The Vamp’s Back

1970s, Anne Tyrrell, barbara hulanicki, biba, chelsea cobbler, Derber, Fortuna, gillian richard, just looking, Marcia Brackett, mary quant, mr freedom, nostalgia, petticoat magazine, Sacha, Spectrum, terry de havilland
There’s a party in the air—just getting in the mood? Green satin, long dress, Biba, Kensington High. Street, W8, £9.40. Lace gloves from a selection at Nostalgia, 29 Bedfordbury, New Row WC2, Bracelets from Emeline, SW3. Sparkle beads by Adrien Mann. Perspex shoes by Terry de Havilland, £15 from Derber Shops.

For much too long now, “dressing up” to go out has been looked upon as simply too uncool for words. Being chic meant arriving at a party in the clothes you got up in that morning and heaven help a girl who attempted anything more extravagant than a lurex halter top and trousers. This year the festive season takes its revenge – and with a vengeance! There is room for all the glamour you can muster and then some. It’s time for every girl to discover her own specially good assets, be it a neat pair of legs, smooth shoulders or an uplifting bust, and then show them off in shimmering satin, coolest crepe n’ dazzling decoration.

Pictures taken at Lindos, Rhodes, where Petticoat’s fashion and beauty team stayed by courtesy of Cosmopolitan Holidays Ltd., 296, Regent Street, W1.

Hair by Christine at Mane Line.

Fashion by Marcia Brackett.

Photographed by Fortuna.

Scanned from Petticoat Magazine, 1st December 1973.

A girl knows how to get things going…Long-sleeved, V-neck dress with ruched bodice, by Anne Tyrell for John Marks, £20.95, Wallis Shops. Feather boa, £8.95, at Just Looking, SW3. Bangles from Emeline, SW3. Sparkle beads at Way In, S W1, £1-85. Black sparkly shoes, Terry de Havilland, £15.

And how to cool it down . . Sleeveless dress with ruched front and diamante trim at Spectrum, 70 Gloucester Road,SW7, £29.50. Silver stud earrings, Paul Stephens. Silver poppet beads, Way In, SWI. Silver shoes, Chelsea Cobbler.

Even going home in the small hours can be romantic …Swirl skirt dress with gold lurex relief by Mary Quant, £28, at Bourne and Hollingsworth, W1. Feather boa from Mr. Freedom, SW3, £8-85. Chiffon scarf, “208”, SW10. Beaded purse from Nostalgia, 29 Bedfordbury, WC2. Gold snakeskin shoes by Terry de Havilland for Sacha, £9.99.

Two of the nicest escorts any girl could find . . Black and silver striped lurex vest dress with matching jacket, £12.90, by Gillian Richard at all branches of Miss Selfridge.

19 and Biba are Back in Brown!

19 magazine, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, Barbara Hulanicki, biba, Harri Peccinotti, Inspirational Images, Vintage Editorials
Ankle-length brown linen coat and matching trousers, 10gns. Long narrow white silk scarf, 2gns. Brown leather shoes with a bar, £7 10s.

If you want to keep ahead in 1970 you will have something brown and white in your wardrobe. Biba and 19 put their heads together and chose -chocolate brown and stark white as the smartest colours for the spring. Teamed together they make a stunning combination—classic colours cut in that special Biba way to make a head-turning impact. For those in need of something a little bit special to wear at night, take a good look at Biba’s super long satin coat in liquid chocolate brown — designed to be worn over trousers, a dress or just by itself. It’s well worth the money if you go out often enough to warrant an evening coat. Biba goes long again for the spring with a feeling reminiscent of the early 1900s when ladies wore ankle-length skirts,. large picture hats with feathers, plumes and lots of net. We’re in favour of 1970 being a romantic year, and if you agree with us, then Biba’s the shop for you —124-126 Kensington High Street, London, W.8.

Wonderful not only to see Peccinotti’s beautiful photos of Barbara’s beautiful clothes, but a rare and special insight into the lesser-seen Biba number 3 in Kensington High Street (post-Church Street and pre-Derry and Toms). I’m not sure this will ever stop being one of my favourite aesthetics.

