I’m a firm believer that fashion is not just about clothing but about everything around us, everyday, all the time from economics, cars, technology, food, advertisements, signage, music, films, art, everything. Fashion is as cyclical as nature, like one massive, fabulous eco-system, trends are born and die a death, everything feeds off each other. We are a sum of our inspirations, everything we see, hear, feel, smell, touch and taste creates who we are and what we will feed back into the World. Without devouring what has gone before us we cannot create the future.
After having blogged about the Biba Exhibition at The Royal Pavilion in Brighton it was a great surprise when I won tickets to the exhibition that looks back at the iconic and highly influential fashion retailer Biba, tracking the inspiration and stories of Biba Founder and designer Barbara Halunicki.
The Royal Pavilion: The Biba Exhibition was held at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, a building which dates back to 1787, where it served as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales. The Pavilion built in the Indo-Saracenic style (popular in India for most of the 19th century) is a sight to behold, truly majestic. We strolled through the Pavilion Gardens marvelling at the grand architecture as we made our way to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery entrance.
Barbara in the Beginning: After studying at Brighton School of Art, Barbara Hulanicki won a London Evening Standard competition for beachwear in 1955. She began her career in fashion as a freelance fashion illustrator, working for various magazines, including Vogue, Tatler and Women’s Wear Daily. Barbara always loved drawing ever since childhood watching her mother sketch pictures.
The Birth of Biba: Barbara with help from her late husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon had a vision to create a shop that would sell her designs. Biba was to sell affordable skinny fitting styles including the revolutionary mini-skirt, floppy felt hats, feather boas, velvet trouser suits and unisex t-shirts dyed in rich, muted colours. In 1964 the Biba store opened in Kensington, London! the lavish interior was inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco and soon became the go to place for the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Marianne Faithfull and other hip young Londoners. Notorious Vogue fashion editor Vogue Anna Wintour started in fashion as a Biba employee!
Bonkers about Biba: Inside the exhibition was a collection of Barbara’s illustrations, a range of classic Biba styles including this fabulous striped number, some pretty tear jerking and funny stories from Biba wearers, stories of how Biba had impacted their lives. There was a tale of how one young lady back in the late sixties had asked her fiance to choose her wedding dress and he came back with a Biba twin set, which was pretty revealing even by today’s standards.
Barbara Now: Barbara now lives in Miami and has turned her hand to interior design. She recently designed wallpaper for the Habitat store chain in Europe and is launching a fashion and home range in India.
The staff at The Brighton Museum were really lovely and so incredibly welcoming. The exhibition was intriguing and looked at Barbara’s early life, family and childhood. With a number of television screens showing interviews with Barbara you gained a real 3-Dimensional view of a creative powerhouse. Her influences are entwined in historical costume, architecture and fine art. The evolution of Biba and Barbara’s style was so organic with her personal life, creative influences an childhood aspirations all feeding into one another to create a swinging style, store and statement that took London by storm.