3 March 2011

I heart Barbara Hulanicki

Barbara Hulaniki with her husband Fitz

We used to play a game at work called Prison Cell, which was something we'd play all day because you could fill your mind with it and carry on talking about it while colour coding 80s cocktail dresses or fur stoles. You have to come up with seven people you would share a prison cell with, I guess it works on the similar level as a dinner party scenario, except we'd try and get seven women. The problem is that all of the women I could come up with were either well known for singing or comitting suicide, neither of which would make you an ideal prison cell candidate.

Biba girls on a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the shop's relocation. I like how literally they decided to take it.

Barbara Hulaniki is my perfect cellie. As visionary as she is understated, when she describes in her autobiography creating a shop where Twiggy, Cilla Black and Marianne Faithful were regulars you could be half fooled into thinking it wasn't that much of a big deal. But in its original form Biba managed to distill into clothing something no film or fashion designer will ever re-configure again from the 1960s.
Biba girls
The Biba girls with Barbara and Fitz in centre, and the infamous shrunken jerseys

I've just finished reading From A to Biba which is simply a lovely book to have experienced, I can't really describe it better than that. Describing a childhood full of drastic extremes, gin palaces to decrepid boarding schools it becomes obvious her momentum to achieve is slowly mounting. Judging from the pace of her book she must have been unstoppable, deciding to take over an entire department store to save the demise of an art deco building, determined always to move forward.
Even the flooring for Biba looks iconic in retrospect
the very gorgeous Hulaniki

My favourite thing about Hulaniki is her outlook. Her eccentricites are boundless and innocent of pretension. Penguins on a roof garden in Kensington and a 400,000 square foot store with no display windows make perfect sense to someone with such a shrewd understanding of the young emerging culture of the 1960s and 70s. After being cut from Biba she decided to relocate to Brazil instead of a life of constant nostlagia amongst friends and family in London. It's just such a shame that no-one else learnt to leave Biba alone, to see that if Barbara Hulaniki wasn't in charge no-one should be. That's a Class A cell mate right there.

1 comment:

  1. If you ever get the chance go see 'Beyond Biba - A Portrtait of Barbara Hulanicki' it's fascinating.