Biba and Beyond
In 2008 FAIR moved in to 21 Queens Road. We knew nothing about the building except that it had been a doctor’s office. During the first couple of years we were open people would come in and ask us if we were the former Biba shop (people would also walk in wondering where their doctor had disappeared to!) We heard stories of students rushing out of school up to Queen’s Road to see the latest pieces of clothing from Biba whilst others would reminisce about the mini skirts they used to wear. The stories always created one consistent emotion: excitement! Biba had been so new and unlike anything else before. Biba was changing fashion and making it more accessible to everyone with styles that allowed people to express themselves through their clothing.
It wasn’t confirmed until January this year, by Brighton museum, that 21 Queens Road was in fact the location of the Brighton Biba shop. They popped in to let us know about the exhibition at the museum to open in September this year.
We had the pleasure of meeting Barbara Hulanicki in July this year as she came to reminisce about the Biba Shop. I could have listened to her stories of Biba for hours. It was such a different world. Brighton Biba did not have a window display as Barbara was not around to be able to oversee it. Instead the beautiful Biba girls would sit chatting together on the window ledges. It sounded as if discussing their active social lives took precedence over the customer! They seemed to not follow any of the rules of today’s massive retail industry yet they were a huge success. The video made the day we met Barbara shows stunning pieces that she created and gives real insight into her talents and the reason for her success. The video can be viewed here
More information about the Biba exhibition taking place at Brighton Museum can be found here.
FAIR is also working to change the world of fashion but not the styles that are out there, but how and by whom they are produced. Barbara Hulanicki has paved the way for the wonderful creativity and imagination that exists in London’s fashion world today. Luxurious textiles, strong prints and good simple modern designs have bought the customer through our door and have reinforced our move into fashion. Living on London’s doorstep has given FAIR access to the vibrant industry of fashion, with more and more exciting cutting edge brands moving into sustainable and fair trade fashion all the time. It was then so exciting to find out we were housed in the shop of an iconic fashion label.
Since FAIR’s doors have opened our growing focus on fashion as a solution and a way to generate income for communities of skilled artisans living in deprived communities in the Global South has been overshadowed by the continuing need for organisations such as War on Want and Labour Behind the Label to highlight the human rights abuses that continue to go on in the world of retail and fashion. For consumers it is hard to know who on the high street is using sweatshops unless these organisations spend huge effort highlighting it. On the other hand it feels like Fair Trade fashion which offers the positive solution to communities is getting closer and closer to creating the exciting brands it needs. People Tree is doing so well this season at FAIR with stock selling almost as soon as it comes through our door. Other companies such as accessories brand Oh My Bag we can’t wait to bring in.
Clothing and textile imports from developing countries are significantly greater in quantity then the current popular Fair Trade products of coffee and bananas and we need a new generation of students rushing out of schools and universities to the shop to buy their fair trade fashion.
It’s been such a wonderful year with the opportunity to meet such a gifted lady with a great attitude. I think the only question now is what will Barbara Hulanicki do next….how does creating the most accessible and exciting Fair Trade brand yet sound?
Siobhan Wilson September 12th, 2012