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Inspiration - Sunday - 17/04/11 - 7:30pm

Inspiration - Oh you Pretty Things...

Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki was born in Warsaw Poland in 1936. After attending Brighton art school she moved to London and began designing clothes, setting up a small mail order business in 1964 which aimed to bring cool affordable fashion to regular girls.

I think we can safely say that Barbara had an unparalleled gift and talent for capturing the zeitgeist, as so instantly cool and sort after were her clothes that in no time she had moved into a shop, moving every two years after that to bigger and bigger premises in an effort to keep up with demand. The eclectic BIBA shops attracted a host of A-list film and music stars including Cher, Mick Jagger, The Beatles,Yoko Ono, Brigitte Bardot, Angie and David Bowie and even Princess Anne! The Biba look or ‘Dudu Look” as it was known was that of a superwaif with long coltish legs, a bright young face and huge doll-like eyes.

In 1973 Biba moved into a 7-storey department store in Kensington High Street, which was known as Big Biba. At the height of its popularity in 1974, BIBA was attracting over a million customers a week and became the second biggest tourist attraction after the Tower of London (Buckingham Palace was 3rd!).

In 1970 Biba Cosmetics were launched and by the following year they were available from concessions in Paris, Milan, New York, California and Tokyo as well as 300 Dorothy Perkins Stores across the UK. The dresses and prints may be the things that first spring to mind when recalling Biba but it was the make-up line that became the most successful and profitable part of the business.

Growing up I knew about Biba make-up as my mum had some of it and I was always fascinated by the colours and strong pigments. The thing that’s always blown me away is the amazing colour palette the likes of which had never been seen or done before. In a brilliant except from Barbara Hulanickis book ‘From A-Biba’ she describes how the range was developed:

“We had found a factory near East Grinstead that produced cosmetics for all the big brands. When I showed them the colours we wanted for our lipsticks and nail varnish and eye colours, the managers didn’t seem to take us seriously. On the other hand, the girls in the laboratory were terribly excited and couldn’t wait to formulate something different from the usual corals and bright pinks. They stayed up all night and mixed our first ever brown lipstick, which sold out in the first half hour”

Biba totally revolutionised what was considered acceptable for eye, lip and face colours years before anyone else did. Remember in my Biba Fever tutorial, the glittery silver/purple blusher I used? Well this is just the tip of the iceberg. Blushers, contouring products and face glosses came in every shade from blue to green to black! There were tons of amazing metallic silvers, coppers and golds for nails, cheeks and face and lipstick came in every shade from black to white and everything in between. The key Biba make-colours were blackish mulberries, blueberries, rusts, browns, mustard yellows, dark teals, mahoganies and plums, mirroring the colours of the main clothing collections. The Biba eye look was not about the harsh graphic lines of the 60’s but more about big soft round clouds of colour.

The 'colours of bruised fruit' best describes the typical Biba palette. Wherever the Biba girls went, with their glossy metallic faces, huge round eyes and strange lip colours…everyone sat up and noticed!

Barbara drew inspiration from many sources but her main source was the opulent period at the end of the 20’s and early 30’s, she was 100% in love with everything deco.

Everything Barbara Hulinicki did was a first. Not only was there the exciting, and then unimaginable, colour palette, but up and down the country, Biba make-up counters with mirrors were packed full of girls who were encouraged for the first time ever to try before buying (something I always recommend myself!) Even more than trying, these girls experimented with daring and outrageous looks. Barbara says that girls would turn up in the morning with scrubbed faces so they could completely make themselves up in Biba before wowing everyone at work! Biba was the first cosmetics range that didn’t have pink foundations, instead using yellow tones. Barbara even wanted to have a green foundation in the range! And in 1972, Biba created the first ever range of cosmetics aimed at women with dark skin tones.

Biba gave room to men to experiment with make up. Lou Reed and Freddie Mercury were both fans of the black nail polish and there were so many men wearing glam rock make up. The make up wearing guys of the 1970s paved the way for the new romantics of the 1980s and even the punks and goths who were to come.

Now, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that all of this maquillage must have cost a fortune, but in fact, despite Biba’s utter coolness and desirability, it was a totally affordable and accessible brand- and the same was true of the clothes. Girls were able to easily afford to decorate themselves with false lashes and buy the latest Biba colours in the iconic black and gold packaging.

