Friday, 28 June 2013

Biba - a foray into the 60s to meet an icon

Golly, I’ve been slack again lately.  My life is pretty hectic and I rarely get the time to just sit and write a blog post.  I used to try and squeeze them in during my lunch hour but now that I use that time to pick heavy things up and put them down again repeatedly I just cannot seem to find a blogging space anywhere. So – as a result – this entry is rather late.  A fortnight late in fact.  Sorry Sophia.

Whats more, Blogger is being WEIRD. So please excuse the formatting oddities below.  The highlighting means nothing. the font changes mean nothing. I'll try and fix it later.

Anyway – a fortnight ago I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to meet Barbara Hulanicki, the brains behind Biba.   Barbara has just had a book published – “Seamless from Biba – A Life In Design” which showcases her career as a designer of clothing, interiors, shoes and , well, pretty much everything.

For those who don’t know (is there anyone who doesn’t know?) Biba was the beating heart of London style in the 60s and 70s.  After starting off as a mail order company, selling one dress via the Daily Mirror newspaper back in 1964, they company opened their first store later that year and another in 1965.  Selling an estimated three million garments by the time the company closed.

The teenagers of the UK were hungry for something new and Biba aimed their clothes directly at them – affordable (many would even say cheap), wild in design and sized for the waif like figures of the young the clothes were an instant hit.  The shops eventually became department stores – selling everything from baked beans and dog food to wallpaper and cutlery.

I have to say meeting Barbara was a real experience – I was expecting her to be somewhat terrifying – surely a woman with that much entrepreneurial spirit and talent would be.  I was in for a surprise though – she really is a warm, funny, self effacing lady.  Delicate and birdlike and full of surprise and joy at her success and the enduring appeal of her work.

Simply everything was covered -  reminiscences about her time at the shop, her favourite model, the launch of the make-up range, celebrity gossip and her design influences.

Barbara cites her influences to be the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and the movies of the 30s – namely those of Garbo and Dietrich.  Her favourite actress however and ideal customer was Audrey Hepburn – who mixes the glamour of old Hollywood with the gamine figure of the 60s.

Audrey in Sabrina - the film Barbara cites as awakening her interest in fashion by sending her on a quest for  some shoes worn in the film.  Not being able to find them Barbara hacked some shoes up to make her own.  

These influences led the designer to use a lot of original vintage fabric too, rich 30s velvets and rayons, even prompting Barbara to bring people out of retirement to weave the fabrics she wanted rather than falling prey to the polyesters and crimplenes of the day. I suppose now we'd call it affordable luxe or something equally daft.

Of her celebrity customers and visitors the most memorable were Suzi Quattro – who filmed a music video there and who she was afraid would damage the shop as she jumped around Marc Bolan who famously wore one of her sequinned jackets and the New York Dolls who while being utterly charming and elegant, proceeded to shoplift several outfits and later wore them in one of their videos.

The New York Dolls - I believe the spotty blouse you can see was pinched from Biba.

Mr Bolan himself looking ever so impish and adorable in a Biba jacket from 1973

Biba also had its own cosmetics range which was incredibly bold in colour - a stark contrast to the last 60s obsession with coral coral and more coral.  Barbara told us that they had terrible trouble getting anyone to make the colours up for them at first and but once they got into the shops they flew off the shelves.

Green Biba lipstick in Vanity Fair, 1971
Amazing Biba make up guides for copying various old Hollywood looks.

Barbara's favourite models were Ingrid Boulting and Maddie Smith, who I believe were, like many of her models, taken from the ranks of her shop floor staff.

Visit this blog for a lovely article of Ingrid Boulting's take on the Biba look

I'm not going to bombard you with pictures of Biba dresses, you are all more than capable to your own google-fu and I've been wittering on long enough.  Suffice to say I had a marvellous time and have really enjoyed looking through the book which has certainly given me a few fashion ideas.

I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of the wonderful lady herself:

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Brighton Up!

Hello lovelies.

I went to Brighton at the weekend, whoop!

It was a lovely sunny day and I decided I had to get out of London for a bit and so the chap and I put on our best holiday outfits and hopped on the train.

