Biba! Just the name evokes black and gold/art deco/leopard print/dolly birds/1970s/tight cut skinny clothes/earth colours/loud music/feather boas/retro fashion/floppy hats/satin pyjamas. These are a familiar part of the fashion landscape in 2013, but in the 1960s Barbara Hulanicki the illustrator cum designer invented modern daywear and a lifestyle store for the young. Her followers are legion and she has become and inspiration to designers ever since she created Biba.
Biba started in an old chemist shop in Kensington frequented by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Marianne Faithfull. The Biba girls – as the girls who worked there became known – were notoriously beautiful and outrageous. Many were aspiring models and Anna Wintour got her start in fashion thanks to Barbara who hired her. Biba grew and grew and ended up being a 5 storey store building where Wholefoods is now in London’s High Street Kensington. Biba was so cool in the 70s The New York Dolls and Manhattan Transfer performed in the Jungle Room on the top floor. Then in 1974 the corporate men moved in and tried to change the store. Barbara hated the way they tried to make the store more orderly and famously walked out. The giant Biba store closed down in 1975.
Barbara has never stopped designing despite Biba’s demise; she has designed for many fashion houses including Fiorucci and Cacherel. She reinvented herself as an interior designer with huge success virtually single handedly reinvigorating Miami beach and the Bahamas through her work with Chris Blackwell. Barbara has designed wallpaper, paint, textiles and new ranges for Topshop and George.
She was awarded an OBE in 2012 and received many other awards including one from the American Institute of Architects.
Barbara has released a new book called Seamless To Biba – A Life in Design published by Black Spring Press which is a sumptiously designed pictorial coffee table book celebrating every aspect of Barbara’s work.
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