Warsaw-born Barbara Hulanicki first burst onto the fashion scene as a 19 year old Brighton Art College student in 1955, winning a beachwear competition sponsored by the London Evening Standard. After working as a freelance fashion illustrator for magazines like Vogue, Tatler, and Women's Wear Daily, Hulanicki opened Biba in 1964. Thanks to a rock 'n roll friendly mix of mini skirts, feather boas, velvet tuis, tie-dye tees, and floppy felt hats, regulars at the uber-fabulous & famous Kensington shop soon grew to include Marianne Faithfull, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger...as well as Anna Wintour, whose father secured his young fashionista-in-training a job there at age 15 (a year after she began sporting her trademark bob).
Although Biba closed in 1976, its influence is ongoing, both on & off the runway - illustrator & product designer Daisy de Villeneuve recently cited Biba as a huge inspiration.
London-based November Films is currently making Beyond Biba, a documentary about Hulanicki which will be screening at select design spaces across the UK in the spring. Stateside fans, however, will have to wait for it to appear (hopefully not too long) on American TV & DVD.
- Lesley Scott
(photo credits: exuberant Biba London streetstyle 1964; platform shoes; Biba housewares 1974; Julie Christie in "Darling" 1965 in an all-Biba wardrobe; Biba-clad model 1964 outside the first Biba store; Twiggy modeling Biba)