Thursday, 9 August 2012

Biba and Beyond | Sweet Jane's Q&A with Barbara Hulanicki



As a long time admirer of Biba, I was absolutely delighted to have recently been chosen as one of  a group of seven lucky bloggers who were given the opportunity by 'Visit Brighton' to be included in a filmed Q&A interview with Barbara Hulanicki, designer and founder of the iconic Biba label―as part of a series of publicity videos to promote the forthcoming Biba and Beyond Exhibition which opens there next month. This opportunity came totally out of the blue, and time was of the essence as I set about thinking of the question that I wanted to ask her! It's not everyday that you get the chance to ask your favourite designer a question after all, so needless to say there was a sleepless night or two involved in the proceedings, which included re-reading From A to Biba, Barbara's autobiography, and quite possibly almost every other interview that she has ever given. This wasn't necessarily due to the fact that I couldn't think of a question to ask her, it was quite the opposite...I had way too many questions! And trying to narrow it down to just one (and also to one that she hasn't been asked previously) seemed like an almost impossible task! So, at the the eleventh hour I called in the troops, namely my sister Dandelion, who, being as obsessed with all things Biba related as I am myself, subsequently gave me a list of another twenty alternative questions which she herself wanted to ask (thanks sis!). We eventually came to the conclusion that we would probably need to invite Barbara around for tea everyday for a week to get through all of them, but what a way to spend a week!

Anyhow, after much agonising, the question was submitted, and the Biba fever in the Sweet Jane household finally subsided. But as it turned out, due to unforeseen circumstances it couldn't be used, so it wasn't quite my first choice which made its way to Barbara in the end, however, the alternative choice ties in really nicely with the exhibition archive. And the question is "Which piece from the Biba Archive brings back the strongest memories for you?". The item described in her answer sounds amazing and I would dearly love to see the dress which she is referring to. And hopefully I will, when I visit the Biba and Beyond Exhibition which opens at The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery on the 22nd of September 2012 and runs until 14th of April 2013. By all accounts this is shaping up to be a truly fantastic exhibition with over 200 items alone on view from the private collection of Angela Smith of Victoria and Albert Vintage Clothing, as well as many more contributions from various other sources. I would like to thank Visit Brighton and Jo-ann from Vintage Brighton for this wonderful opportunity, Barbara for taking the time out of her busy schedule to be interviewed and of course for giving us Biba in the first place. Further information about the Biba and Beyond Exhibition can be found on the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery website or at Visit Brighton, and you can view some of my previous Biba posts here or by clicking on any of the labels at the end of this one.

Image scanned by Sweet Jane from original Biba catalogue designed by John McConnell, model Stephanie Farrow, Photographer Hans Feurer, Hair by Cheveux, all clothes & accessories by Biba. 


  1. That's amazing! I'm also a Biba admirer and can't wait to see the exhibition. I'm abroad and hope I'll go back in time. I don't know if I've commented before but you have and excellent blog! xxx

  2. AHHH! SWEET JANE!!!!!!! I am geeking out over this! This is seriously the best blog post I have seen in years!!! I am a Biba obsessive fan, so to know you got to interview the legend herself makes me so happy! Congrats to you and many bisous! xxx

  3. I just acquired a wonderful limited edition book from the V&A shop, which I think you would love. Called Brit Bitz, it is by Chris Price and Delisia Howard, is dedicated to Barbara Hulanicki and features drawings and mini-essays on her and a stellar cast of British luminaries such as Pauline Boty, Diana Dors, Syd Barrett, Eric Gill, Edith Sitwell, Edward Burra, Bonzo Dog, Modesty Blaise et al. Also paeons of praise to things like Mods, Piers, Fry's chocolate and Rowntrees' Fruit Gums, Lyle's golden syrup, Stilton cheese and so on. You get the picture. £40 but worth every penny.

  4. Thanks so much for all the lovely comments! It really was great to get this chance to ask Barbara a question..i'd still like to invite her around for tea so that I could ask her all the other questions that I had for her of course ; )
    ps and thanks again for the Brit Bitz book link ... sounds fantastic !

  5. Fabulous! Is there a place where we can view the other questions?

    1. Hi and thanks, you can view all seven of the Q&A's with Barbara on the Visit Brighton vimeo homepage,well worth a look they're all fab, this is the url