Born again: The return of Biba
Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of Biba, was a revolutionary in the fashion world in the Sixties. More influential even than Mary Quant, whose idea of sexual liberation was to shorten skirts, Hulanicki defined fashion for newly independent and emancipated women.
Contrary to the reigning demureness of Jean Muir, or the aforementioned sexual teasing of Quant, Hulanicki covered up more than she revealed, while still managing to create alluring clothes.
Her clothes achieved cult status and everyone from students to cash-rich celebrities such as Twiggy and Brigitte Bardot wore them and loved them. However, in 1976, to people's dismay and bewilderment, the business collapsed.
Decades on, thanks to House of Fraser, the label that defined an era has been reincarnated to great applause and anticipation from fashion devotees.
Fans of Biba will be delighted to know that House of Fraser's in-house design team has held on to the hallmarks that made the brand so iconic, but has added some twists to make it relevant to today's market.
With bold autumnal colours, strong prints, soft vintage undertones and sleek silhouettes, the collection is smart and polished. Standout pieces include a leopard-print maxi coat, a mid-length military coat with gold Biba buttons, and a black, backless, velvet maxi dress. There is also a collection of 11 limited-edition red-carpet dresses, and a denim collection.
With her long legs, big hair and saucer-like eyes, Daisy Lowe, the face of the brand, is the epitome of the original Biba poster girl. She was also chosen for her innate, eclectic, boho-ish sense of style.
"I've got quite a few pieces me and my mum have found at vintage fairs over the years," she says. "We have a couple of amazing old Biba coats from the Seventies and a beautiful, button-down, long-sleeved black dress."
It helps Biba's cause this season that Sixties, and particularly Seventies, trends are big. And, thanks to the work put in by the likes of stylist Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie, and the fact that the Halston Heritage range was the only good thing to come out of Sex and the City 2, Seventies style is no longer something elusive or something that belongs at a fancy-dress party.
The best way to pull it off is to follow Rachel and Nicole's lead or to emulate the styling in this shoot -- use one strong piece of jewellery, and contrast floaty styles with skinny jeans or a sharp blazer. The look is relaxed and low maintenance, a sort of dress-and-go look, one with which Biba was synonymous during its reign.
Biba is set to launch in House of Fraser next Thursday, September 9, with prices ranging from €66 for tops to €198 for jackets, with only a few special pieces, such as the leopard-print coat, €468, stretching beyond. Suffice to say, it will be money well spent.
Photography by Ronald Dick
Words by Andrea Byrne
Styling by Isabelle Kountoure
Fashion edited by Constance Harris