Thursday, 7 August 2014

BEAUTIFUL BIBA

When I was a student in London during the '70's, I had this poster on my wall for the entire four or five years I lived there. It's a poster from the most beautiful store that ever existed - BIBA, the brainchild of Barabara Hulanicki, a visionary UK designer and her husband, businessman Stephen Fitz-Simon. The smoky, sultry eyes and the classic Art-Deco style made Biba one of the most timeless looks and brought London to the centre of the fashion stage after decades of dowdiness.
Barbara Hulanicki, pictured above with her beautiful logo (which incidentally was inspired by the classy colours of a funeral home in Kensington), first burst onto the scene in the '60's with a simple but sweet little gingham dress and matching scarf that was worn at first by Brigitte Bardot.
 The dress was an incredible success and Biba's designs took off from there. She first opened a boutique in trendy Kensington Church Street and then went on to open "Big Biba", the most amazing department store, on Kensington High Street in the old Derry and Toms building. Here she was able to showcase her incredible fashions as well as Biba makeup and its bold colours - aubergines, greys, browns etc. the store also had home furnishings, a food hall, children's wear, a rooftop garden with flamingoes and the legendary Rainbow Room, a restaurant and nightclub which hosted people like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Jerry Hall and a procession of the '70's in-crowd.

I was incredible lucky to be around when Big Biba opened in 1973 and shopped there many times. The clothing and makeup were affordable and the ambience, magical. On entering, you were greeted by the amazing gold sunburst cosmetics counters. Everything was dark, vintage, atmospheric. Gorgeous, though aloof salesgirls floated around in fashionable Biba clothing.
Changing rooms were communal and you could find yourself struggling to get into a dress beside models, debutantes and minor stars!If you'd like to see more Biba fashions, just follow this link.
Much of the food came in Biba designed packaging and looked almost like art rather than something you'd want to fry, grill or boil!
Barbara Hulanicki restored the beautiful Rainbow Room, which had been originally built in 1933 on the top floor of the original Derry and Toms store. The sweeping elliptical ceiling was lit with coloured neon lights in pinks, peaches, blues and beiges to go with the colour scheme. there was even a pink marble floor. The New York Dolls played at the opening concert and the place became the haunt of the super-cool and glamorous like Twiggy, Bryan Ferry and others.



Unfortunately Big Biba closed its door in 1976, but you can still buy Biba clothing and you can find out what Barabara Hulanicki is doing now on her website. Incidentally the beautiful roof garden has been recently restored and the Rainbow Room is now an ultra-exclusive gym.


 It's been really fun looking back on Biba while I've been completing episode two of SEARCHING FOR ROBERT P, which just received a five star review on Amazon last week. So if you haven't checked out episode one, now's the time to do it, because episode 2 comes out at the end of August.
Oh - and here's another appeal. I know many of you have read my books and enjoyed them, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE put a review on Amazon for me, preferably on Amazon.com or Amazon UK for those of you in the UK. It really helps in terms of marketing and it's so easy. It'll just take a few minutes of your time.