Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Barbara Hulanicki

My big Sister flew the nest in the mid seventies and headed to London to seek adventure, she left me, her seven year old little sister behind, she returned home often and started telling me wondrous stories about an emporium called BIBA, to me it sounded like Aladdins Cave, full of exotic and beautiful treasures, she often came home bearing gifts from this hallowed place, strings of beads, feather boas, patterned scarves and beautifully packaged eye shadows and lipsticks, all which went lovingly into my dressing up box.

Sadly by the time I flew the nest and headed down to London, BIBA was no longer but thanks to my Sister I have had a lifelong fascination for all things BIBA and it's creator Barbara Hulanicki.

Born in Warsaw in 1936, to Polish parents, after studying at Brighton School of Art, now the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts, Hulanicki won a London Evening Standard competition for beachwear in 1955. She began her career in fashion as a freelance fashion illustrator, working for various magazines, including Vogue, Tatler and Women's Wear Daily.

Hulanicki sold her first designs through a small mail-order business, featured in the fashion columns of newspapers such as the Daily Mirror.  In 1964 she opened her Biba shop in Kensington, with the help of her late husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.

The shop soon became famous for its stylishly decadent atmosphere and lavish decor inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco. It became a hangout for artists film stars and rock musicians, including Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marianne Faithfull and Cathy McGowan, presenter of Ready Steady Go!, among the regulars. In the shop affordable mini-skirts, floppy felt hats, feather boas, velvet trouser suits and unisex T-shirts dyed in rich, muted colors were eagerly snapped up by a young clientele. Anna Wintour got her start in fashion as a BIBA employee.

The First BIBA store was an Old Chemist shop in Abingdon Road, but by the time it closed it doors in 1976 it had evolved into an elaborate 5-story, Art Deco department store with a restaurant and a roof garden, overlooking High Street Kensington.

The avant-garde BIBA cosmetic brand was being sold in 33 countries across the globe.

BIBA finally closed it's doors in 1976, a victim of corporate raiding before the term had even entered the business vernacular.  But the scene was set, BIBA was the blueprint for a new style of fashion store, shops like Bus Stop and Top Shop started to spring up following the BIBA example.

The BIBA look has now become iconic and a firm favourite for stylists and glossy magazines.


Kate Moss

Gloria Swanson  Edward Steichen

The inspiration for the BIBA look came from the Twenties and Thirties, these two Steichen photographs look as if they could have been part of a BIBA campaign.

Marion Morehouse and Helen Lyons, Edward Steichen
After the closure of Biba, Hulanicki continued to work in the fashion industry, designing for such fashion designers as Fiorucci and Cacharel and for twelve years, from 1980 to 1992, designed a successful line of children's wear, Minirock, licensed to the Japanese market.

From 1990 to 2006, Hulanicki has perhaps had the most impact on Miami Beach through her work for Chris Blackwell and his Island Outpost Group. She twice reconceived the MARLIN Hotel, on Collins Avenue, as well as the CAVALIER Hotel, Ocean Drive, the LESLIE Hotel, Ocean drive, The NETHERLANDS building, Ocean Drive, and the KENT on Collins Avenue. Other Caribbean properties she has designed for Blackwell include the COMPASS POINT Hotel and beach resort in Nassau, Bahamas - which is prominently featured in all the Bahamian Tourist Board television commercials - the PINK SANDS resort on Harbor Island, Bahamas. In 1993 Hulanicki won an award from the American Institute of Architects for her work on the NETHERLANDS, as well as an award from an association of Florida Architects. Hulanicki's other projects have included private luxury homes on Palm Island and Dilido Island in Miami as well as several commercial properties, including the BEACH HOUSES at CORAL SANDS HOTEL on Harbor Island, Bahamas and hotel development for Chris Blackwell's GOLDENEYE in Oracabessa, Jamaica

One of the crowning achievements of Hulanicki's impact can be witnessed in the opening of the Hollywood hit movie "The Birdcage". A sweeping helicopter shot flows over the waves to zero in on the primary location for the film, the Cleveland Hotel on Ocean Drive, which is flanked by no less than four Hulanicki-designed buildings - the Leslie, the Cardozo, the Cavalier and the Netherlands. Additionally, throughout her career, Hulanicki has designed costumes for several stage and film productions, including clothing for Cathy McGowan on the influential live TV rock show "READY STEADY GO" (1964), outfits for Julie Christie in "DARLING" (1965), costumes for local productions in Miami Beach, costumes for old friend and Biba model Twiggy for "CAPTAIN BEAKY" in London's West End and her Royal Command Performance in 1976. From 2001 to 2002 she worked on the Island life Ministore, located in the heart of Miami Beach on Ocean Drive. Hulanicki renovated this unique shop at owner Chris Blackwell's request. Coined as "tropical lux," this lifestyle store contained a large collection of ethnic gift items, music, film, jewelry and accessories from around the world. It also boasted men's, women's and children's apparel custom designed by Hulanicki.