Photographed by Harri Peccinotti.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, March 1970.

Brown satin evening coat, 12gns. Brown leather bar shoes, £7 10s. Choker, 30s. Scarf from their selection. Veiling, 3s.11d. a yard.
Brown/white Flanestra button-through dress, 6gns. Matching hat, 30s. Brown leather bar shoes, £7 10s. All prices are approximate.
Floor-length white crêpe coat with full sleeves, and matching trousers, 9gns. the set. White crêpe scarf from their selection.
Brown crêpe long fitted jacket with matching buttons, and wide-cut trousers, £5 19s.6d. Matching helmet, 30s. Spectacles, 32s.6d.
White linen suit with an ankle-length skirt, £7 10s. Matching hat, 30s. Beige fishnet tights, 14s.11d. Veiling over face, 3s.11d. a yard.

Beauty from Biba

19 magazine, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, Barbara Hulanicki, beauty, biba, british boutique movement, hair, Hair and make-up, Make-up

As with everything Biba creates, its newly opened Beauty Parlour in the Kensington store hits that striking note of sparkling originality.

It has 19’s stamp of approval. because it is a genuine beauty parlour, in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word. The Parlour welcomes you into a relaxed, spacious and luxurious, ‘Thirties’ world of cream and black decor, bedecked with dark green palms. It is the brain-child of Barbara Hulaniki— Biba’s creator—and Regis, a brilliant and inventive make-up artist and hairdresser.

Before Regis showed us around, we asked him to tell us about his past.

Looking every bit as dashing as Valentino himself. he said: “Call me a man with no past. Although I trained and worked in many leading salons, I don’t want to be attached to anything I’ve done before or The Parlour to be compared with others.”

The Parlour offers the services of a modern establishment (from haircutting to leg waxing) which it executes in a novel way. Here you are not a number with a gown—you are treated as an individual with individual needs. In true Biba tradition, on arrival, you are fitted out with a fabulous gown—either a long black satin one (if you are having your hair done), a black velour robe (for the guys) or a super black towelling robe (if you are going into the beauty room). Even the hair nets are pretty— black and silky.

The seating is so cleverly designed in the curved and pillared room that one client hardly sees another and, although each hairdresser—and there are three, plus Regis— has his own ‘corner’, all the involved treatments, such as tinting, bleaching, high-lighting and perming. are done in private cubicles.

Biba carries every conceivable shade of hair colouring and hasn’t just confined The Parlour to all the well-known branded names. Regis virtually combed the earth to find special formulas and effects.

Henna treatments are very popular and Biba uses several varieties—Black Henna, for dark heads; Neutral Henna, for blondes; Henna Wax for dry, split hair; ordinary henna, for a rich, red glow and a special henna, which can be used with a perm—normally you cannot perm hair which has henna on it. (Henna treatment costs from £6: tinting from £6.50; perming from £10.) Regis has fixed ideas concerning shampoo.

“A good shampoo is the most important step in the whole process. because if you use a bad one. then you can forget about doing an original style. Dull, horrible hair can never look good, however hard you try.”

Biba has 17 kinds of shampoo to choose from, ranging from ‘Almond’ and ‘Strawberry’ to ‘Henna Gloss’ shampoo, which doesn’t actually colour the hair but, with constant use, produces marvellous red lights. There are also three biological shampoos: one for greasy hair, one for dry and one for dandruff sufferers. (A shampoo and set costs £3, no matter which shampoo you need to use.)

Other Biba specialities are the after-washing, pre-setting goodies. Regis’ favourite is the Champagne Rinse, which gives a remarkable gloss and softness. The Henna Conditioner is good and there are Frictions, too, which are spirit-based hair perfumes, to make your hair smell beautiful, as well as look good. (Frictions are something mothers and grandmothers know all about. but which had disappeared from our lives—until now.) These cost 50p. each, and you can choose from ‘Orchid’, `Fougere., ‘Eau de Cologne’, ‘Passionate’ and ‘Gardenia’.

Blow-drying is virtually non-existent at Biba.

“We want girls to look truly groomed and feminine again.” said Regis. He believes in the old-style training and he and his staff use rollers (but not heated ones), Marcel Wave tongs, wave clips. small tongs and irons, and do lots of exacting pin-curling.

