Welcome to Big Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London’s Swinging 60’s

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Big Biba was an outrageous cornucopia of weird fashion on the London high street in the 60’s. Before H&M, Topshop or Harvey Nichols there was Biba.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Invented by IT girl of the time, Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki, Biba started out as a mail order store that sold one dress available in one size. Very rapidly it blew up and became a High Street department store and the most hip and happening place in London during the 60’s and 70’s. Frequented by Julie Christie and Twiggy and icons like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.

Welcome to Big Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's
Barbara Hulanicki in the 60’s

At it’s peak, about a million patrons a week shopped there.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Big Biba store was filled with mirrors, feathers, luxurious fabrics and psychedelic pop-art inspired displays. It was a dim and decadent boudoir that gave young women a sense of escapism from the daily grind. This was a new thing back in the 60’s but would become a common theme used by many High Street shops for many years afterwards.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Big Biba was a Willy Wonka trip, a wunderkammer of consumerism. It featured pop art and surrealist references with self-referential Warhol-esque displays of gigantic Campbells Soups filled with soups.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's
Warhol cans filled with cans of food

Huge fluffy dogs were filled with pet foods and dog treats. This was the very definition of 60’s kitschy cool.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

A display of suds and washing powder containing…washing powder.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

A gigantic and fully operational record player. The ideal place for a girl to hang out on her lunch break.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour worked as a Biba Girl when she was young.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's
Biba sales girls

A triumph of branding. Everything from baked beans to hair products had the Biba logo plastered over it.

Welcome to Biba: A Legendary Department Store in London's Swinging 60's

There was also a rooftop garden where you could get some interesting and odd (by today’s standards) food and wine.

biba menu

The famous rainbow room was used as a concert hall.

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The high street building that once hosted Big Biba in the 60’s is now home to high street brands like H&M. The gloriously colourful rainbow room is now tragically filled with the work out equipment.

bibaleopard

Eventually Big Biba ran into some financial trouble in the mid 70’s and it was tragically closed down. Barbara Hulanicki moved away from the brand, which went through various changes over the years. You will still be able to spot the iconic logo at makeup counters in some department stores in the UK. The Halcyon Days of this beautiful store are sadly over now though.

Read more about Big Biba and the brand’s meteoric rise to glory on Kasia Charko’s Blog (She was Big Biba’s legendary graphic designer).

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

    1. Me neither until I chanced upon it on another blog and found the beautiful images, it would have been a wonderful time to be young and glamorous ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

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