In 2003 she delved back into product and fashion design, with a collection of handbags for Coccinelle, Italy, Wallpapers and Illustrations for Graham and Brown, both of which still retain her to design new collections. She has also designed Wallpaper and textile designs for HABITAT stores in the UK. In 2008 she went back to her roots and designed a fashion collection for TOP SHOP, which included her fashion illustrations used as prints. The Victoria and Albert Museum recently republished her memoirs FROM A TO BIBA and accompanied the book launch with a range of her jewelry and scarf designs. Subsequently her autobiography inspired November Films, an Independent Film Company, to document her life and career in a recently released feature film called BEYOND BIBA.

 To find out more about Barbara Hulanicki and her latest projects visit her at:


Richard Saker 

I was very distressed to find the film documentary 'Beyond Biba' was broadcast on the British Sky Arts Channel on August 17th, can't believe I missed it, that will teach me to remember to look at the TV listings! the book and DVD are going on my wishlist!

Book and DVD available here

Text Sources from Wikipedia and barbarahulanickidesign.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting To Know You Tag

Lovely Ruth From Life the universe and all that's in it and fabulous Christina from Fashions Most Wanted have both tagged me, with the; 'Getting to know you tag'.

This is the perfect antidote as I am in recovery after a rather nasty bout of food poisoning, to add insult to injury it was one of my favourite restaurants that got me, I know it was them, as on the way back from the Alps, on Friday we stopped off at the now offending restaurant for lunch, where I consumed two starters, Gazpacho followed by Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta on a bed of lettuce, judging by my symptoms and internet research the lettuce appears to be the culprit,  who would have thought that a few humble lettuce leafs could make you feel so awful.

I will spare you the details, but scenes from 'The Exorcist' spring to mind, at one point I felt so awful, I just wanted my Mother!  Thankfully MG was wonderful, whilst I was moaning, prostrate on the bed, he was on hand (at a safe distance) with chamomile tea and Vichy mints. 

Anyway back to the matter in hand...

Ruth and Christina have both used pictures of Joanna Lumley for this post, I have plumped for Joan Collins.

1. What is your favourite time of day and why?...
My favourite time of day is dawn, I love the birth of a new day, especially when you are in unfamiliar surroundings, like the first day of a holiday, when you arrived in the dark,  I love watching a new landscape emerge, with nobody else about, I usually end up going back to bed though, by nature I am a night owl.
  Dawn Breaks Over Cadaques, North East Spain, Taken from our hotel balcony.

2. Salt or Sugar?...
I am definitely a savoury person, although at certain times of the month all I want is chocolate.

3. Sea or mountains...
The Sea, I love the sea, which is ironic as we live at the foothills of the Pyrenees.

4.  What Country would you like to visit and why?...
Italy, I want to do a grand tour, by sports car visiting everywhere, because it's such a beautiful country with beautiful architecture and so much culture, I also want to visit India, because the culture is so different, I want to see the vibrancy, the chaos and the beauty.

 Holi Festival, India

Palace, Rajput

5.  Favourite Song?...
God, this is a difficult one...so many...I think it would have to be Barcarolle from 'The Tales of Hoffman' by Offenbach. Sung beautifully below.

6.  Do you cook? What is your favourite dish to make?...
I love to cook, I love entertaining, and having loads of delicious plates of food on the table, with lots of good wine and good company, I am especially partial to long lazy lunches that go on well into the night and sometimes beyond!  Boeuf Bourguignon is probably my favourite dish.  I also love to make soup in the winter months with warm crusty bread, especially chicken soup unfortunately my chicken soup will never be as good as my Grandmothers!

7.  What is the one thing you want to do before you die?...
This is difficult, I have done so much in my life and still have a lot of things I want to do, I cannot think of one thing, I guess the ultimate is just to be totally content and have no regrets.

8.  Favourite flower?...
Another difficult one, I adore flowers, I love wild flowers, fields of red poppies and woods with carpets of bluebells, cut flower wise I love Roses and all types of Lilly and in winter I love to fill the house with Anemones.

