Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Rise and Fall of Biba Fashion Stores

Biba, a London born fashion store of the 1960s and 1970s, was created and run by Barbara Hulanicki and her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon.

At first, Biba was a small fashion boutique, selling Art Nouveau decor and Rock and Roll decadence. Opened in Abingdon Road in Kensington in September 1964, when their second shop opened in 1965 on Kensington Church Street the first mail order catalogues were distributed, creating a new and unique shopping experience from home. This also meant that customers did not have to travel to London to purchase from them.

The first Biba store minutes before it opened.
In 1974, the Biba shop moved to a seven story department store which, since its opening day, has attracted up to a million customer weekly. The store had different departments, each floor accompanied by its own theme and logo. The floors consisted of a children's floor, a floor for men's fashion, a floor for women's, a food market, a book store and a home floor which sold decorating items and soft furnishings.

A collection of the different Biba logos for different departments

For those avid collectors out there, there are crucial notes for collecting Biba pieces, as Biba did not label their clothing with their logo until 1968; before then labelling pieces with a small white label with the size in red print. If an item has the Biba font but not the logo, it was made between 1968 and was phased out in 1971. All items after 1971 had official printed labels - gold on black and later black on gold. Collectors must be aware that the modern Biba label looks very similar to the vintage one.

Tin Tin Collectables at Alfies - who deal in vintage clothing and costume accessories - have a wonderful collection of PR catalogue photographs from Biba in the 1960s. These photos show a mother and daughter scene: each image showcasing a woman in an elegant and very Art Nouveau outfit, with a young girl in a matching version. Leslie Verrinder from Tin Tin is lucky enough to have eight of these pages, where most collectors only manage to purchase six. Leslie's Biba collection is available to view and purchase at Alfies.

A picture from the Biba Fashion Catalogues.

A matching mother/daughter outfit catalogue photo

Fantastic examples of Biba fashion

Vintage Biba clothing

Friday, 24 April 2015

St. George's Day

Saint George's Day, Thursday 23rd April, is the feast day of Saint George and a national celebration for England. It is celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. April 23rd is traditionally accepted as the date of Saint George's death in 303 AD, and in 1222 the Council of Oxford declared the date to be St George’s Day, however it was not until 1348 that St George became the Patron Saint of England.

The Legend Of St George And The Dragon
The medieval legend of St George and the dragon is over a thousand years old. The tale goes that the dragon settled by the fresh water spring near the town of Silene in Libya. When people came to collect water, they disturbed the dragon and so offered sheep as a distraction but after some time the villagers ran out of sheep to offer. To keep the dragon at bay the people of Silene decided to choose a maiden from the town by drawing lots. It was revealed that the princess was to be the dragon’s next victim. Despite the Monarch’s protests his daughter Cleolinda was offered to the dragon. However, at the last moment a knight in shining armor came to the rescue in the form of St George, a knight of the Crusades. He dismounted his white horse, drew his sword while protecting himself with the sign of the cross and fought the dragon on foot slaying the dragon and saving the princess. The people of Silene were so exceptionally grateful they abandoned their pagan beliefs to convert to Christianity.

Lea Stein dragon brooch offered by Paola & Iaia of The Originals

At Alfies we love a good story and stock a variety of antiques and collectables to celebrate this historic day. Here are a few of our favourites;

A beautiful pair of Art Deco stained glass window panels depicting the identical 'St George Sailing Boat' scene.
Offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

1842 soldiers original and hand coloured print offered by Moe Heidarieh

Solid silver 1950's dragon and English flag charms, offered by Good Time Antiques

A 20th century Wedgewood lustre dragon vase, offered by Janes Antiques

Yves Saint Laurent glass and enamel brooch, offered by April Antiques

A 1960s Celtic pottery dish offered by Robinson Antiques

A pair of early 20th century brass dragon candlesticks, offered by Louise Verber Antiques

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hermès Wanderland Exhibition

The Hermès Wanderland exhibition at  the Saatchi Gallery pays tribute to the Parisian concept of Flânerie, which is chosen as luxury brand Hermès’ 2015 annual theme. Artistic Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas describes it as "that wonderfully liberating art of urban wandering, that is second nature to Hermès, one could even say our most profound nature".