In the early 1990’s I was living on Portobello Road and it was there on a Friday morning I spotted by first Biba find, two Duo blush/contour powders, and bought them for a fiver. Since then I’ve amassed quite a collection of the original (and unopened) stock from the Big Biba store including the entire range (minus one item which I’m on a mission to find!), tester stands, wrapping paper, brushes, make-up bags and all the original on counter photography cards. Its quite a collection, but I could look at the colours for hours. I find them so truly inspiring and particularly LOVE the quirky names of all the colours and products. The pictures I've posted here are of some of my personal collection. I havent taken the lids of the eyeshadows so you are not seeing the full extend of the colour but I think you get the general idea!!

In 1975, Barbara and her business partner called time on the iconic Biba empire. This seemingly unstoppable monster became far too expensive to run and so at the height of its fame and appeal, Biba folded. Biba definitely is the ultimate example of ‘live hard, die young’, which has meant that it is only remembered with fondness and in almost mythical terms.

3 books I strongly recommend if you want to know more and see more are:

1. Steven Thomas & Alwyn W Turners  Welcome to Big Biba: Inside the Most Beautiful Store in the World, available from Amazon. This book focuses on the Kensington High Street Store and has beautiful pictures giving one a real sense of what it was like. 

2. Barbara Hulanickis fabulous autobiography From A to Biba, is also available from Amazon.

3. The Biba Experience also by Alwyn W Turner and available from Amazon.

 

Visit www.barbarahulanicki.com

Also have a look at the video embedded below to watch Barabara Hulanicki (and our very own Madeleine Marsh) discussing Biba:

Read more on: Inspiration, Make Up History

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Latest Comments 72 | Add Your Comments

emma - Wednesday Oct 17th 2012 1:36am
Very very interesting Lisa! Thank you for that article which allowed me to learn so much about mythic Biba! I am loving all your posts about vintage make up!

Brenda Goetz - Saturday Oct 13th 2012 12:32am
This is so very interesting, I love it:)

LL - Wednesday Aug 15th 2012 10:52pm
This is such interesting article to read. I wish you tell us more about the history of makeups in future! Love your blog!!!

Layla - Tuesday Aug 14th 2012 3:20am
I think I was supposed to be born in that era, fashionably speaking. ;) I already have the pale skin and guts to wear color. *sigh* Yes...born into the wrong fashion era. I love how you share your passion with us, Lisa. <3

ladyfromnj - Monday Jul 16th 2012 1:55am
Don't know what it is about the Baltic region but thanks for sharing another of the beauty prodigies from that area. Inglot and Rubenstein also started in that area. Best, ladyfromnj

Lauren - Monday Jul 9th 2012 5:04am
OH MY GOSH! Please share :'(

Diana Jordan - Friday Jul 6th 2012 1:06pm
Lisa, you are my favorite makeup artist, i have seen most of your videos and i think that you give such a value and history to makeup and specially to the history of women, your work is beyond great and it has this great respectfull depth, love all of this and your vintage makeup documentary too. im a great fan and hope to see more of you.

Rebecca - Thursday Jul 5th 2012 6:56pm
I love reading your blogs they are so interesting and informative!.

Hannah. - Monday Aug 1st 2011 11:55pm
I am in love with all things vintage and after watching your tutorials, you have definitely inspired me to start collecting vintage make-up. Please could you give me any hints or tips on where to start and the best places to look. Thanks Lisa for this wonderful insight to the world of vintage make-up xx

thamires - Thursday Jun 2nd 2011 2:33am
Your collection is wonderful! hug maria-bunita.blogspot.com

yvonne - Thursday Apr 28th 2011 5:39pm
I have a few stratton pieces and my granmothers Du barry rouge compact.bUT i'd really like to start building up a collection. I know you said portobello but where else is a good place to find vintage make-up? Any tips would be much appreciated. I live in Chelsea, London. :0)

Kay - Saturday Apr 23rd 2011 6:57am
I can't stop staring at your collection...Can't wait for your next 'Biba Fever' video!

iwkapl - Thursday Apr 21st 2011 5:40pm
makes me so proud of my Polish heritage =D

Maria Nicolaidou - Thursday Apr 21st 2011 10:13am
I was born in 73, have known and owned much vintage make up and still remember their packaging and colours intensely as my mum and her friends were using it but unfortunately do not remember BIBA. Maybe it wasn't known in Greece where I come from. Thanks for telling us the story. Now I know.