The Beauty Room is run by a very efficient lady and practically anything is done. There are treatments to help acne problems; waxing to remove unwanted hair; massage including a deep-back massage. with an infra-red lamp; spot reducing with Slendertone and eye treatments, which include eyebrow shaping, eyelash dyeing and the application of Permanent lashes. (This costs £4. and replacements later on cost 10p. a lash.)

The manicures and pedicures are superb. If it is just a plain one you want, then, of course, they will oblige. But if you want something for a special occasion then they can do fantastic combinations of colours, patterns and designs on nails and toes, too, if required. (Ordinary manicures cost £1: the special kind. £2.50.)

As far as make-up is concerned. Regis will create a fantastic new look for you and will advise on form-ulas, colours and applica-tion. (Cost £5.)

The Parlour opens at 11am., on weekdays, and last appointments are at 6.30pm. On Saturdays. opening time is 9.30am. and last appointments are at 4pm.

It’s sobering to remember that about seven months after this article appeared, Biba was closed forever.

Photographer(s) uncredited.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, February 1975.

Come up and see me sometime

19 magazine, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, Barbara Hulanicki, biba, Inspirational Images, interior design, interiors, Manfred Vogelsanger, platforms
Wallpaper, 10p. a 2ft. x 3ft. sheet. Each sheet has a border which can be trimmed off with a Stanley knife and steel rule and used for edging. Butterfly mirror from a junk Shop. Plywood boxes, painted with Biba Brown Flat Oil Paint, £1-80 per litre, and edged with wallpaper border, used as table. On table: feathers, 65p. each. Brown velvet shade, with gold bead fringe, £7-50. Gilt lady lamp, £5-05. Lacquered basket, full of beads, from 55p. Brown velvet wastepaper basket, £3-60. Satin and velvet cushions: small £2.10 each, large £2.95 each. Brown velvet used as bed-cover, £2.35 per square yard. Huge terracotta plant pot and dish from any good nursery. Both painted with Biba Brown Flat Oil and Biba Gold, £1.25 a litre, and varnished with clear polyurethane, from hardware stores. Old wardrobe was given a coat of Biba Brown Flat Oil Paint and edged with wallpaper border. Foreground: table and seat both made out of plywood, as before. On table: brass mirror tray, £4-50. Long-lasting candles, 60p. each. Brown mirror glass cigarette box, £5.50. Sundae glasses, £1.15 each. Crockery: cups 35p. each, saucers, 20p. each. Brown felt on floor, 95p. per yard.

How do you turn your bed-sitter into a cosy, welcoming den, with a seductive hint to it, so that a friend would love to come back with you after an evening out on the town? 19 asked Barbara Hulanicki of Biba for her expert advice on this and here are some of her easily imitated ideas to jazz up your pad.

Choice of colour schemes is very much a question of taste, but we chose Biba’s beautiful brown and gold paper and brown paint because they’re warm and intimate to live with and neutral enough to display favourite bits and pieces. Brown floor felt is a cheap alternative to carpet, but it is difficult to keep clean. If you can stand doing it, sanding tt-e floor gives a beautiful surface. pywood pieces, cut to size by your frendly local do-it-yourself shop and glued or nailed together, form excellent boxes for tables and seats. If yoire clever with a screwdriver, you night even manage to hinge one side and use the boxes for storage.

Painted and edged with wallpaper border and then varnished with clear polyurethane. they make effective and decorative furniture, which will tie in beautifully with your room scheme. An alternative to expensive antique plant pots is to buy terracotta ones and again paint with colour and seal with clear polyurethane.

A pegboard livens up a dull wall and when painted and bordered with paper looks as if it’s meant to be there. Half-inch thick insulating board—again cut to required size— is super stuff for pinning notices on.

The bed is covered in brown velvet and scatter cushions. Everyone knows it’s a bed, but it doesn’t have to look like one and this way successfully forms an integral part of the room. An ugly wardrobe can dominate a bed-sitter, but is usually a necessary evil. Given the same treatment —paint, wallpaper trim — it actually looks pleasant and merges effectively with the wall.

