I had been looking forward to styling this show for months. There were so many people involved as the clothes were original Biba pieces belonging to different collectors and one of the main collectors had worked with Barbara Hulanicki at Biba. It was such a privilege to work with people’s personal archives. What was interesting about Biba was that so many of the shapes were still relevant – there was still something modern about the outfits. I loved the tiny shoulders – everything was cut to make you look slimmer.
The first look to open the show was the iconic sleeveless gingham shift was originally offered in one size and one colour to readers of the Daily Mirror in 1964 and brought in over 17,000 orders. Originally a mail order catalogue Biba opened their shop on Abingdon Road in London, September 1964 with only one outfit: 400 of the same brown striped chocolate smock in one size and sold out before noon. Biba was a true phenomenon and had many firsts including it was really the beginning of the British high street: Biba understood branding and how to market themselves. It was also the beginning of celebrity endorsement and anything that presenter Kathy McGowan wore on popular music television show ‘Ready Steady Go!” would sell out.
Barbara Hulanicki does not like to look back: she said she didn’t even want to know in advance what pieces were being used for the show or to look at any of the pieces we’d collected. She was just looking forward to seeing the show – no pressure. I’ve met Barbara on several occasions but had the opportunity to spend more time with her while at Bath in Fashion. You can’t help but admire and adore her – she’s one of those women that makes you feel special and it’s perhaps this quality that women felt when they were buying her clothes. She made clothes for real women, who would feel a certain confidence when wearing them. She understood how to make women feel good.