Saturday, April 19, 2008
Biba: the democratization of style
Biba-Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba Shop grew from one room to a five-story department store as it became an icon of hip ’60s and ’70s London and a hangout for artists, movie stars, and rock musicians, including the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot, and Marianne Faithfull. Biba’s black-and-gold Deco-style logo is still a familiar symbol of London’s heyday as a world capital of fashion, music, and the arts, and Biba’s designs now fetch high prices in vintage clothing stores. However, Biba was never the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous: prices were kept deliberately low, and anyone who could tolerate the disdainful inefficiency of the staff was encouraged to soak up the glamour of a unique shopping experience. The first store, on Abingdon Road in Kensington, was opened in September 1964.On the 15 September 1969 Biba moved to Kensington church st The new store was nine times the size of the previous on‘The Biba Look’ or 'Dudu Look' was ‘fresh little foals with long legs, bright faces and round dolly eyes.’ Barbara Hulanicki describes her customers as ‘postwar babies who had been deprived of nourishing protein in childhood and grew up into beautiful skinny people: a designer's dream. It didn’t take much for them to look outstanding.’ These women were mostly teenagers or twenty year olds, who wanted to have clothes that looked good on them. All the Biba girls remember how women over thirty years old were considered old in the Biba store, and probably felt isolated as these girls felt in other stores. The employees were from the same demographic; among them at one point was a young Anna Wintour, later editor of Vogue.The Biba look consisted of what Hulanicki called "Auntie Colours" - Hulanicki described them as ‘look[ing] like a funeral.’ These colours were blackish mulberries, blueberries, rusts and plums.