Monday, 9 August 2010
Biba my baby
Repetitive, generic so-called maxi dresses today don't know the meaning of the word, maxi. Take this picture of Twiggy in 1960s Biba. A free flowing, print-tastic, don't give a f*ck maxi. Anticipating House of Fraser's September relaunch of the brand, I'm not sure they'll do justice to the long towering gowns (not to mention micro minis) that made Biba the most iconic store of the decade, but I'm hopeful that they will.
I've loved Biba since long before making my first purchase (a black and white crocheted cardigan from Dapper Boutique in Camden) and think its founder Barbara Hulanicki, sounds like an amazing woman. I'm currently reading her autobiography, From A To Biba (almost as snappy as the title of this post) which chronicles her journey from growing up in Jerusalem to founding her first boutique in Kensington, London then watching the brand being taken over in the 1970s. She writes beautifully with passion in abundance and emotion where appropriate (her opening paragraph reads: 'My childhood was so secure that I remember wishing one of my parents would die so I could feel some emotion, even misery. I was twelve years old when my wish came true.')
I remember interviewing Twiggy a couple of years ago for something TV related and (naturally) we got onto the Biba subject and she painted the most enviable picture of running down Abingdon Road in her lunch hour (when she used to wash people's hair on a Saturday morning) to buy a dress.
She told me: 'I think Barbara changed high street shopping forever. There were no boutiques before Barbara did Biba. There was no teenage clothing at a cost that kids could afford. She started that. And we wouldn’t have Topshop now probably if she hadn’t done that.'
Twiggy didn't keep many of the clothes that are so synonymous with her image, (and I suppose brand) in the 1960s, but she kept her Biba. Course she did. It feels like such a shame that someone of Barbara's skill lost the rights to what started out as her own baby. Of course her talent lives on (I loved her Biba-esque line for Topshop last year). But it will be interesting to see what House of Fraser and 'muse' Daisy Lowe do with the ethos Barbara put her heart and soul into. And if it worked for Halston...