joy shildrick - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 10:05am
lisa it brings back memories of me at fourteen! it was a shop called Van Allens.They stocked Biba, i remember the beautiful displays.You could try everything so you can imagine what my friends and i looked like,i had the darkest lips& vampy eyes. Saved all my pocket money happy days,had to rub it all off before going home lol.thankyou Lisa for the memory x

Alessandra - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 10:00am
So fascinating! I thought to be so original with my dark look in the 80s!! LOL...

josephine - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 5:59am
That was great i am a bit of a Mag collector and love looking at the old ads for Makeup ranges. Maybe one day people will be inspired to step back in time and recreate these ranges again

Janet -TheMoultonJ on YT - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 4:43am
What a time! Love the collection! Thanks for the post and the clip. Janet

Susanna Hari - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 1:19am
Lisa, Biba is my favorite and most inspiring era. Thank you so much for sharing your collection and the amazing blog and videos. Non sequetor, my mother worked for Helena Rubenstein in the 1960's-1970s in PR. The whole vibe of that time totally fascinates me! My mother has a beautiful framed sketch of HR Andy Warhol casually did on a piece of sketch paper on set. I love the free flowing creative energy of that time and I feel like you are the first Artist I've seen in a long time to encapsulate that. : )

Nicola - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 1:03am
Lisa Thanks to you and Madeline so much for the video's on the history of make-up. Really informative, fun and inspiring.

Nicola - Wednesday Apr 20th 2011 12:34am
Lisa Thanks to you and Madeline so much for the video's on the history of make-up. Really informative, fun and inspiring.

Roz - Tuesday Apr 19th 2011 2:17pm
Lisa, You have opened a door in my mind that will be unstoppable. I have always had a love for things vintage. I am a product of older parents so I have always had the privilege of having vintage compacts and clothes. To my dismay, all of my pieces were lost in Hurricane Katrina. I had put that part of my life behind me because it is painful to have my treasures gone forever. Your vintage week videos and blogs have once again opened the door for me to start collecting again. I have ordered several books and I have even bid on two vintage BIBA pieces. I love this series and have been inspired to try some of the BIBA makeup looks. Thank You

lulu - Tuesday Apr 19th 2011 3:49am
Fantastic blog post! Thank you so much for teaching us about all of this.

Nicola Smerin - Tuesday Apr 19th 2011 12:44am
Hi Lisa What a fantastic trip down memory lane for me. I used to dress up to the nines to go and hang out at the Art Deco Biba store on Kensington High St when I was 14 or 15 years old. My best friend and I would spend half the day there, finally making our way up to the Rainbow Room, which was usually completely deserted! I didn't have very much money at all, but I did by chance have the "Egyptian" power eye shadow you used in your video. All the products were so original and superbly packaged. It was the closest thing to a magical kingdom! Thank-you for reminding me of those fab times. I think Mary Quant was a precursor to Biba in her forward thinking .

Eve - Monday Apr 18th 2011 10:48pm
Lisa, this is fantastic! Amazing your vídeo and your collection! It's incredible to think of the historical form of makeup! Your videos are always a very nice part of the day! Thank you for sharing your ideas and knowledge with us! x

Dinah - Monday Apr 18th 2011 10:08pm
Lisa, you are such an inspiring person and a talented artist! Since I have discovered your blog, whenever I put make up on, I remember your words:) Thanks for sharing your videos...

Ryan - Monday Apr 18th 2011 9:57pm
I have LOVED your vintage week. Thank God you happened to the internet make up community. I can't wait for the second half of the conversation you had with that woman who's name has escaped me.

Ryan - Monday Apr 18th 2011 9:53pm
I have LOVED your vintage week. Thank God you happened to the internet make up community. I can't wait for the second half of the conversation you had with that woman who's name has escaped me.

sara - Monday Apr 18th 2011 9:41pm
Fascinating!! while reading this piece, I felt like i had been transported through time and into the BIBA era. Thanks for sharing this extraordinary piece of makeup history with us. I am dying to see more!! and i agree with the other readers, you SHOULD eventually start a makeup museum of sorts. Love you Lisa!!!