The exhibition is a treasure-trove of objects gathered from the Hermès archive, the museum collection of Emile Hermès at 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris and Hermès’ contemporary collections. They include classic items such as a bike, a travel writing case and a watch.

Hermés  Wanderland exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London

The collection spans over eleven rooms, with set designer Hubert le Gall inviting us to a fantasy world where Paris is the ultimate protagonist. “Wanderland” also includes installations by various artists to collaborate in the project, the curators wanted to intrigue visitors, urging each of them to “open their eyes, free their minds and be enveloped by the color, sounds and images that surround them”.

The exhibition will run at the Saatchi Gallery until 2 May 2015, then it will travel to Paris in mid-September.

If you can't make it to the exhibition, do not fret. Alfies is another wonderland full of unique treasures. We found some luxury items that wouldn't look out of place in the Hermès archive!

1920s Bracelet Watch  9ct Gold, mechanical winder, 15 jewels; offered by Moe Heidarieh

A 1950s scarf ‘Pennies from Heaven’ by Marcel Vertes; offered by Tin Tin Collectables

Pair of early 20c ladies leather riding boots with original wooden trees; offered by Tin Tin Collectables Luggage

Vintage blue flower brooch, glass and gold plated; offered by April Antiques

1940s crocodile handbag with bakelite clasp; offered by Tony Durante
Unusual and collectable 9ct gold Art Deco pencil with intricate detailing and citrine stone end cap; offered by Sheila Cameron

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cherish Your Antiques Day

From 9 April to 12 April, the Birmingham NEC has opened its doors for the 30th Spring Antiques For Everyone Fair, the UK's largest antiques, interiors and collectables fair. With over 250 exhibitors, Antiques For Everyone is the country's largest independently vetted antiques fair with dealers specialising in art, ceramics, decorative furniture, glass, jewellery, kitchenalia, pictures and vintage clothing.

Images from Antiques For Everyone website

If you're unable to make it to the Birmingham NEC, don't fear, here at Alfies we have about 70 independent dealers with expert knowledge who always stock a large variety of antiques and collectables all year round. Here are just a few of our favourites:

1950s Conjurers Outfit magicians set, offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

Silver teddy bear and pearl baby rattle by William Vale & Sons. Birmingham 1917, offered by Goldsmith & Perris

 1950s pear earring and necklace set, offered Carole Collier

Zenith pocket watch. Silver with top winding mechanism. Circa 1910-1930, offered by Moe Heidarieh

Aluminium chandelier with perspex core by Max Sauze for Sciolari, Italy 1960s, offered by Matt Mitchell London

1950s Italian pink armchair, offered by Thirteen Interiors

Selection of Shelley trio sets, offered by Beth

A chic 1930s floral dress, offered by Velvet Atelier

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Happy Easter from Alfies!

It's that time of year when the Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs emerge, although we are quite partial to the chocolate formed ones we also appreciate the vintage and antique items at Alfies. Here's our roundup of our favourite Easter inspired goodies we have found this year....

1930s Easter Egg Bakelite Box, offered by Paola & Iaia - The Originals

1950s Egg Cups, offered by Nadine Okker

1950s Seguso Murano Gold Leaf Casa, offered by Robinson Antiques

c1940s Silver & Enamel Egg Pendant, Paste Gems, offered by Pars Jewellery

Pelham Puppets, offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

Egg Cruet Set, c1900-1910, offered by Goldsmith & Perris

Vintage Limoges egg boxes, offered by Hayman & Hayman

Vintage Daffodil Design Tea Cup & Saucer (part of a set) - Eclectic Antique & Contemporary

Vintage Stuart Devlin Designed Silver Gilt Surprise Egg with Enamelled Flowers, offered by Naneen Brooks

Alfies Easter Opening Hours

Good Friday 3rd April - CLOSED
Easter Saturday 4th April - 10am - 6pm
Easter Sunday 5th April - CLOSED
Easter Monday 6th April - CLOSED

If you're planning on visiting us this Saturday 4th April, be sure to stop by the Roof Top Kitchen for  a beverage and delicious Easter treat!

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