9.  What 3 words would your friends outside the Blogging World use to describe you?...
Crumbs, I have not seen some of my good friends for so long, I have no ideaprobably be eccentric, excessive and absent!

10.  What five people dead or alive would you invite round for dinner and why?...
Ooh I like good talkers and interesting conversations, so I would love to invite, David Niven, David Attenborough, The Dalai Lama, Joan Collins, Dirk Bogarde, Colette, Christina Lindsay and Ruth Johnson, whoops that's eight, told you I was excessive!

11. Who wrote the last book you read and what was the title?...
The last book I read was written by Kathryn Stockett and it was called 'The Help'It was brilliant, I could not put it down.

12.  If a movie was made about your life what would the title be?...
I am such a gypsy by nature it would probably be something like; 'Driftwood'  And I think either Rachel Weisz or Helena Bonham-Carter, would be perfect for the roll!

Rachel Weisz
Helena Bonham-Carter

13What is your favourite hobby?...
Blogging and reading.

14.  Are you a coffee or a tea drinker?...  
Tea, I find it really thirst quenching in the morning, I need about four cups to get me going and another one in the afternoon,  I do drink coffee but not very often.

15.  If you had to choose wine or Champagne and why?...
Can't choose, I live in France, with a wine expert, Sometimes white wine, sometimes red wine, sometimes dessert wine, it depends what you are eating, Champagne is for a lift, so whenever really....

16.  How do you order in a restaurant - Look at the dessert then order the main and don't worry about having room for dessert?...
It depends how hungry I am, and whats on the menu, usually I love starters, so I always have one, then a main, most of the time I skip dessert and just have cheese.

Oop's I have just realised  I have just done the entire tag incorrectly! (Well I am still recovering from food poisoning!)  Sorry Ruth, Christina, I will have to save the questions I should have answered for a future post, and think up some new intriguing one's to ask all of you.  Also something very weird is going on with my text and spacing, I have done something wrong but have no idea what!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alpine Report

I did not think I would be able to do a post whilst in the Alps, but MG has gone for a meeting with a trade magazine journalist to talk turkey, leaving me in the hotel, with the laptop at my disposal, well I cannot resist doing a sneaky post.

We arrived yesterday evening and so far we have done a lot of wandering about and eating and drinking, MG has had his hair cut and whilst he was doing that I stayed in the hotel room and gave myself a full pedicure, I am sure these are the kind of things one does at trade shows!

It's, well, very Alpine here, I am not sure how many meters we are above sea level but it's high, 
I love French Alpine ski resorts and I love skiing and apres ski but ski resorts  are quite weird places in Summer, it feels somehow wrong!

I have to say the restaurants and bars are superb, here in the Savoie department of France they know how to cater for large influxes of guests, which is really refreshing.  The ski resorts in The Pyrenees, which offer great sking fall down on the hospitality and food, side of things, they need to up their game and get more sophisticated if they want to compete with their Alpine Cousins.

We came to this show last year and made the mistake of eating too much of the local cuisine, which is cheese based food, fondu, raclette, tartiflette, we were completely cheesed out, totally calorific and really not justified when you have not had a full day on the slopes,  we are trying to limit ourselves this time, which is hard as temptation lurks on every menu in town!

Must dash, MG has just walked into the room, we are going out to eat...again...

Our Hotel

Window boxes full of multi coloured flowers are everywhere. Crusoe is in the corner of this photo reading P Mail.

The cable cars to get you up to the Pistes

Up there and then some

Looking over a flower strewn bridge

This pub has become base-camp

 Loads of restaurants

 The Church

Radio Station

 Tourist Office

 Cuddly toys and slippers


 Main drag

 It's safe to drink!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

See you on Friday!

Well we are off to the Alps again, this time for MG's business, there is a trade show, high up in the Alps, Crusoe and I are going along for the ride and to help MG, we will be returning on Friday.

In The meantime you must check out My French Country Home, my friend Sharon 's beautiful blog, she is having a French Settler week and I am guest posting on Wednesday!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When I Open My Eyes

Living in a French house, we have shutters, which most French people close at night, being English we have curtains, which most English people draw at night.  I have shutters and curtains and due to an irrational fear of being hemmed in at night, I don't close my shutters or draw my curtains.  We are very privileged, we have French windows in our bedroom which open out onto a terraced balcony, when I first opened my eyes this morning at 7am, this is what I saw, I simply had to get up, stick the kettle on and take photos.

Not being a naturally early riser I would have missed this if my shutters were closed and the curtains drawn.