Honor - Monday Apr 18th 2011 8:52pm
Dear Lisa I am so impressed by your vintage makeup week and can not wait to see the Nina Ricci part. When I started working in 1990 I worked at l Oreal as a young product manager for Cacharel makeup. And your piece on biba, and the dudu girl remind me of the Cacharel MU girl which was totally inspired by Sarah moon and her neo 30 girls . I am not can not remember of Sarah moon MUA i think it was popy mathias or something but she made us create such amazing new products and shades. I almost forgot but you are bringing back all these memories. Clarins and Ricci launched the same year and we were direct competitors... I always loved the Ricci Line, it was so different. Thank you again

Honor - Monday Apr 18th 2011 7:51pm
Dear Lisa I am so impressed by your vintage makeup week and can not wait to see the Nina Ricci part. When I started working in 1990 I worked at l Oreal as a young product manager for Cacharel makeup. And your piece on biba, and the dudu girl remind me of the Cacharel MU girl which was totally inspired by Sarah moon and her neo 30 girls . I am not can not remember of Sarah moon MUA i think it was popy mathias or something but she made us create such amazing new products and shades. I almost forgot but you are bringing back all these memories. Clarins and Ricci launched the same year and we were direct competitors... I always loved the Ricci Line, it was so different. Thank you again

Ewa - Monday Apr 18th 2011 7:37pm
This is awesome! Thanks Lisa! I'm still waiting for the second part of the interview with Madeleine Marsh though ;)

pat - Monday Apr 18th 2011 6:28pm
Lisa if only history lessons at school been this exciting !!!!! xxxxxx

Klara - Monday Apr 18th 2011 5:47pm
I'm just discovering the wonders and delights in the world of make-up and I really appreciate all your lessons. Thank you so much for sharing. You are a great teacher:)

andra - Monday Apr 18th 2011 5:23pm
this post is amazing, i loved the video, i would love to see those crazy colors relaunched :) i suggest you start a revolutionary make up collection, i have complete faith that you will succeed :D huuuuuuuuugs

April Morrison - Monday Apr 18th 2011 3:50pm
I LOVE this! Love seeing all of this vintage makeup and learning it's history!! I always knew makeup was something I was very interested in & it's always made me feel so happy but I feel that it's becoming a true passion of mine. I'd love to collect vintage makeup-or just all makeup in general :) You are so lucky that you have acquired such amazing finds that date back so early. I have been glued to each and every one of your videos, read every article of yours and wanna be like you when I grow up!! LOL!! :)

Lisa Eldridge - Monday Apr 18th 2011 1:05pm
@Maria yes it is ooops a typo! I'll fix that now thanks; ) x

Neslihan - Monday Apr 18th 2011 12:38pm
This is very very fascinating and amazing. Thank you lisa looking forward for the other parts of your interview!!

maria - Monday Apr 18th 2011 12:12pm
Lisa, isn't it Barbara HULANICKI?

Karen - Monday Apr 18th 2011 11:53am
I remember Biba from when I was a kid....it was most assuredly the height of cool. It occurs to me that MAC took over from Biba and was able to market their brand in a more (financially) successful way. It is hard for anyone today to understand how completely revolutionary these companies were...Biba changed the was we all dressed and wore makeup. Even looking at your collection reminds me how current it still is!

Princess_79ify - Monday Apr 18th 2011 10:42am
Lisa, You should seriously think about exibiting your archives in a museum. As a former art student, nothing compares to seeing things in person rather than in pictures. I would probably visit every day till the exhibition closed!! You have really brought credibility to the history of make up and it is about time as it is such a massive part of fashion and history. Congratulations on everything you have achieved this past week xx

Mimi - Monday Apr 18th 2011 9:16am
I can't believe I'd never heard of Biba before. Being a 60's-70's fan I am totally delighted. After your last tutorial I geeked up and researched for info and pictures but it's incredibly hard to find good ones on the internet! And your post makes me want to go to London so bad. Even today it feels like London girls have such freedom and edge when it comes to style! When you look at Paris in comparison.... but hey, I'm not going to complain ;) Thanks for sharing, you are truly awesome xx

Sarah - Monday Apr 18th 2011 9:00am
In a way, this past week, I feel like you have legitimized my love of all things makeup, by tying it in to the culture and history of women generally...it certainly feels like something worth celebrating and long may it continue!!! xx

Celine - Monday Apr 18th 2011 8:30am
Thank you very much for sharing ! This is facinating ! xxx

Abigail Wainwright - Monday Apr 18th 2011 6:35am
Thank you for sharing this. Simply amazing.

Ophelia - Monday Apr 18th 2011 5:55am
Wow these posts really open my eyes to another dimension of makeup that a shallow user, like myself, would never have known about! Thank you, Lisa! You're always a pleasure to watch/read.

Ramneet Bhathal - Monday Apr 18th 2011 4:16am
How incredible!The Biba woman truly showcased how make-up is so much more than "make-up". There is much wisdom here! Thank you Lisa for enlightening us with this story.

