Style Muse: Barbara Hulanicki

I first read Barbara's autobiography, From A to Biba, around 7 years ago at a time when I was just starting to wear vintage. I worked in Mayfair at the time and would spend my lunchtimes scouring the vintage shops in Kingly Court (there was a great one called Twinkled that had amazing 60s homewares - sadly it's no longer there).

Barbara's father was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948, so her family moved to Brighton where Barbara studied at the Brighton School of Art. She began her fashion career as an illustrator, working for Vogue, Tatler and Women's Wear Daily, before starting Biba - initially just a mail order business - in 1964.

The first Biba shop opened in Kensington in September 1964 with a lavish Art Deco and Art Nouveau inspired interior that would later become a Biba trademark. When the shop first opened there was only one item in stock, a brown pinstriped smock and it only came in one size - something you just wouldn't see happening today. Cathy McGowan, presenter of Ready Steady Go! (another style muse of mine), and Cilla Black were amongst the first celebrity fans and by 1966 Biba had moved to larger premises on Kensington Church Street.

After leaving Biba in 1976 (due to contractual problems with business partners), Barbara eventually settled in Miami in the 80s where she became a very successful interior designer. I had the pleasure of meeting her earlier this year at a book signing in East London, she was so lovely and I was quite star struck at meeting one of my idols. Barbara is now in her seventies but is still as active as ever, splitting her time between Miami and London. When I met her we had a good chat about eyebrows of all things! Barbara commented that she had noticed whilst getting the tube that London girls like a "defined brow". She even said that she liked mine which is high praise indeed!


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  1. I must read this, it sounds fascinating. I love the second photo, adore the hair and silver! x

  2. Such a fantastic woman and such a descriptive and dreamy book. im currently working on a biba style project, which i really should get my finger out and keep working on!

    1. Ooh I'm intrigued, is that the gingham number? I planned to make a gingham dress in the summer but never got around to it. I still haven't finished my current project - I've been so lazy recently!

    2. hehe! yes it is! ;) ive been a combo of busy and lazy so thats not fun!

  3. Hi, dear Sarah! Great things start with a great idea. Barbara's Biba was the right idea at the right time, offering a unique setting and trendy but affordable clothing. Barbara had the knack for turning a shopping trip into a happening and the Biba style and logo became status symbols for modern young women. How exciting it must have been for you to meet her and to be the recipient of her compliments.

    Have a splendid weekend, dear friend Sarah!

  4. There are few names quite as legendary as Barbara's (and Biba's) when it comes to 1960s fashions, and I can wholeheartedly imagine what an exciting honour it must have been to meet this creative, forward thinking, wonderful woman in person (lucky lady, you!). The fact that she complimented your eyebrows is just too cool for words!

    ♥ Jessica


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