Friday, July 12, 2013

Before Biba

I’ve just finished reading A to Biba and I was blown away by the vivid and wonderful descriptions of the clothes, interiors and happenings at Biba.

The end of Biba is frustratingly tragic and left me wishing I was a billionaire and could simply buy back the Biba name, gift it to Barbara and bring it back to its original purpose – beautiful clothing in wonderful designs and sold at a reasonable price.

Although Biba’s heyday has past, there are of course plenty of devotees dedicated to keeping the original look and name alive and I hope they never disappear especially with Biba’s many reinterpretations

We know the name came from Barbara’s sister Biba, but interestingly in Polish biba also means spree or jag – which is a period of overindulgence in an activity – in this case a period of luxurious design and beautiful clothing. Perhaps it is never meant to be repeated?

Barbara Hulanicki was heavily inspired by the Hollywood movies she used to watch at Brighton as a girl as well as Art Nouveau and Art Deco design. Classic Hollywood is known for is glamour, with its actresses dressed in silk, furs and feathers and with the sets fabulously displayed with rich fabrics, mirrors and lacquered wood.

There are a lot of blog posts dedicated to Biba and the beautiful clothing and girls who worked for them but I thought I might do something different.

I decided instead to bring you some images which I think may have inspired Barbara in her younger years or that hold that certain something that Biba was known for

Have a good weekend! 

Renee Perle
  
Carole Lombard

Source

1930's Dancer

Carole Lombard

Turbaned Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard

Barbara Leonard


Wynne Gibson

Source

Myrna Loy

Lounge Pyjamas
Young Barbara's favourite Actress Esther Williams

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for these fabulous images

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  2. Hello again, dear Catherine! Thank you for this pictorial essay on the influences that inspired Barbara's Biba empire, including her favourite actress Esther Williams who passed away last month. It's instructive to trace the early influences of our icons. We have learned that the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other UK bands were influenced by American blues and R&B artists. In the fashion world, as you have pointed out, the golden age of Hollywood films was a major inspiration. Just as I am trying to keep the music and memories alive, young people like you, Lucy and others in our circle of friends are doing your part to keep alive the excitement, the styles, the attitudes, the flair, fun and pizzazz of the vintage era. For that I thank all of you!

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    1. Oh i definitely agree! Its always good to see which artists are inspired by the same people. and sometimes you can hear it in their music. Fashion however requires a little more research, but Barbara sets out very clearly who her inspirations were and i think this helps people relate and want to buy more as they can get a certain look - that is after all the Biba ethos!

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  3. I saw a Biba-esque satin type fabric today (black with the gold swirls) and thought of you! I'm loving the wideleg trouser/palazzo pants photograph. So classy.

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    1. Oh cool! those pants are great right! i so want a pair

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  4. Ah! I was going to watch a documentary on Biba on Hulu not that long ago but I somehow got sidetracked. I think I need to watch it after your post!

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    1. Oh i really want to watch that but i cant find it anywhere! We dont have Hulu here in Oz. Ill have to look for the DVD =|

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    2. Wait, in Oz? Haha. I just finished watching it just now and thought of you. It was interesting, but I think they could have shown far more of her work. They showed a lot of her drawings which are fantastic.

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    3. Oh sorry by Oz I mean Australia! We actually do call our country 'Oz' sometimes. We have a channel here called SBS which shows foreign language films and docos on art and fashion. I'll have to hope they pick it up and show it one day!

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  5. Beautiful, and a really fabulous and unique idea for a BIBA-related post. You picked out a great selection of images and I agree with you in the sense that they really give of evoke that glamorous BIBA feeling. In particular I love the pictures of Carole Lombard - so beautiful and classy.

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    1. Thanks! Carole Lombard just has that look! I always see her in see the Biba photos - similar to Ingrid Boulting with the strong doe eyes

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  6. Glad to hear you enjoyed the book, it's terrible how Biba ended isn't it. I always have to bite my tongue when someone notices that I love the 60s and then goes "oh Biba is back now isn't it", I politely tell them that the Biba that is around now is not the same Biba! x

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    1. Oh I shudder to think! I almost bought something from the House of Fraser Biba before realising it wasn't Barbara Hulanicki. And now I know the terrible way she lost control of the company, I never want to!

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  7. What a lovely idea, thank you for sharing this marvellous collection of images!

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