alwyn w turner








by Alwyn W Turner

Brief excerpts from the book are now available online:

chapter i: THE IN CROWD


chapter iii: CABARET

chapter iv: TUMBLING DOWN

A Brief History Of Biba

In 1963 fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki makes her first moves into fashion design, launching Biba’s Postal Boutique, in collaboration with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon. It struggles to make any impact at all for the first few months, before things start to move...
May 1964 Biba’s Postal Boutique has its first success with a pink gingham dress offered in the Daily Mirror – 17,000 pieces are sold.
Sept 1964 The first Biba boutique opens in Abingdon Road, Kensington.
Feb 1966 A second Biba boutique is opened in Queen’s Road, Brighton. It proves to be too much of a distraction from the London shop, and by the end of the year it will have closed.
Mar 1966 Biba moves from Abingdon Road to Kensington Church Street.
Apr 1966 International recognition of Swinging London as Time magazine crowns the capital as the ‘city of the decade’ – Biba is cited as ‘the most in shop’ for girls.
Sept 1966 John McConnell creates the third Biba logo, which will become the most famous symbol of the store.
Dec 1966 A mini-Biba is opened for the holiday period in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Aug 1967 Biba wins the international design competition at the Sao Paulo Fabric Fair, Brazil.
Apr 1968 The first Biba mail order catalogue is launched. A further five catalogues are issued before the mail order department is wound up in the summer of the following year.
Sept 1969 Biba moves from Church Street to High Street Kensington.
Dec 1969 Formation of Biba Ltd, with Dorothy Perkins as the majority shareholder.
Apr 1970 Launch party for Biba Cosmetics, which is to become the most profitable and durable part of the business.
Feb 1971 A Biba boutique opens in the Bergdorf Goodman store, New York. Meanwhile Biba Cosmetics open stands in Au Printemps in Paris, Fiorucci in Milan, Tekano in Tokyo, Bloomingdale’s in New York and the Judy’s chain in California.
May 1971 The Angry Brigade set off a bomb in Biba, issuing a statement that claims: ‘If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy buying.’ By good fortune there is only one minor casualty.
June 1971 Biba Cosmetics are introduced in more than 300 Dorothy Perkins stores nationwide.
Dec 1971 A forthcoming move is announced to what is currently the Derry & Toms on the other side of High Street Kensington. In the preparations for the move, all extraneous activities are curtailed.
Feb 1973 A strike by shop-workers is averted at the last minute by the recognition of a union branch at Biba
Aug 1973 Dorothy Perkins is bought out by property group, British Land, who thereby become the majority shareholders in Biba.
Sept 1973 Biba opens its final incarnation as Big Biba in the seven-storey Derry & Toms department store, designed by Whitmore-Thomas. Immediately it attracts up to a million visitors a week.
May 1974 The Roof Gardens are opened to the public.
July 1974 As the recession bites, relations between the Biba management and the board of Dorothy Perkins/British Land reach a point of terminal breakdown over the future direction of the store.
Sept 1974 The property crash reduces British Land share prices to just 10% of their 1974 high.
Mar 1975 Two floors of Biba (menswear and household) are closed.
Sept 1975 Biba closes, amidst much bitterness and recrimination. Biba Cosmetics continues to trade as a subsidiary of Dorothy Perkins.
Oct 1975 The fixtures and fittings of Big Biba are sold at auction.
July 1977 The rights to the Biba name are sold to a consortium backed by Iranian money. The following year a new Biba shop will open in Conduit Street, but without the involvement of Barbara Hulanicki. It will last for just two years before closing.

The Biba Experience by Alwyn W Turner
published by Antique Collectors' Club
© 2004