Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vintage BIBA! (Manhattan Vintage Show part II)

We are SUPER EXCITED to be bringing 2 great VINTAGE BIBA pieces to this weeks Manhattan Vintage Show! BIBA was one of the great fashion and pop culture phenomenons of the 20th century, and extremely collectible and iconic as vintage today. BIBA has also been a huge influence on us personally, and we have spent countless hours drawing inspiration from images of the clothes, the stores, the logos and the story of BIBA fashion designer and visionary Barbara Hulanicki.
Late 1960s BIBA blouse with bell sleeve

The iconic BIBA Art Nouveau inspired logo

Signature Art Deco pattern

BIBA creator Barbara Hulanicki inside her first shop on Abingdon Road, Kensington circa 1964

late 1960s BIBA velvet 2-piece

Art Nouveau patterns like this were synonymous with BIBA

For those of you unfamiliar with BIBA, here's an extremely condensed history we've taken from the pages of two great books by 'Alwyn W Turner'; 'The BIBA Experience', and 'Welcome to Big BIBA'....

'Biba Creator Barbara Hulanicki first sold her designs through a small mail-order business featured in the fashion columns of daily newspapers. In 1964 she opened the first BIBA shop on Abingdon Road in Kensington, West London, with her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon. Inspired by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements, along with 1930s Hollywood Glamour, BIBA quickly became famous for its decadent atmosphere and lavish decor. Its meteoric rise was aided by celebrity endorsement from the likes of Twiggy, Marrianne Faithfull and Cathy McGowan, and they would regularly sell out of new styles in a matter of hours. BIBA, unlike many hip boutiques of the time, catered to the average girl, providing glamor and rock and roll decadence at affordable prices.

A second shop opened in 1965, followed by a business savvy mail-order catalog allowing teenagers across the UK to get the BIBA look without visiting London. In 1969 BIBA moved to Kensington High Street and continued to grow. In 1974 the store made an audacious move to a seven-storey Art Deco era department store building, the first department store to open up in post-WWII Britain!

The Sultry Art Deco interior of the Big BIBA store

Dubbed 'Big BIBA' , this was now more than just a clothing store. With different themes for different floors, the BIBA shopper could buy make-up, books, home furnishings & house wares, even food for themselves and their pets! The were also Mens and Childrens departments for the first time. A true phenomenon of the time, Big BIBA immediately attracted up to a million customers weekly, making it one of the busiest tourist attractions in London! Especially popular was the 'Logo Shop' where anything and everything with the BIBA logo could be purchased. As well as shopping, customers could dine and be entertained on the fifth floors 'rainbow Room Restaurant', and relax on the roof garden with its resident Flamingos. You could also just sit and watch the world go by from the ground floor windows, and effectively become a BIBA 'mannequin' on 1930s velvet sofas (BIBA didn't do window displays).

The truly fabulous Art Deco 'Rainbow Room' above staged legendary performances from 'The New York Dolls' amongst others.

All good things must come to an end, and Big BIBA was no exception. A huge organizational and financial responsibility and burden, it quickly became too much for the entrepreneurial couple, and as a result they sold a 75% share of BIBA to UK high street retailers Dorothy Perkins and Dennis Day. They hoped that this would mean the brand and store would be properly financed, but after creative control disputes Hulanicki left the company. Without the driving force and soul of the company, Big BIBA closed its doors in 1976, a sad end for a shop that was like no other before or since. Today, the legend of 'The most beautiful store in the world' continues to enchant both its former habitues, and those who came to it too late.'

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