Biba was an iconic London boutique and apparel brand, open from 1964 to 1975. It was the brainchild of designer Barbara Hulanicki and run by she and her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.
Designer Barbara Hulanicki across the first boutique opened in Kensington in 1964. She launched the first mail-order youth fashion catalogue in Britain in 1963, enabling girls everywhere to buy clothes that until then could be found only in London. Barbara open a boutique in an abandoned chemist’s shop on Abingdon Road in Kensington. “I was really into lovely old premises that hadn’t been tampered with. And this one was absolutely beautiful with all of these arch windows and original peeling paint outside.”
The boutique became a staple in the swinging London scene, but never became psychedelic. Instead, second store opened in 1969 with an art nouveau theme. To model and style icon, Twiggy, became a big Biba patron around this time, her look fitted the brand perfectly. Mick Jagger came to ogle the panda-eyed girls, the décor was dark, decadent and delicious, the goings-on were legendary and the clothes so hip it hurt. She came up with the smoky kohl and neon lipstick Biba make-up range that defined the era.
Top photographer Helmut Newton and models such as Stephanie Farrow (younger sister of Mia) worked for nothing and you never knew who might drop by, from Brigitte Bardot to Princess Anne, all attracted by the sheer glamour of the clothes.
Biba’s designer Barbara Hulanicki.
In 1974, Hulanicki and Fitz moved the shop into a rundown, department store in High Street Kensington, opening a five-story fashion emporium, Big Biba, selling everything from furniture to baked beans and dog food. Its first floor was pure Biba: a lavish, Edwardian bazaar with silks, fake furs, and feather boas draped on hatstands and plush sofas at the center of public changing rooms. David Bowie, Ronnie Wood, and Marianne Faithfull were regulars at the Rainbow Room, a restaurant on the fifth floor.
Shop assistants at Biba’s boutique. Two sets of identical twins, left to right, Michelle Hellier, Susy Young, Nicole Hellier and Rosy Young. September 1966.
Closing down sale, 4th of September 1975.