Shannon - Monday Apr 18th 2011 2:52am
Oh Lisa...this week has been a blast! Every day I check your blog for a new video/post. You mentioned that you have to heavily edit your videos, but PLEASE don't cut them. I could watch for 30 mins straight! Feel free to leave them longer (if possible). Loving you in California. :-)

Lidia - Monday Apr 18th 2011 2:30am
warsaw - my city :)

colorblupurple - Monday Apr 18th 2011 2:22am
@Carlijn. I agree. Lisa, we are waiting loyally for your own line of make up launch.

Helene - Monday Apr 18th 2011 1:21am
Amazing article Lisa, thank you very much for that!

Gracie - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 11:51pm
Amazing read! There are so much substance in this entry that I could hardly express. You're a real inspiration for people to immerse themselves in their passion.

Lisa Eldridge - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 11:48pm
@Mercedes Not sure really, I had the idea to do a vintage week on my blog ages ago and I remember thinking that I have some duplicates in my Biba range so would like to use them. Pleased you are loving it! X @Carlijn House of Fraser department store in London now own the rights to Biba, I'm sure they will re-launch the make-up but without a visionary (like Barbara) at the helm I somehow doubt it will be any good. Thanks for all the great comments, really happy you are enjoying seeing my collection and hearing about this iconic range X

Ela - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 11:28pm
Thank you,Lisa for this post!

Carlijn - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 11:07pm
You should either start your own cosmetics line with the ideas of vintage make-up (beautiful packaging etc) or revive Biba. I absolutely think that if anyone could do it, it would be you, because you're obviously so passionate about it and you know so much about it. I mean, if that's something you'd like to do someday of course :)

Jess - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 10:26pm
Thank you Lisa! It's so interesting learning about this piece of history. It's like you just showed me a perfect little gem :o)

www.blahblahbecky.co.uk - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 10:01pm
I had no idea that Biba had such a huge impact on the cosmetics industry, thanks for enlightening me!

Shareena - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 9:56pm
Thank you, Lisa! This is interesting how cosmetic evolved.. ^_^

Andrea - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 9:34pm
Lisa this is fascinating!!! Thank you so much for sharing this. I had never heard of all this before. Amazing!

Sunday Apr 17th 2011 9:19pm
i bet its killing you that you cant use all those make up :) its so unique... also its nice to know that the founder was Polish like me... didnt know that before. :)

Amy - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:40pm
Lisa--What a lovely post! Something makes me want to zoom in so I can see it all in close up! :)

Donna - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:39pm
So fascinating and interesting..I am agog at all the Biba make up you have in your collection As the previous person said, if it was sold now it would fly off the shelves. I want!

ardent fan - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:25pm
lisa ur a fab! im a huuuuuge fan of yours...u truly make make-up worth it

Linda - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:21pm
Wooow, I wish I had been there!

Carola - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:19pm
I'm speechless ! If Biba makeup were to re-launch it would fly of the shelves !! Amazing colors and so vibrant and the color combinations are just genious !

Mariella - Musing On Beauty - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:14pm
Fascinating, thanks so much again for all the information you brought to us during this Vintage Makeup Week!

Mercedes - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:08pm
I am LOVING your vintage make-up week Lisa! You are the best out there. I wonder why now? Why did you decide to use or try some of your collection now if as you said it's better to collect things that haven't been touched? I'm just curious. Please keep the videos coming. I'll be here waiting. X

Sunday Apr 17th 2011 8:08pm
I am LOVING your vintage make-up week Lisa! You are the best out there. I wonder why now? Why did you decide to use or try some of your collection now if as you said it's better to collect things that haven't been touched? I'm just curious. Please keep the videos coming. I'll be here waiting. X

Eliane - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 7:58pm
This is amazing Lisa, it is so great to learn from you! Thanks for sharing x

Elysse - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 7:51pm
Maybe next time you help design a make-up range, you could include some of those "bruised fruit" colours and make the range Biba inspired (?)! It would be such a treat! Your blog posts and videos are always so interesting to watch!!

Emma Lawrence - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 7:50pm
This post is so fascinating and it shows that you're not only a brilliant make up artist but you know so much about the history and production of make up. I Really enjoy reading / watching you're blog x

BettyBee - Sunday Apr 17th 2011 7:36pm
Brilliant Lisa!.. I am leaning so much from you..

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