Now there’s hardware and haberdashery, furnishings and fabrics, cosmetics and mens-wear, all carrying the Biba label. Their brave transition from dolly boutique to department store was made last week when Biba opened in Kensington High Street. Although a baby store compared with neighbouring Barker’s, Biba does boast marble floors, a carved gallery from the old St Paul’s school, and a commissionaire at the huge glass doors.
Faithful customers can still find among the familiar palm fronds clothes to wear themselves or put on their children, but everything is on a much bigger scale. Colour-matched underwear and tights are on sale in a special conservatory-style department, and there’s a complete range of Biba makeup and cosmetics, and many more accessories.
But what’s really new, are the clothes for men, and the things for the house.
There’s nothing simple or austere about a Biba home life. The girl whose idea of some-thing comfortable to wear around the house is a slinky satin dress chooses a plush back-ground and hardware that’s softly elegant. Cutlery is rich-looking in gilt and mother of pearl, or silver and ebony. China is white and gold, glasses are chunky goblets. Specially printed wallpapers and furnishing fabrics, plain satins, felts, braids and trimmings, have carefully matched emulsion paints, lamp-shades and cushions, all in a range of 15 colours. Biba are selling the raw materials so that you can make what you want of them. The clue to their own style is Art Nouveau, but the way you choose to use them will be your own.
Biba men’s clothes are worn in these pictures by James Fox, who can currently be seen in ‘Isadora’ and whose new film, ‘Performance’, in which he co-stars with Mick Jagger, comes out next month.
Mr Fox is long and slender and can have little problem kitting himself out elegantly, but the clothes he wears here, plus others by Biba in velvets and tweeds, all come in a size range bigger than most. So fatter men can have fun with clothes too, and at a reasonable price.
By Liz Smith.
Photographed by Steve Hiett.
Scanned from The Observer Magazine, 21st September 1969.
Biba 3 is definitely the Biba I’m most captivated by, I think possibly because it was edged out so quickly by the much bigger (and more Deco) Big Biba and yet was, I think, the perfect encapsulation of the aesthetic and the first time the ‘department store’ ideal was manifested. Basically, I wish there were more photos so I do try and scan them when I find them! It’s also nice to see the menswear getting a bit of attention for once.