A Design Icon June 30th 2016
I first met Barbara Hulanicki fifty years ago.
I was with some school friends and we parked our car in Abingdon Road. Walking past the little corner shop we were completely bowled over by the sound of music, the smell of incense (I think!!) and the noise of fun and laughter coming from everyone in and around this incredible little store - it was the first ever legendary Biba.
I fell in love with a tiny mini dress, ginger wool with a long centre zip and a cream wool collar. High shoulders and narrow arms, it fitted me perfectly and the dress and I could not be parted for a moment.
Not having enough money to pay the huge sum of about two pounds ten shillings or maybe even three pounds - we were offered a job to help tidy, pack and unpack boxes and generally help out in exchange for a free dress!! My friend Jenny and I jumped at this amazing opportunity.
I was asked if I wanted to become a sales girl and so I started to help on Saturdays. I worked on and off between art school and the holidays and was hired again when Biba moved to Kensington Church Street.
During this time, I was totally obsessed with the founder and owner of Biba - the stylish, talented and completely amazing Barbara Hulanicki and I thought of nothing else all day and every night but fashion, fashion, fashion!
Barbara was the forerunner for a generation that wanted quick, disposable and instant fashion at affordable prices. We had no interest in “clothes to last” or that ghastly phrase “a fashion classic”! I wore a size six - the smallest Biba made, which was marked as XS, most girls then were size 8. Size 10 was huge and 12 was positively maternity wear! We were a generation of tiny, underfed post-war children and I have to admit that even today as an old lady - I still wear a size 8.
Fifty years later, Barbara and I have designed a capsule collection of footwear together that reflects her enchanting and unique style with a brilliant modern edge and for the first time in a thirty-year career of shoe design - I can honestly say that I am “excited”.
Barbara has been a joy to work with, has a deep understanding of all the frustrations of running a manufacturing business and in particular the problems attached to the shoemaking industry. She approaches every hurdle with her usual sardonic and laid back charm - always open to change and modifications with experience and integrity.
I am so thrilled to be working with Barbara Hulanicki OBE and more importantly, I am so proud to call her my friend.
Barbara I love you!!