Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Back To Brighton | An Interview With Barbara Hulanicki

Back To Brighton
An Interview With Barbara Hulanicki

I'm very pleased to feature yet another fantastic interview with legendary Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki here on the Sweet Jane blog, courtesy of the lovely folk over at Visit Brighton. Jo-ann Fortune, editor of Vintage Brighton conducted this charming and insightful short documentary during Barbara's recent return to the city―in which she had spent her formative years as a teenager in the 1950s. She discusses her time studying fashion design and illustration at the Brighton School of Art, her winning design in an Evening Standard Fashion Competition in 1955, the early Biba years and her opinions on contemporary fashion. It also gives the viewer a tantalising behind the scenes glimpse of some of the amazing items included in the forthcoming Biba and Beyond Exhibition which opens at The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery on the 22nd of September 2012. Further information about the exhibition can be found on the Visit Brighton website.

Above: Barbara's winning beach wear design as it appeared in the Evening Standard newspaper competition seen here in the illustration on the left and also in the photograph above it. The final design was made to measure by Hartnell of London and didn't quite turn out as she had intended due to the fact that they had replaced her choice of fabric with a stiff striped taffeta. According to Barbara, the polished cotton which she had chosen seemed to be taboo in couture circles. However, 14 years later Barbara revisited the inspiration behind her original design and produced the beautiful beach wear garment seen on the right, modelled by Elizabeth Bjorn Neilson for a Biba summer catalogue.

The following items are just a brief glimpse of what you can expect to see at Biba and Beyond this September. Two thirds of the exhibition will be devoted to the story of Barbara Hulanicki and Biba, with the final third concentrating on Barbara's career from the late 1970s to the present day.

Cotton mini dress printed in psychedelic acid colours with contrasting white collar and cuffs.

The print on this dress is known as the banana print. It first featured on Biba wallpapers which were sold in the Kensington High Street shop (1969-1973). The print has since become a Barbara Hulanicki classic and has featured most recently in 2006  on a wallpaper for Habitat.

This trouser suit is made from printed cotton with a floral spring design in camouflage colours. The cotton for both the jacket and trousers has been padded with quilting.

Barbara Hulanicki interview courtesy of Visit Brighton, Beach Wear competition photograph scanned by Sweet Jane from A to Biba by Barbara Hulanicki, Highlights of Biba fashion in the exhibition courtesy of Lianne Jarrett Associates.


  1. Thank you for sharing the extension! My main reason for wanting to live in the UK is so I can make it to exhibitions such as this. I still regret not taking a trip to the V&A British Boutique exhibit a few years back. I hope that everyone has a fabulous time and that there will be photos posted for us stuck in North America.

  2. Completely amazing dresses & suit!!!!


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