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

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