Saturday, 15 September 2012

Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki exhibition in Brighton

Opening in Brighton on the 22nd of September is a brand new exhibition, Biba and Beyond. There will also be items on display from a ‘Bring in Your Biba’ campaign, where contributors were asked to bring in their Biba items and share memories from the London and Brighton shops. Thinking about the exhibition reminded me what was probably the very first Biba retrospective, held at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in 1993, which I was lucky enough to attend as a child on a very groovy school trip, headed up by two of our teachers who both had incredible beehive hair styles and spoke enthusiastically about their Biba years.

Cover of the exhibition catalogue. I couldn't afford it at the time, but purchased it on eBay some years ago. It shows up online from time to time and shouldn't cost more than £10 or so to buy now.

It might've been nearly 20 years since I saw the exhibition, but I can still remember many aspects of it, and can say that it was one of the key moments in setting me off on a life-long love of vintage clothing - although by this age I was already choosing to wear mainly second-hand over new, spending my weekends rummaging at jumble sales with my parents and dressing up in my Mum and Aunt's vintage finery.

Funny photo of me dressing up aged around 7 or 8. That's me on the left in my aunt's Bus Stop velvet dress. Not sure what my cousin in the middle or sister on the right are wearing, but it looks like she's got some kind of 1930's floral crepe top on!

The Laing undertook a similar project to Brighton Museum, 'Bring Out Your Biba', advertising through local media, and I remember that several of my friend's mothers loaned pieces to the show. There is a great page here written by one of the contributors - I didn't realise that the exhibition later travelled to Aberdeen and Leicester - but then again, I was only 11 or so at the time. The photo with a 'do not touch' sign in it makes me laugh as I distinctly remember a girl from my class screeching at me for reaching my hand towards a beautiful satin dress with diamante straps that sparkled under the gallery lights - I don't think I could resist.

Biba - the original lifestyle shopping experience

Choice quote. My Dad told me that the one and only time he went into Big Biba it was to laugh at people - each to their own I guess!

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