Barbara Hulanicki is a Warsaw- born fashion designer, known for being the founder of the iconic clothes store Biba.
Born in Warsaw, to Polish parents, after studying at Brighton Art College, now the University of Brighton, Hulanicki won a London Evening Standard competition for beachwear in 1955. She began her career in fashion as a freelance fashion illustrator, covering all the important fashion collections for the major publications of the day, including Women's Wear Daily, British Vogue, the Times, the Observer and the Sunday Times. In 1964 she founded, with her late husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon, the boutique BIBA, beginning as a small mail-order business featured in the fashion columns of newspapers such as the DAILY MIRROR.
After a few false starts and refusing to give up, their last-ditched attempt -- a pink gingham dress with a round hole in the back and a matching head scarf -- strikes a chord with the public and sells thousands of units, allowing them to open a store which becomes an icon of hip 60's and 70's London.
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. 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 a small Chemist's shop in Abingdon Road, but by the time Biba's doors closed 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 cosmetics brand was being sold in 33 countries across the globe.
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.
In 1980, she returned to the UK from living in glamorous Brazil to open a series of clothing boutiques and start a make-up line, all under her own name. From 1980 to 1987, she dabbled in fashion photography for the London Evening Standard and returned briefly to fashion illustration to draw Sarah Ferguson's wedding dress for the London newspapers. In 1983 she wrote her memoirs in the book FROM A TO BIBA, which was published by Hutchinson's. In 1987 she arrived in Miami Beach where she reinvented herself yet again as a designer of interiors and exteriors, single-handedly reconceiving Miami Beach's then re-emerging Art Deco District. Her projects began with Woody's on the Beach, which she designed in 1987 for Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones. She created a series of restaurants, night clubs and super-clubs, including Who's in the Grove, Sempers, Match Club and Bolero Restaurant. From 1992 to 1997 she worked for Gloria and Emilio Estefan designing the interiors for their personal recording studios, the interiors of the Cardozo Hotel on Ocean Drive, their private home on Star Island, costumes for the music video "Mi Buen Amor", as well as consulting on BONGO, the Estefan's restaurant project in Disney World, Orlando, with the Architectonica Group.
From 1990 to the present, Hulanicki has perhaps had the most impact on Miami Beach through her work for Chris Blackwell and his Island Outpost Group. She has 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 now 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. From 2001 to 2002 she worked on the Island life Ministore, located in the heart of Miami Beach on Ocean Drive. This unique shop was renovated completely by Hulanicki at owner Chris Blackwell's request. Coined as "tropical lux," this lifestyle store contained a large collection of gift items, music and film, jewelry and accessories from around the world. It also boasted men's, women's and children's apparel custom colored and designed by Hulanicki herself.
The crowning achievement 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.
British retailer Topshop opened a New York store in April 2009 and, late the same month, launched a highly anticipated collection featuring Hulanicki's designs available both instores and online. Hulanicki was approached by Topshop buyers at an exhibition of her illustrations in a London gallery which resulted in a final collection featuring billowing chiffon dresses and blouses reminiscent of the original Biba style. Alongside these were several highly covetable jersey pieces printed with Barbara's original illustrations, bikinis and a cropped suede jacket. The collection has been extremely successful for Topshop with rails stripped within minutes. An autumn/winter collection is currently in production expected to be released by the end of the year. Released the same month was a handbag she designed for the Italian label Coccinelle, also featuring her art nouveau style, which was favourably reviewed by the website Handbag.
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.
Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marianne Faithfull, Cathy McGowan,