Biba collection goes on sale to mark 40th anniversary of iconic British label

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The Independent Online

When Barbara Hulanicki opened her boutique in Kensington 40 years ago, there was just one style of dress on sale, in one size, and one colour. They sold out by lunchtime, a foretaste of the extraordinary fame that the iconic label Biba would garner in its relatively short lifetime.

When Barbara Hulanicki opened her boutique in Kensington 40 years ago, there was just one style of dress on sale, in one size, and one colour. They sold out by lunchtime, a foretaste of the extraordinary fame that the iconic label Biba would garner in its relatively short lifetime.

Attracting the coolest women of the era - from Twiggy to Julie Christie - within 10 years Biba had moved to a vast department store on Kensington High Street, selling everything from coats to cushions.

Yesterday, to mark its anniversary, more than 500 pieces from the label went on sale, ranging from dress suits to shampoo.

The designer pieces belong to a woman known as Pari, a Berliner who moved to London and fell in love with the label after finding a Biba jacket at Portobello Road Market.

Pari, who has previously sold a collection of Ossie Clark dresses to buyers in Los Angeles, including Nicole Kidman and Courtney Love, hopes to sell her Biba horde to a private collector who will exhibit it.

The brainchild of Hulanicki and her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon, Biba opened its first store at 87 Abingdon Road, Kensington, London, on 7 September 1964. At its height, nearly 1 million people were visiting the Biba department store every week, and 1,500 meals a day were served in the Rainbow Room restaurant and concert hall where bands including the New York Dolls and Cockney Rebel played.

Biba was forced to close in 1975 when, driven by Britain's weak economy, its business partners sold their stakes in the store.

Alwyn Turner, who has written a history of the store called The Biba Experience to mark the anniversary, said: "It's a great story, this tiny boutique that just grew and grew and became this vast department store, which closed at the peak of its fame.

"It opened in 1964 just as London was becoming the most fashionable city in the world. Everyone's attention was focused on London, and Biba was an integral part of that."

Pari's collection includes 20 jackets, 13 trouser suits, 81 dresses, 1 catsuit, 4 dressing gowns, 3 beach outfits, 9 pairs of boots, a satin bedsheet with matching cushions, soap flakes and 9 original sketches.

"It's a beautiful collection that covers the entire period from 1964 through to 1975. Eleven years in fashion is a long time - from pre-mini skirts to mid-1970s fashion. This collection illustrates the entire scope of what Biba was doing," said Turner.

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