Review of The Biba Story 1964-1975

One of the displays at The Biba Story exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Image credit: © Lucy Sutton-Long

Yesterday we attended the preview of the fabulous The Biba Story 1964-1975 at the Fashion & Textile Museum.

A strong contender for London’s hottest exhibition of 2024, it celebrates the iconic Biba, London’s affordable fashion label which started with a mail order catalogue and evolved into a lifestyle brand with a seven-storey emporium in Kensington complete with 15 departments (created as stage sets on themes including Victoriana, Pop Art, Art Nouveau and Art Deco), a 500 seat Rainbow Restaurant, Europe’s largest roof garden (complete with flamingos) and regular concerts with artists including the New York Dolls, the Pointer Sisters and Liberace. Customers included Twiggy, Barbra Streisand, Freddie Mercury, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Beautifully curated by Martin Pel, the exhibition explores the evolution of the Biba style and expansion into cosmetics, accessories and homeware.

About Biba:

  • Biba’s earliest pieces were created without labels to minimise costs.
  • Influences included Alphonse Mucha, Klimt and Rennie Mackintosh for colour, and Augustus Pugin, the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau for design.
  • The mail order catalogue was crafted to a size so that it wouldn’t need to be folded to fit letterboxes, thus arriving in pristine condition.
  • Mail order deliveries were made on Fridays so consumers could have the pieces ready to wear at the weekend.
  • Biba was the first company to create cosmetics for all skin colours and all genders.
  • Biba pioneered the communal changing room.

Huge thanks to the Fashion & Textile Museum for their hospitality, Martin Pel for the fascinating tour, and founder Barbara Hulanicki for the fantastic, insightful and witty Q&A.

The exhibition runs until 8 September.

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