Sunday, 23 September 2012

Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki

When I received the invitation to the preview of the ‘Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki’ exhibition, I was excited to go, but unsure how much I would enjoy it given my distaste for all things ‘70s.  However, I was pleasantly surprised as it was a very well designed show and the range of items displayed goes far beyond what I was expecting.

Barbara Hulanicki’s career was kick-started at the age of 18 (in 1955) when her design for a striped beach-suit was selected by the Evening Standard to be made by Norman Hartnell (most famous for being the Queen’s dressmaker).  After some years as a fashion illustrator, Biba’s Postal Boutique was launched in 1963 with a simple evening skirt.  However, the outfit that really cemented Biba’s reputation at the forefront of style was a matching pink gingham dress and headscarf, designed to accompany an article on the most important women in fashion at the time. 
Biba eventually sold 17,000 of dresses in this style
The first shop, (in Kensington, London) followed in 1964 and another in Brighton a year later.  After up-sizing their London shop, relaunching their mail order division (including a catalogue with photographs by Helmut Newton) and producing a hugely popular make up range, Big Biba was opened in 1973.  Big Biba was a department store spread over seven storeys where you could buy the entire lifestyle, from the clothes and makeup to stationary and even lentils!  Barbara left Biba in 1974 over creative differences with the controlling stakeholders, with the company closing  the following year.

With its obvious styling influences of Art Nouveau and 1930s Deco, the Biba brand has always been very romantic.  Biba’s main goal was to provide fashionable but affordable clothes so that the girl on the street could buy herself something new every week, and get a complete outfit in next to no time.

The perfect Biba 'dolly' was very slim, had big doe
eyes, long slender limbs and was annoyingly young
The exhibition certainly goes beyond Biba and is an exploration of all of the different aspects of Barbara Hulanicki’s career.  Examples of her fashion illustrations, interior design and development of Miami Beach (in particular the Marlin Hotel) all intermingle with the dresses she is most famous for.

Twiggy in fake fur coat and hat (c.1973).
Biba never used real fur in any of their collections
Although I’ve never been a great fan of ‘60s and ‘70s fashion, I really enjoyed the exhibition.  It showed the breadth of work Hulanicki has produced, and the relevance she still holds in the world of fashion, as examples of her collections from 2009 and 2012 (for Topshop and George at Asda, respectively) show.
From Barbara Hulanicki's capsule collection for Topshop, 2009
I would definitely reccomend the exhibition to any one interested in fashion, as it not only shows dozens of examples from the archives of an iconic brand of the '60s and '70s, but also the development of a label and one individual's design career.  I met Barbara afterwards and she was lovely, asking whether I’d enjoyed the exhibition and whether I was ‘in fashion’.

Check out the Schiaparelli 'inspired' top

The exhibition is open now and runs until April 14th 2013.  Admission £6 for adults.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What Katie Did AW12 Launch and SS13 Preview

Dressed in a combintaion of, among other things, What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly and Ayten Gasson (exactly what combination you’ll just have to guess), I headed up in anticipation to the WKD AW12 and SS13 launch at their Portobello Green boutique.

As soon as we arrived, an absolutely delectable chocolate cupcake was placed in one hand and a tea/champagne cocktail was placed in the other (courtesy of The Vintage Patisserie).

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Katie before the AW12 collection was shown.

Being an avid fan of What Katie Did, I’d already seen a few of the pieces online, including the red organza and black lace Lulu and eau-de-nil Clarice ranges.  I think I agree with Katie in that my favourite piece from A/W was the Lulu Torsolette.  To a soundtrack of Billie Holliday (AW12) and Glenn Miller (SS13) the ladies (Ms Violet Crumble, Lenka Padysakova, Miss Betsy Rose, Kate Lomax and Miss Dolly Blow-Up) strutted and sashayed their way through the sumptuous boutique.

In between the collections, we were treated to some burlesque from Miss Miranda and Sophia St Villier - which turned a little Bettie Page towards the end!

  Then came the preview of the SS13 collection (after a short power cut!)  Red appeared quite a strong theme throughout, I particularly liked the two-tone corset and long-line girdle.  The new navy/cream bikini with the bows and side cut-outs is also absolutely gorgeous.

As if the cupcakes and cocktails were not enough, we were also given goodie bags, with discount vouchers and a sample of Bésame Cream Rouge (I’ve not tried it properly yet but it has a lovely smooth texture). 

If the picture just aren't enough, we filmed all of the show (and the interview with Katie) which you can see here.

I can’t wait for the SS13 selection to become available – but there’s just too much choice!
vintage bullet bra and garter belt

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Brighton not Hove, actually

A fairly quick post today.  I thought as I’ve been in my new flat for a month now, I’d show you a few pictures of my new ‘hood.  For those of you who know Brighton, I’ve moved near the border with Hove, actually (importantly still in Brighton though!) sort of near the Seven Dials.  From where I used to live, in the heart of Studentland near Lewes Road, it’s rather different (definitely for the better). Enjoy!

I can see the sea!
If you've seen 'Wimbledon' you may recognise this place,
although they changed it into a bookies in the film.

Oh, and 'Hove, actually' is a bit of an in-joke of what residents of Hove reply when people mistakenly assume they are from Brighton (“No, I’m from Hove, actually).  I think it’s even printed on one of the buses.  Let me know what you think about the photos, or just Brighton in general.