement that is intrinsic to the south.

In this anniversary year Liberty has re-released and re-worked some of the best African inspired prints from their archive. The new fabrics are based on archival designs dating from the early 1900s to the 1980s and have been reimagined to give them a contemporary feel. The range continues to takes its inspiration from across the continent, and the collection is one full of strong colour and geometric forms. My favourites are the earthy colourways inspired by natural pigments taken from baskets and mud tones found in the savannah landscape.

Pick up the May ‘Geometric’ issue of Selvedge to read Adam Herbert (Lead Bespoke Designer at Liberty Fabrics) and Anna Buruma (Head Archivist at Liberty Fabrics) discuss the collection and its inspirations.

Polly Leonard, editor Selvedge magazine
Liberty London

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