Judging by the jumble of sticks and pots in most girls’ bedrooms, storage space for jewellery and make-up is also a problem. Barbara’s cheap, chic and neat answer to this is a tin tool-box, stocked by most hardware shops. Painted and varnished, it looks really effective.

Text by Gwenda Saar.

All items from Biba, unless otherwise stated. Model’s clothes from Biba.

Photographs by Manfred Vogelsanger.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, February 1973.

Bamboo hat-stand from a junk shop. Dried grasses from a selection at Harrods. Tin tool chest, with plastic drawers, from Woolworth or Biba, £1.75, painted with Biba Brown Flat Oil, £1.80 per litre, and coated with clear varnish.
Noticeboard made from half-inch thick insulating board, cut to size, painted with Biba Brown Flat Oil, £1.80 per litre, edged with wallpaper border.

On Second Thoughts

19 magazine, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, Inspirational Images, Sarah Moon, Vintage Editorials

For those dreamy moments when you feel you want to look feminine and pretty, when you want to get out of your casual clothes and wear something floaty and special, Biba have made lovely, plain satin and two-tone patchwork satin skirts and tops which are alluring and very glamorous for the summer. They have also designed long, floating cotton voile dresses in large, dark prints which are flattering to figures still suffering from seasonal over-eating.

All clothes from Biba.

Many thanks to Barbara Hulanicki for letting me know that she took these stunning photos (modelled by Eva from Biba). They were uncredited in the magazine.

Scanned from 19 Magazine, July 1970.

Inspirational Editorials: By Royal Command for Public Demand

1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, Bob Richardson, british boutique movement, Inspirational Images, platforms, Vintage Editorials

biba bob richardson 19 magazine may 72 1

The Duchess of Windsor has been the epitome of elegance for thousands of people, as she manages to combine originality and chic in such a feminine way. With her faultless dress sense in mind, Barbara Hulanicki of Biba designed some of these outfits exclusively for 19, keeping the theme black and white as that most associated with the elegance of the ‘Thirties. We take you back, in affectionate nostalgia, to the days of tea at the Ritz, when immaculately dressed ladies and gentlemen listened to a string orchestra, while nibbling cucmber sandwiches and sipping China tea.

Photographed by Bob Richardson. Scanned by Miss Peelpants from 19 Magazine, May 1972.

biba bob richardson 19 magazine may 72 2

biba bob richardson 19 magazine may 72 3

biba bob richardson 19 magazine may 72 4

Adventures in Biba: Meeting Barbara Hulanicki

1960s, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, personal collection, side by side


Sometimes life can be overwhelming. I have many lovely experiences to recount from the last few weeks, but putting finger to keyboard has not come very easily to me lately. So apologies for the lateness of this post.

Three weeks ago, I was very kindly invited to meet Barbara Hulanicki (designer, illustrator and general legendary goddess…) at Paper Dress Vintage in East London by the gorgeous Sophia of Black Spring Press who have just published Seamless From Biba. Shoreditch is not a natural habitat for Miss Peelpants, and I knew I was limited on time due to working that evening, but it was Barbara Hulanicki… how could I not?

As a ‘blogger’ event, I had assumed that there would be a veritable vintage scrum and scramble. I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a peaceful and beautifully appointed vintage shop, and see Margaret of Penny Dreadful Vintage, Liz of Advantage in Vintage and Lisa of Snoodlebug. Later I realised that Ana of Where The Roses Go was also in attendance, but sadly didn’t get a chance to talk to her (though I did admire her amazing hair from afar…). And that, was pretty much that. It was intimate, casual and so, SO much fun.

Sadly I didn’t have any of my more – ahem – flamboyant Biba pieces to hand, as I was staying with my mum in London, but I was able to wear my most favourite and wearable piece of Biba. A thick cotton fitted jacket with the most extraordinary floral print, which I knew I had to possess the moment I first saw it in the V&A Cutting Edge book. Possibly the second most exciting moment of the evening was when we were introduced to Barbara and she spotted my jacket, did a double take and pointed at me with an exclamation of ‘I recognise that!!’. She was able to confirm that it was indeed, as I had heard rumoured, a Sanderson upholstery fabric. She went on to say that they produced it in four colourways, and reminisced about taking four models to Italy – all wearing the same suit in a different colourway. ‘The Italians thought we were mad!‘.


