Little did the architects of the Big Biba store in London’s Kensington High Street know they were helping to create a legend. During its brief existence from 1973-75, the opulent emporium was hailed as ‘the most beautiful store in the world’.
Even Mr Al Fayed would have been impressed with the shop’s extravagant Art Deco interior, which was reminiscent of the glamorous, golden age of Hollywood.
Big Biba wasn’t just about style – it was the first lifestyle store. Here a young girl could “buy not only a new wardrobe, fully co-ordinated from head to toe, but also a complete range of cosmetics and soft furnishings, together with the washing powder to care for her clothes, and food to go with it, all presented in the distinctive Biba packaging.”
Alternatively, she could lounge around in the shop-windows (as Biba didn't have window-displays), or sip cocktails upstairs amongst the flamingos that lived in the Roof Garden, or in the Rainbow Room, where live music was performed.
'Biba style' was characterised by flowing lines, floppy hats and… pickled onions! For all it’s curiously cool, stylish charm – Biba was peculiarly quirky and eccentric: Even the food hall displays were in the shape of baked bean tins and Campbells soup cans. But it was the Biba logo that was immediately recognizable on the vast majority of the products.
Biba also produced a mail order catalogue, with girls wearing the complete Biba look – from clothing to makeup and accessories. The Biba look consisted of what Hulanicki called "Auntie colours" - which she said ‘look like a funeral.’ The predominant shades were blackish mulberries, blueberries, rusts and plums.
If you’d like to see more of images of the store and Biba’s designs, how about this fabulous, collectable coffee table book from ShopCurious. ‘Welcome to Big Biba’ features over 150 colour photographs from the seven storey department and is signed by designer, Barbara Hulanicki herself, as well as the book’s creators.
In addition to selling stylish fashion, Big Biba was a social network and curiosity shop all rolled into one. I have a feeling the legend will live on and on... I'm curious to experience Biba’s next incarnation – and see the website.
Curiculum Vitae Jeffry Zebua
6 months ago