Way before H&M there was BIBA, a hip London boutique in the 1960s. Conceived and managed by husband and wife team, Barbara Hulanicki and Stephen Fitz-Simon, BIBA put London on the fashion map by offering reasonably priced modern and stylish clothing for young women. Along with Mary Quant and Twiggy, BIBA is now a fashion icon of 1960s London and lately there has been renewed interest in BIBA and Barbara with the documentary by November Films, Beyond BIBA: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki.
Barbara was born in Poland in 1936. She was raised in Jerusalem and after the death of her father, Barbara along with her mother and sisters, settled in England. She started her fashion career as an illustrator for newspapers in the 1950s when England was still recovering from WWII and the nation’s sense of style was bleak. By the early 60s, young women were starving for fashionable clothing that reflected their independent lifestyle. Barbara comments in her 1983 autobiography, From A to BIBA,“The shops in England at this time were full of matronly clothes … There was little specially designed for the young.”
Beyond BIBA: A Portrait of Barbara Hulanicki uses family photos, old film clips, and interviews with Barbara as well as former BIBA employees and business associates to share Barbara’s story as a fashion designer/businesswoman and later an interior decorator in Miami. Sporting a blonde pageboy and large black glasses, Barbara speaks openly and modestly about her life and career while she takes the viewer around Miami, her studio, and her apartment.
This film is a visual feast of vintage BIBA and Barbara’s imaginative aesthetic, which was heavily inspired by all things Art Deco. Each interview is set against fantastic museum-like backgrounds of books or curios and the interviewees are stylishly dressed in striking prints, outlandish hats, and black nail polish. Viewers will want to watch this film again and again, not just for the enjoyment of the visuals but also to catch every bit of Barbara’s compelling life story from her exotic childhood to the magical creation of BIBA and then its sad demise and finally her career as an interior designer.
Lucky for us, Beyond BIBA is available to view for free online at:
Beyond BIBA is a must see for any fashion student, designer, artist and/or lover of Art Deco. Take a look for yourself and share with friends.