What followed was more like, as Barbara said, a tea party. We all sat in a small circle, on squishy sofas and this all rendered it rather hard for me to take many photos or make many notes. It really felt like she was in conversation with all of us, and as I was directly opposite I just wanted to enjoy having a natter with one of my all-time inspirational people. So I made some sketchy notes afterwards and make no claims to precise quotations, just details.

I took the chance to ask if it was true that she used ‘vintage’ fabrics from the Thirties and Forties, and she confirmed that they did indeed. Kensington High Street was home to three department stores, Barkers and Derry & Toms being the most well-known but Pontings (further down from Derry & Toms, to the left as you emerge from High Street Kensington station) was famous for its haberdashery department. So in the early Seventies, when Pontings was on its uppers, Barbara was able to purchase rolls of unused fabric from thirty/forty years earlier. She admitted that they often had to cut around faded panels and other flaws from storage and age.

Pontings (Derry & Toms, later Big Biba can be seen on the far left).

Pontings Department Store (Derry & Toms, later Big Biba can be seen on the far left).

During a discussion about how films had inspired her designs from a very young age, and then the fact that Biba clothes were often used in films of the time (I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname was cited as an example, and roundly dismissed as being terrible. Something with which I greatly disagree but wasn’t about to get started on…), Barbara admitted that many things were filmed in Big Biba (including the Suzi Quatro video for Devil Gate Drive) without her knowledge. She laughed as she remembered driving past the building late one night and seeing lights on; something was being filmed and she had no idea!

I couldn’t resist the urge to share my “discovery” of the sequence from Side by Side (not the greatest film in the world but it has value and merit as ‘of its kind’, if you get my drift…) which was filmed in the rooftop restaurant. And, sure enough, she had never even heard of the film. Which is probably understandable, but it is getting a proper release this year so you can all make up your own minds…

I was keen to ask her about whether or not she had experienced much sexism, or whether Fitz had largely protected her from the worst of it. ‘Ohhh yes‘, she exclaimed, and said that, in the early days of Biba, nobody had taken her seriously and the suppliers she was dealing with would often leer at her ‘girls’ in their mini skirts and were dubious as to whether they should even be dealing with her. Of course, later on, when they saw how successful Biba was and were trying desperately to sell her things, she took her revenge. Explaining that they had a meeting room with a very, very low and large table, she laughed as she remembered that they were expected to sit on cushions on the floor. ‘And of course they’d all come straight from boozy lunches and when they sat down, their stomachs were hanging out over their trousers. And then we’d send the girls in, and they didn’t know what to do‘. Psychological warfare on lecherous pigs? Barbara is definitely my kind of lady!

When asked about the make-up colours, including green and blue lipsticks and blushers, Barbara confirmed that they all sold well and that there was always a veritable scrum surrounding new colours appearing in store. She remembered another occasion in Italy, as their make-up was being sold through Fiorucci there, where they had models each made-up with a single colour scheme. So one had blue eyeshadow, mascara, cheeks and lips, another green, and so on, and they all piled into the back of a taxi afterwards. Of course the taxi driver was too stunned at what he saw in his mirror to drive off, those mad English!

Green Biba make-up, photographed by Caroline Arber and scanned by Miss Peelpants. Featured in this previous blog post:

The majority of Biba models were taken from the shop floor, including Madeline Smith, except for a few notable exceptions such as Stephanie Farrow and Ingrid Boulting. The latter of whom Barbara admitted was her favourite model. She remembered an occasion where Boulting had been hired for a make-up shoot, and then said – on the day – that she couldn’t wear mascara. ‘But we’re paying you to wear the mascara‘ – she exclaimed in mock frustration at the memory. She also remembered a photoshoot where Sarah Moon had burned every single negative except for one. ‘This is the only one which came out’ claimed Moon, Barbara laughed as she said ‘She meant that was the only one she was happy with and had burnt the rest!‘. Fitz refused to let her use the solitary negative, ‘as it had cost us £1000!‘ and put it in the safe. (It was, apparently, used at a later date when the shock had worn off…).

