28 October 2012

Biba and Beyond

I know, we don’t have usually little heart-to-heart here on misslikey about exhibitions or events, but when it comes to Biba, hardly any of the rules could apply. In fact, I believe that it would be sin not the mention that currently there is great fashion exhibition at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery that celebrates all things Biba and Beyond. The exhibition's aim is not just to tell a story about Biba, clothes, lifestyle, but to cover everything connected to this revolutionary brand and its and far reaching influence. Through illustrations, film, fashion, music, photography, ephemera and memories of visitors, intention is also to offer retrospective of Barbara Hulanicki’s fashion career, her childhood and views on fashion.
Barbara came to Brighton (“sleepy town in these days”, she tells) in 1948, where she attended Brighton Art College. In 1955 Young Hulanicki won beachwear design competition held by London Evening Standard. She left college during second year and started to work as freelance fashion illustrators for various fashion publications, including Tatler and Vogue. She worked also in London office of Women’s Wear Daily. With her partner and husband Stephan Fritz-Simon Barbara started small mail-order business. The pink gingham dress, offered in Daily Mail was the item that prompted the opening of the first Biba shop in Kensington in 1964.
The rest of the story became history; Hulanicki’s own high fashion but inexpensive designs, and decadent atmosphere of décor in 1930s style attracted not just groovy stars, but young working class and visitors from all over the world. Today, Biba is considered not just as synonym of swinging sixties, but as the leader of the revolution. So in London’s streets during 1960s, there was a reign of Biba’s floppy, felt cutout hats, mini skirts, cotton bikinis with matching jackets, trouser suits and jerkin suits in ribbed rayon. Barbara, talented and creative prophet borrowed best from Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Victoriana and Hollywood golden age and incorporated the best of the heritage with sixties Psychedelia. Biba girl these days had a very pale face with dark color of lipstick such as green, blue and black.
Hulanicki’s idea of glamorous doll and Dudu look was interpreted by very talented crew of fashion photographers among which were Helmut Newton and Sarah Moon. Therefore, Biba left us very vast heritage of great fashion editorials and photographs. Pretty young employees, were also crucial in creating a story of Biba, so if we could have a time machine between identical twins or shop assistants that were also Biba models, we could recognize also young Wintour. (Anna was 15 and it was her first job.) Except Twiggy, one of favorite Barbara’s models was Stephanie Farrow, younger sister of Mia Farrow.
In 1973, original Biba took over an entire department store in Kensington, but Hulanicki and her vision of the Biba couldn’t get along with corporate changes set by man in suits during the1970s. After moving on from Biba, Hulanicki designed for Cacharel, Fiorucci and moved to Miami where she became involved in interior design. In the past few years Barbara did successful collaboration with Topshop and George at Asda.
 Oh, if misslikey could get a time machine, asking for a job at Biba would be among my 10 things-to-do. Would you join me?
Until we invent one, please check the Brighton Museum's website where you can get more info about exhibition and tickets. Exhibition is open until 14 April, 2013.


Mamma Cass said...

Ah yes! Total fashion inspiration. Artsy to the max. I love all the images!

little henry lee said...

i've not heard of biba before but the photos are beautiful! i'd love to go to the exhibition if i could.


anto said...

I hadn't heard of Biba & Beyond before, thanks for the introduction :)
I love these images, so inspiring!