Biba catalog via barbarahulanicki.com

Before Forever 21, Urban Outfitters or Charlotte Russe ever served up hot, on-trend clothes at affordable prices, a young Londoner named Barbara Hulanicki, along with her partner Stephen Fitz-Simon, recognized the gap between children’s wear and frumpy women’s clothes on the London market and started a modest mail-order couture fashion business that targeted twenty-something women who wanted fast, attractive fashion at attainable prices.

Biba’s Postal Boutique chugged along quietly and without much notice until a simple gingham dress with a checked handkerchief was featured in the UK’s Daily Mirror and caught the popular sartorial imagination.

Vintage 1960s Biba’s Postal Boutique Ad via vintage-a-peel.com (click to see larger)

The dress that sparked an empire.
Biba, Daily Mirror, 1964

 

 The Biba look quickly became iconic, shaping the style of 60s and 70s London.  Biba was more than a boutique– it was a petri dish for fashion, a space where the new and the now grew from an idea into an explosive new trend radiating from a small boutique in London to magazines, the streets and the world.  Rockstars, their girlfriends and their groupies frequented Biba, snatching up the pieces just as soon as they hit the racks.

Late 60s/ early 70s Biba via thewholepretty.com

70s Biba via pastpresentfuturelondon.com

 

Biba Poster, 1970s

From its original roots as a mail-order business, Biba became a booming shop that changed location throughout London several times, trailing an ever larger crowd of adoring fans from place to place.  When Biba relocated to a massive former carpet warehouse, the brand produced fashion for men, women and children, sold such products as baked beans and soap flakes and held elaborate parties on a massive rooftop deck.  With its nods to the Art Deco era and its luxurious embrace of dark, earthy colors in fashion and even darker interiors, Biba was more than a store, it was an aspirational lifestyle experience.  Attracting the likes of Yoko Ono, Cher and Twiggy, Biba became a place where the shop girl mingled with the superstar.

Biba interior, early 1970s via thewholepretty.com

Biba interior via pastpresentfuturelondon.blogspot.com

 Biba’s rise was cut short by corporate takeovers in the mid-1970s.  By 1975, Barbara Hulanicki left the sensation she’d started to explore other creative projects.  Soon after her departure, Biba ended production and shuttered its doors.  Biba has had other incarnations since Hulanicki’s departure, some quite recent, but many would argue that none since have had the power to seize the zeitgeist in quite the same way as the experience in affordable luxury that was Biba.

1970s Biba lookbook shoot via barbarahulanicki.com

Biba in the UK’s Daily Mail, 1970s

A Biba shoot featuring Biba furniture and fashions for women and children.   1970s via barbarahulanicki.com

Biba Jumpsuit, 1970s via handbagfairy.com

A 1970s Biba ad featuring Jean Shrimpton via featherstonevintage.com

1970s Biba via glamspoon.com

Biba Ad, 1970s via swandiamondrose.com

Biba, 1970s via twigandbone.blogspot.com

Biba catalog shot via sweetjanespopboutique.com

1970s Biba ad via flowersgrowwild.blogspot.com

 

Biba platform sandals by Emma of London, via vam.ac.uk

Barbara Hulanicki, Biba creator and designer

Want to see more great shots from Biba?  Stop by Wishlist Vintage’s Facebook page to see more Biba inspiration!

 

 

About The Author

TaRosa Jacobs, also known as Thriftonista, is the owner of Wishlist Vintage at 240 S. Broadway, 2nd Floor, in Denver, CO. She is a Denver Post vintage style expert and a total vintage junkie. TaRosa has collected vintage clothes for over 20 years and sold them for nearly 5 years. She looks forward to sharing vintage and thrift fashion, furniture, and inspiration with 303's readers. TaRosa has amassed an epic collection of vintage handmade, high end and designer pieces that sell at thrifty prices through Wishlist Vintage. Wishlist is available Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4-8, Saturday from 2-8 and by appointment. Contact TaRosa at thriftonista@gmail.com or 720-394-3094 to make your appointment today-- or just stop by. Looky Lou's are always welcome at Wishlist!

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