Following on from the fabulous Nautical Narrative talk at Bath in Fashion my afternoon was filled with other great events including a talk from the founder of fashion label BIBA (and I’m not talking about the Justin variety).
Another of Red Magazine‘s fabulous editors Sarah Bailey was in discussion with the amazing Barbara Hulanicki of sixties fashion label BIBA. Barbara’s vision and rebellious label lead the way for a generation of iconic fashion trends including mini-skirts, maxi-coats and feather boas. Loved by celebrities including David Bowie and Marianne Faithful, she revolutionised the fashion industry with a vibrant, affordable label accessible to all.
What I loved about this talk is the humour and realism of a fashion great. Sarah asked about the origins of the brand and what made it so popular. Starting as an fashion illustrator, Barbara already had a flair for fashion. She worked for publications such as Vogue, Tatler and fashion columns in the Daily Mirror to name a few. This spurred the creation of the BIBA store which she started with her late husband, fondly known as Fitz.
Barbara highlighted that her own personal style was a rebellion against traditional fashion. Black was not worn and wasn’t considered feminine, which is a huge part of Barbara’s signature style now and as she said ‘she doesn’t do colour’.
Barbara went on to say that she looks objectively at fashion and said there is so much you can do with a woman’s body to make it look great. The BIBA label was full of non traditionist items with a palette of blues, navy and chocolate hues. Leopard (fake I might add) was also a key print in the BIBA collection. Each piece made women look and feel amazing making it popular with an average lady shopping on the high street.
The iconic BIBA store was a hang out for the rich and famous with the likes of Mick Jagger, Twiggy and David Bowie adoring the stylish vibe. The store also paved the way for fashion mogul, Anna Wintour who worked as an employee in the London shop.
Perspective on modern fashion
‘There’s too much choice’ Barbara said, ‘we’re too spoilt’. Modern designers need to start from the bottom up, get a feel for every element that goes into making a brilliant fashion label. Fast fashion does have a place in the market but designers need to concentrate on what makes their label unique.
Barbara as an individual is a strong, passionate and realistic person who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which is something I admire in a personality. Her late husband’s wise words included ‘trust your gut’ which is what she has done throughout her life. Learning from the mistakes and successes of the brand, has made it into the iconic feature in the industry it is today.
The BIBA label been rekindled in a collection for House of Fraser, check it out here.
Thanks again to Bath in Fashion for such an insightful event.
Words by: Natasha Henson