Sunday, 14 September 2014

Buying Biba

Biba is having a moment. Well, Biba always seems to be having a moment. Remember the excitement about founder Barbara Hulanicki's range for Topshop? Or the Brighton exhibition last year? Even House of Fraser's Biba collection (nothing to do with Hulanicki) can't seem to dampen the love for this 1960s and 70s label. That's certainly reflected in the prices: clothes that were proudly pitched at secretaries, as well as model girls, now go for hundreds and thousands of pounds. 

Part of the reason for the current enthusiasm is down to this gorgeous new looking book, The Biba Years, published by my friends at the V&A and written by Hulanicki with Martin Pel, the curator of the Brighton show. The Biba label is also strongly represented in next month's Kerry Taylor auction, as the sale includes Lorraine Harper's Biba collection. Harper worked for the company between 1970 and 1975 and her role, which included merchandise planning and overseeing production, means she was able to collect one-off Biba pieces as well as the kind of merchandise that defined Biba as a lifestyle brand. Over at FarFetch, they're also promoting a collection of vintage Biba, sourced by the L.A. boutique Decades.

Biba vintage cat print trouser suit, FarFetch

It's amazing how fashionable these Biba pieces look in 2014. Check out this vintage cat print trouser suit for example. See also: culottes, floral trousers, chunky platforms.

Madeline Smith, photograph by David Silverstein. Via

Biba vintage geometric print mini dress, FarFetch

At FarFetch, the Biba items have been listed alongside contemporary pieces that share the same aesthetic, including many of the accessories from the new Saint Laurent collection.

Biba black and white striped lurex dress, early 1970s, Kerry Taylor Auctions

Biba dress photographed by Arthur Elgort for British Vogue, November 1972, via

While Biba's original photography and merchandising, and the almost-mythology surrounding the Biba stores, create a notion of undeniable glamour, perhaps the most noticeable thing about the clothes themselves is that they seem so wearable. They're clothes you can imagine buying for parties and special occasions, or even every day: I'd like to wear an awful lot of these clothes regardless of their label. That combination is as potent today as it must have been in the 1960s and 70s. Imagine what it must have been like when the clothes were also comparatively affordable.

Biba vintage off-shoulder maxi dress, FarFetch

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