Here I am in grey old Hackney:

Here I am in glorious Brighton.  We didn't do inside the Pavilion because I'm skint and spent all my money on a ticket.

You can see the look of the day was "as many accessories as possible" - there is no such as too much.

We did all the cliche things - eating chips on the beach, laughing at hen parties, eating ice cream in The Lanes, avoiding stag parties, avoiding other brawling drunks and well, drinking a bit ourselves.  Well not too much drinking, but we did find a pub that sells my very favourite beer - Otter Ale.  Yum.  Made from real otters you know.  *nods sagely*

I also finally got to visit the technicolour mothball superstore that is Snooper's Paradise.  Oh, if only I'd had some cash to spare - there we dresses galore at half the price or less of most London shops.  His Nibs even picked up a wonderful Liberty waistcoat in pure silk that I've barely been able to get him to remove since.

We even had a smooch in the photobooth.  ;-)

The day was rounded off with drinks with chums on the pier and then we whizzed back to London to attend a marvellous party of a NSFW nature.  so I;'ll keep that to myself.  Oh, weekend of dreams!

I'm thinking this may be my year for adventures of many kinds.  There will definitely be more visiting of British seaside towns.

What's your favourite British resort?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013's been forever and the power of good hair.

I can't believe I let this this drift for so long again.  I have this horrible habit of making this blog feel like work, and then I procrastinate because it feels like work and I don't want to work when I'm not AT WORK.  Sigh.  It's the same with the cleaning.


I'm back, sort of.  I have lots of ideas and lots of things to reprise from earlier this year but I ain't going to list them out because then I feel all pressured and shit and won't do it.  Instead, lets have a look at where I've been spending my time over the last few months.

I'm not even sure where to start.

I suppose the biggest thing is that I've been trying to find a new hair colour.  The blonde was getting a bit muddy looking after so many different toners and I was, quite frankly, getting bored of it.  I tried pale ginger, ginger ginger and have now settled on a lovely pillar box red.  This magic was worked by those angels at Rockalily and I must say I love it.  The pic below is after my first  "redding" and is displayed to fine effect in Lucie's signature poodle updo.  I have to say, though I've been going there for years, I've never had my hair finished at the salon before.  It really is well worth it, them gals can wrangle hair like no others.

The hair has had a beneficial effect on me, I have to say.  I feel a lot more confident these days - kinda like a cartoon superhero, and while work weren't too keen at first they seem immune to its brightness these days.  Falling back in love with ones hair also makes you more likely to actually do something with it rather than bung it up in a ponytail.

Another thing that has boosted my confidence greatly over the past months is that I splashed out of a course of sessions with a personal trainer.  It has long been my aim to lose some of the pounds that the four years since my 30th birthday have seen fit to pack around my waistline and no amount of healthy eating, unhealthy low calorie eating, running or Jillian Frigging Michael's videos were helping.  I looked into things and it seemed to me that weightlifting was the answer.  Not pink Barbie weights, proper weightlifting, you know, with big ass barbells and stuff.  Well, I've finally started.  At my gym I'm the only girl in the weights room and with red hair and leopard print leggings I'm hardly inconspicuous.  It took a lot of guts and it is a lot of hard work but I've finally lost an inch round my waist not to mention a few inches worth of walking tall self confidence.

I think you can see my self confidence in the below photo.  My self confidence and my nipple, but hey, I've never been a prude.  This was a recent jaunt to White Mischief, a steampunk event, but as they had a space theme I decided to go as a Star Trek girl.  I've been getting really into Star Trek lately.  I'm currently working my way through the original series.

I've gotten really into the more fancy dress side of my wardrobe lately, again thanks to the hair I think.  I just feel braver and more like playing with looks.  I still love trad vintage but hey, clothes are meant to be fun, I dress vintage because I like the dressing up side and one can play with that in other ways too.  Meet my new boots and new skirt.  I love them dearly.  Not that I've worn the boots out yet, walking in heels isn't my strong point.

I'm sure I've been up to lots of other things but my mind has gone blank now.  I hope you are pleased to see me back and if not, well, I respectfully ask you to bugger orf!

Don't mess with the redhead.  ;-)