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.
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.
At it’s peak, about a million patrons a week shopped there.
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.
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.
Huge fluffy dogs were filled with pet foods and dog treats. This was the very definition of 60’s kitschy cool.
A display of suds and washing powder containing…washing powder.
A gigantic and fully operational record player. The ideal place for a girl to hang out on her lunch break.
Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour worked as a Biba Girl when she was young.
A triumph of branding. Everything from baked beans to hair products had the Biba logo plastered over it.
There was also a rooftop garden where you could get some interesting and odd (by today’s standards) food and wine.
The famous rainbow room was used as a concert hall.
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.
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).