17
Jun
2010

Biba at Bonhams

With fashion being such an integral contribution to art, culture and everyday life, there are very few other places in the world I would rather live than London. The vibrant fashion scene, the vast array of shops and the access to a multitude of top designers make Londoners today very privileged indeed.

But if I could turn back time there is definitely one era I would like to revisit: the swinging Sixties, when the London fashion scene was followed worldwide, and one of the high-end trailblazers was Biba. The label’s early beginnings emerged as a mail order boutique devised by Barbara Hulanicki. It was the first of its kind for embedding the ethic of affordable fashion for the everyday girl and the concept and store was an overnight phenomenon.

Hulanicki infamously described her target consumership as deprived postwar babies who benefitted from austerity by growing up into beautiful skinny people: a designer’s dream. Yes, we now have our Topshop and H&M, but Biba pioneered the high street option. Emerging from the post-war austerity, fashion-lovers could spend their weekly wage in store on clothes aimed for young women. It encapsulated the vibrancy and progression of London at the time and it’s sole location in the capital was synonymous with this movement.

Unlike our contemporary counterparts who have evolved into a somewhat disposable fashion, moving faster than the couture season can keep up with, those who bought into the Biba brand and ethic treasured their purchases for periods longer than the week in which our equally disposable fashion weeklies tell us that a certain piece is in vogue for.  

I remember at the age of five dressing up in shoes and focusing on my reflection in ornate cosmetic compacts emblazoned with the infamous Biba logo. Being in my mid-twenties, I am too young to remember the glory days of Biba first hand as the store had suffered the outcome of a drastic demise by the late 1970s but the fact that my own mother and her sisters still treasured their Biba clothes, scrupulously saved for when they were starting out, goes to show the effect the prestige had on the London fashion fan.

Although the store’s original incarnation has long gone, Bonhams of Knightsbridge is giving everyone the chance to own and treasure a little piece of fashion history. On 30 June, as part of their Vision 21 catalogue, Bonhams will be hosting a sale of original furniture created by British designer Steven Thomas for the original fashion store.

Highlights in this sale include a unique display stand entitled Othello (estimate £5,000 – 7,000), which was designed for the Food Hall, a cellulose mannequin (estimate £500 – 700) and a mirrored shop sign (estimate £600 – 800). The sale also features a set of library steps (estimate £600 – 800), a pair of double-sided cheval mirrors (estimate £500 – 700), a massive lighting unit (estimate £800 – 1,200) and a mirrored glass till surround (estimate £600 – 800).

Bonhams Vision 21 takes place at 1pm on Wednesday 30 June at:

Bonhams
101 New Bond Street
W1S 1SR

Tel:  0207 447 7447

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