She also said, with great sadness, that Helmut Newton was one of her favourite photographers to have worked with, but that she was too nervous to ask him again. Then, years later, his widow told her that he had loved doing the Biba catalogue and was hoping to be asked again. Which I’m pretty sure is an important lesson in ‘it never hurts to ask’ that we could all do with heeding.

One of the first questions I asked, but which feels more appropriate to mention here last, was for her opinion on having been so widely criticized at the time, in quality terms, and yet now so widely collected and sought after by serious collectors and museums. She smiled and said ‘Oh it’s wonderful. I only wish that Fitz had been alive to see it!‘.

I get the feeling that he always knew, because he always had faith in her and in Biba. It’s a testament to the both of them that it is still so coveted to this day, and retains a mystique despite all the copies and relaunches.

There were many other questions, answers and anecdotes, too many of which I have probably forgotten:

  • She recalled how the attempt to sell Biba in American stores was a bit of a disaster because they were a completely different shape to the British girls. Too muscular in the arms and legs for tiny Biba sleeves and skinny suede boots.
  • I asked about the ‘Lolita’ label and whether they had any criticism at the time. She said no, but that she realised they could never get away with it nowadays. ‘We just didn’t think about [the connotations] at the time. Our shop girls were so young, some were 15, so it was just a natural thing for us to do.”
  • I also asked her if she thought that the Biba concept (i.e the complete lifestyle from one shop, with one strong identity) could ever work again. ‘Oh yes, definitely, but the price points would have to be much higher‘.
  • They did use all the products themselves, including the baked beans and dog food. ‘The baked beans were actually Heinz beans but in Biba packaging… We used to get people complaining about the fact they were 3p more expensive than Heinz!‘.

We moved to pick up our books and have them signed, and she very kindly took our business cards. As I handed mine over, I had a momentary panic – my logo girl illustration is the image on the front of my business card! I’m basically handing over my puny illustration to Barbara Hulanicki, a woman whose illustration-style I worship (while trying desperately hard NOT to copy…). The panic dissipated as she asked if the illustration was mine, and then said something very complimentary. I’m not going to try and quote her, as I wouldn’t want to put the wrong words in her mouth, but needless to say – if Barbara Hulanicki compliments you on your illustration, your life is pretty bloody amazing at that precise moment.

As we talked about living in Brighton, and the recent exhibition, I remembered how upset I was to miss the opening event there due to a pesky toe-breakage. I think it’s safe to say that the karmic universe delivered me a more than sufficient replacement. It was an hour of pure joy, which I will always treasure. Thank you to everyone who made it possible, and mainly to Barbara herself for being so engaging and friendly.

Seamless from BIBA is currently available for £17.50 on Amazon.


Biba in Brighton

1960s, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, brighton, british boutique movement

My sadness in missing the opening of the Biba exhibition at Brighton Museum back in September was slightly assuaged by an email from the lovely Jo Ann Fortune of Visit Brighton, informing me that I had won two tickets to go and see it. I never win anything, so naturally I was shocked and delighted. I was determined I would not go until I was walking properly, so Mr Brownwindsor and I finally made it there a couple of weeks ago, on a frosty Sunday afternoon.

Needless to say, it was a delight. I had thought, as someone who owns and sells a lot of Biba, that I would be confronted with a whole host of pieces I have already had the pleasure of handling or wearing. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the vast majority were either entirely new to me, or pieces I have lusted over from afar for years. That is a credit to the design prolificacy of Barbara Hulanicki, and to Angie Smith and Murray Blewett, whose impressive Biba collections form the bulk of the exhibition. Further to my blog on the subject a while ago, there is also a rare surviving piece from that first foray into mail order – the outfit which launched the entire label. Sadly it is only the headscarf, but incredibly tantalising to see up close.

