Bid for a Biba

The Retro look is chic yet again. Classic clothes by top designers are popping up all over the place, and auctions are the best place to pick up a bargain or pay for a turkey.

THE FLAMBOYANT gear of the Sixties and Seventies comes under the spotlight next Tuesday at Christie's South Kensington's annual auction of street fashion, now in its fifth year.

There is no catwalk. Coats, dresses and suits, designed by such ghostly names as Jean Muir, Ossie Clarke or Tommy Nutter, are held up limply by porters, as enthusiasts of retro fashion bid for them.

After decades in mothballs, these period relics are once again plunged into a mini-whirlpool of fashion, with its still-changing ins and outs, and inscrutable trends.

Prices are low. The typical lot is estimated at pounds 150-pounds 250 and hidden reserves (minimum prices) are seldom placed on lots estimated under pounds 200. Lots are regularly carried off for as little as pounds 23 for, for instance, a red striped velvet waistcoat "said to have belonged to Acker Bilk".

Although the sales regularly clear around 70 per cent of lots, they raise totals of only pounds 40,000-pounds 50,000 - hardly a money-spinner for the auctioneers, who keep them going because they look trendy and attract young new bidders. So bargain hunters benefit.

Ironically, the current hot ticket is not any of the big designer names, but Biba, the Kensington fashion and lifestyle shop that closed in 1974 (and has recently been revived). Its name has acquired couturier status.

Where could you buy new a dashing Biba-style full-length tapestry coat, worked with a dense design of scrolling flowers and acanthus leaves with frogged fastenings? No couturier is designing such sumptuous pieces these days. The Next shops, then? Or Warehouse? Not a chance. You would have to have it made. The material alone would cost you about pounds 160 - then add a tailor's bill of pounds 500 or so.

The authentic Biba specimen for sale at South Ken on Tuesday dates from about 1970 and is estimated pounds 300-pounds 500. Designed for women, it would suit a slim, vain man. But even if you had one like it made up, it would still not carry the magic BIBA label. Just look at those puffy shoulders and elongated sleeves. A real period piece.

Biba buffs know the gear so well, that they will probably not be bothered by the absence of a Biba label on the three-quarter length fake leopardskin coat, estimated pounds 200-pounds 250, and cautiously catalogued as "probably BIBA". It's Biba all right; an identical full-length version with label intact fetched a whopping pounds 460 in last year's sale, well above the estimated pounds 100-pounds 150.

A hoard of unsold stock from Biba's Paris shop is in the sale. There are five lots, each consisting of 10 T-shirts with Biba logo, 10 Biba- logo pots of face powder, 10 of eye shadow, and a Biba plastic bag - enough to solve your Christmas present problem in one go. Estimate pounds 150-pounds 250 per lot.

Jean Muir's reputation has not survived the auctioneer's block. So if her classy, minimalist dresses in plain colours suit you, get bidding. At the last two sales, much of the clothing bearing her name - although without reserve - was left unsold. Which probably means that some people loathe it.

This year, the auctioneers have rejected most of the Jean Muir gear they were offered. But there are still two exclusively Jean Muir lots: one containing three of her typical jersey dresses, the other a loose-fitting black suede jacket together with a full-length alpaca coat, trimmed in leather. They are offered, disdainfully, without estimate - which means that less than pounds 200 is expected. Her suede pieces are the least unpopular. Somebody may get a bargain.

Zandra Rhodes's early printed textiles, which made her name, sell well, but are seldom expensive. Among Janet Street Porter's cast-offs which appeared in last year's sale, was a pleated coat of blue silk, labelled "A Zandra Rhodes Sample" with her famous "Indian Feather Sunspray" design of 1970. Estimated pounds 200-pounds 300, it made a respectable pounds 207. A Rhodes "Snail Flower" coat of about 1970 made pounds 690 in a post-sale deal after failing to sell.

Six mid-Seventies' Rhodes pieces - four dresses, a blouse and a shirt - are lotted together without estimate in Tuesday's sale. They are among 10 re-offered lots left over from the Street-Porter sale.

Rhodes's punk gear is less successful. Even a punk dress from her 1977 "Conceptual Chic" show was left unsold last year. The cult name in punk is still Vivienne Westwood. A pair of black sateen bondage trousers with an authentic label, "Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Seditionaries Exclusive", together with a Sex Pistols T-shirt, made pounds 437 two years ago, more than double the pounds 150-pounds 200 estimate.

Leading the bidding for authentic punk memorabilia is a Brighton-based coterie of thirty and fortysomethings who both collect and wear it. They go for more seditionary gear than Westwood's eleven-layer pink crinoline dress and brown leather bustier, which found buyers at pounds 195 and pounds 138 last year.

Nutter and Clarke enthusiasts should note that most men's clothes sell badly. A big Tweed Nutter suit in the forthcoming sale is without estimate. So is a suit, a shirt and a tie of his, lotted together. The dandyish Mr Fish, who once clothed Sir Roy Strong, is regarded as more historic. Expect to pay pounds 400 for one of his velvet jackets.

To sell well, men's wear has to be flamboyant. Three traffic-stopping blouses by Emilio Pucci - a popular name - are estimated pounds 250-pounds 450. A bundle of Fifties ties, including Salvador Dali's "Spiral Into Space" raised pounds 253 two years ago.

There is some cross-over with the pop memorabilia market. Clothes with doubtful provenance - like that Acker Bilk jacket - tend to end up in Street Fashion sales. Others are genuine "association" items. A Dior gentlemen's anaconda full-length coat of about 1974 made pounds 805 - helped by the fact that it had once been owned by Klaus von Bulow.

Beware the whims of the saleroom. A pair of transparent yellow rubberised ankle boots by Mary Quant fetched an astonishing pounds 690 two years ago. A scarlet pair fetched the same price. As a result, four more identical pairs appeared at last year's sale. Not one of them found a buyer.

Street Fashion, Tuesday 8 September (2pm): Christie's South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 (call 0171-581 7611)

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz