Barbaric Hulannicki and Biba Exhibition Highlights London Fashion’s Sixties Revolution and Beyond

The new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum has made current London style appear almost boring. The mood on the opening night of the long-awaited retrospective of the life and work of Barbara Hulanicki, the Polish-born designer who founded Biba, was one of unalloyed joy and it was understandable. At the end of the 1960s, London was swinging, and at the heart of the capital’s emerging fashion scene, Biba was the hottest ticket in town. The shop on Kensington High Street was a gathering place for the city’s beautiful people and the clothes were pure theater, inspired by a mixture of historical styles, film stars and a dash of Biba’s own Polish heritage. After Biba closed in 1975, Hulanicki moved into homewares and interiors and although her name faded somewhat from public consciousness, she has never stopped working. Now 87, she was on hand to open the exhibition that showcases her incredible legacy and it was clear from her evident delight that she was just as thrilled to be there as everyone else.

The exhibition opens with a short film about Hulanicki’s childhood in pre-war Poland and early life in Britain. It quickly becomes apparent that she was a natural-born rebel, and this spirit continued throughout her life. In 1964, she opened a small boutique on Abingdon Road in Kensington, calling it Biba after her beloved pet chihuahua. It was an immediate success, and within a few years, she had expanded into a much larger space on Kensington High Street. The clothes were unlike anything else on the market, and they quickly attracted a loyal following among London’s fashion-forward set. Biba’s signature look was a combination of bright colors, bold patterns, and historical references. She was inspired by the clothes worn by actresses in Hollywood films, as well as by traditional Polish folk costumes. The results were clothes that were both glamorous and wearable, and they perfectly captured the spirit of the Swinging Sixties.

The exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum tells the story of Biba’s rise and fall, and it features a wide range of garments from the shop’s archives. There are also examples of Hulanicki’s homewares and interiors, as well as personal items such as her sketchbooks and photographs. The exhibition is a fascinating insight into the work of one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century, and it is a must-see for anyone who is interested in fashion or the 1960s.

Hulanicki’s designs were not just about fashion; they were about creating a lifestyle. Biba was more than just a shop; it was a place where people could go to escape the everyday and immerse themselves in a world of glamour and fantasy. The clothes were designed to make women feel confident and beautiful, and they succeeded in doing just that. Biba was a liberating force in fashion, and it helped to change the way women thought about themselves and their bodies.

The legacy of Biba is still felt today. Many of the trends that Hulanicki pioneered, such as bright colors and bold prints, have become mainstays of contemporary fashion. And her emphasis on individuality and self-expression has inspired generations of designers. Biba was a unique and unforgettable phenomenon, and it is fitting that its story is now being told at the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition .

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