There were plenty of pieces loaned by members of the public as well, with fascinating stories of wages being splurged in the name of Biba, descriptions of the interiors, and of the most outrageously wonderful wedding outfits. Seriously, how have we moved so far back away from the modernity of wearing a cropped satin top and flares ensemble for a civil ceremony? These women were fighting against the roles their mothers had felt obliged to assume; fighting against convention, against sexism and the virginal white wedding which has inexplicably dominated since the 19th century. I loved that these women simply picked a phenomenal Biba outfit and couldn’t give two hoots about whether anyone thought they were ‘one of them’.

Further cabinets and displays covered Barbara’s early life, her time in Brighton (of course, and we slightly geekily went to find her former residence in Grand Avenue after seeing the address printed in a newspaper clipping!), the genesis of Biba and the various aspects of the Big Biba lifestyle which were catered to by the time they moved into the Derry and Toms building in 1973. Yes, there are soapflakes.

I feel more could have been done to evoke the Big Biba spirit, particularly in the main display room. Certain nods were made, such as the hatstands, but it was minimal and far too tasteful. Although credit where credit is due: whoever chose the playlist should be greatly congratulated, hugged and applauded for their taste and understanding of the Biba vibe.

(Although the man who kept singing and tapping his foot along loudly is definitely not part of the Biba vibe and garnered some filthy looks from me and several others…)

The final room, which touched – a little too lightly – on Barbara’s other talents for illustration and interior design, also featured a row of pieces from her (and I may make myself unpopular here…) half-hearted George at Asda and Topshop ranges, with another piece from the hateful Kate Moss for Topshop collection (inspired by a wrecked Biba jumper which looks suspiciously Eighties to me). I felt that this final display was a poor finale to what was otherwise a lovely, small-but-perfectly-formed, exhibition. Why would you want to leave with such a bad taste in your mouth? On the other hand, they make the longing for clothes of the quality of Biba even greater and show up the endless re-hashing of Seventies design for what it really is.

Biba and beyond is a wonderful celebration of one of the most creative periods in British fashion design we have ever known. It should also be a wake-up call for people to become more discerning in their sartorial choices. People compare Biba to Primark, but the levels of manufacture are not even remotely comparable. Who is designing these days? Who is actually taking inspirations and not just duplicating them wholesale, but in fact creating something entirely new and fresh? Barbara did, so can someone else.

Biba and Beyond is on until 14th April 2013, and is a wonderful feast for the eyes. It may also be bad for your bank balance, since you will want to own more and more Biba. Trust me, it’s addictive.

Through the [extremely peculiar] looking glass…

Biba and Beyond: Barbara in Brighton

1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, brian duffy, brighton, british boutique movement, Inspirational Images, Studio

Biba models, c1973, photographed by Brian Duffy © Duffy Archives.

Excitement is building for the upcoming Biba and Beyond exhibition at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, which I have already blogged about here, helped by Visit Brighton‘s fascinating short documentary video about Barbara Hulanicki.

The exhibition will be celebrating the Biba look and lifestyle, so much admired and coveted forty-odd years later, but also looking at Barbara’s career beyond her most famous creation. I’m certainly looking forward to more coverage of her illustration and interior design work.

Left:- Barbara Hulanicki in 1969 © Neil Libbert. Right:- Photograph Tessa Hallmann © Royal Pavilion & Museums

If any of you are visiting specifically for the exhibition, don’t forget that you are welcome to pop in to my new studio to say hello, browse the rail (yes, there’s Biba!) and have a cuppa. Just email me a bit in advance so I can make sure I’m there, armed with tea and biscuits…

Trouser Suit, c1971

Biba and Beyond: A question for Barbara

1960s, 1970s, barbara hulanicki, biba, brighton, british boutique movement

I was delighted to be asked to submit a question for Barbara Hulanicki, as part of Visit Brighton‘s series of promotional videos for the upcoming Biba exhibition at Brighton Museum in September. I decided to go out on a geeky limb and ask about the Biba ‘couture’ range which I blogged about in February of last year.

Thanks to Jo-ann Fortune at Visit Brighton and to Barbara herself. The exhibition opens on the 22nd of September and I am very much looking forward to seeing it, no doubt decked out in my Biba finery. I will, of course, be blogging about it once it has opened, so stay tuned!

Biba couture range (featured in the Observer Magazine, 19th January 1969)