Bella Freud Art Dealer

FoundedAugust 1964 (first store opens)
FounderBarbara Hulanicki, Stephen Fitz-Simon
FateClosed by the British Land Company
Barbara Hulanicki, Stephen Fitz-Simon
  1. Bella Freud Parfum
  2. Bella Freud Art Dealer
  3. Bella Freud Art Dealers

Biba was a London fashion store of the 1960s and 1970s. Biba was started and primarily run by the Polish-born Barbara Hulanicki with help of her husband Stephen Fitz-Simon.

Early years[edit]

Biba's early years were rather humble, with many of the outfits being cheap and available to the public by mail order. The first store, in Abingdon Road in Kensington, was opened in September 1964. Biba's postal boutique had its first significant success in May 1964 when it offered a pink gingham dress with a hole cut out of the back of the neck with a matching triangular kerchief to readers of the Daily Mirror.[1] The dress had celebrity appeal, as a similar dress had been worn by Brigitte Bardot. By the morning after the dress was advertised in the Daily Mirror, over 4,000 orders had been received. Ultimately, some 17,000 outfits were sold.

‘Bella’ was created in 1996 by Lucian Freud in Expressionism style. Find more prominent pieces of portrait at – best visual art database. Turning her creative, idiosyncratic approach to life to design, Bella Freud’s launched her eponymous label in 1990. Her fashionable career has seen collaborations with the likes of Christian Louboutin and Anita Pallenberg. The label’s cult sweaters are woven with playful pop culture references, most famously ‘Ginsberg is God’ and ‘Je.

Hulanicki worked as a fashion illustrator after studying at Brighton Art College in the late 1950s. She married advertising executive Stephen Fitz-Simon and they soon opened a mail order clothing company that she named Biba's Postal Boutique. Biba was the nickname of her younger sister Biruta.[1]

Bella Freud Parfum

Big Biba[edit]

The former 'Big Biba' building as it appeared circa 2006

In 1973 with the backing of Dorothy Perkins and British Land, the store moved to the seven-storey Derry & Toms department store, which immediately attracted up to a million customers weekly, making it one of the most visited tourist attractions in London.[1][2] There were different departments, and each floor had its own theme, such as a children's floor, a floor for men, a book store, a food market, and a 'home' floor which sold items such as wallpaper, paint, cutlery, soft furnishings and even statues. The overall design was produced by Whitmore-Thomas Partnership, run by artist/designers Steve Thomas (artist) and Tim Whitmore.[3] Each department had its own logo or sign, which was based on the Biba logo and had a picture describing the department. These were commissioned by Thomas and Whitmore and designed by Kasia Charko.[4]

The store had an Art Deco-interior reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood[5] and non-traditional displays, such as a giant Snoopy and his doghouse in the children's department, where merchandise based on the Peanuts comic strip was sold. The Biba Food Hall was also designed ingeniously, each part being aimed at one particular kind of product; a unit made to look like a dog (based on Hulanicki's own dog, a Great Dane named Othello)[6] consisted of dog food; a huge baked beans tin can consisted of only tins of Baked beans; a can of 'Warhol's Condensed Soup' etc., all foods having individual innovative units.Also at the new 'Big Biba' was 'The Rainbow Restaurant', which was located on the fifth floor of the department store and was destined to become a major hang-out for rock stars, but which was not solely the reserve of the elite. With all of these renovations and additions, Biba became known as a 'theatre for fashion.'[1] Also at the site was the Kensington Roof Gardens, which are still there today.


Big Biba was a huge responsibility in terms of expense and organization, but Hulanicki and Fitz felt they needed to 'keep moving forward.' Because of this massive undertaking, Hulanicki said, 'Every time I went into the shop, I was afraid it would be for the last time.'[citation needed] No one was aware of how serious the financial difficulties were going to be - and they proved too much for the new entrepreneurs; as a result Dorothy Perkins and Dennis Day came to save the day and bought 75% of Biba. This led to the formation of Biba Ltd, which meant that the brand and the store could now be properly financed.

Bella Freud Art Dealer

After disagreements with the Board over creative control, Hulanicki left the company and, shortly afterwards in 1975, Biba was closed by the British Land Company.[1] The Dorothy Perkins shareholder decided that the Derry and Toms building that housed Big Biba was worth more than the ailing business itself. It sold the trademark to a consortium with no connection to Barbara Hulanicki, who opened a store in London on 27 November 1978, on two floors in Conduit Street in London's Mayfair. The store was not a success, and closed less than two years later.


There have been several attempts to relaunch Biba, the first occurring as soon after its closure as 1977.[7][8] Another relaunch took place in the mid-1990s with Monica Zipper as head designer.[9] Barbara Hulanicki has not been involved with any of these relaunches, and due to the use of Biba's logo and similar labels, these garments are easy to pass off as original vintage pieces.[7]

The Biba label was relaunched again in May 2006 under designer Bella Freud. Again, Biba's founder, Barbara Hulanicki, was not contacted for the relaunch and said it was 'very, very painful', believing that the new Biba would 'betray its heritage.'[10] Freud's first collection Spring/Summer 2007 was unveiled at London Fashion Week in September 2006, and was criticised for straying from the original concept of low-priced clothes for teenagers, needing 'more polish',[11] as they 'had a Biba flavour but lacked the retro details that the original Biba designs had.'[12] Freud's second attempt, Autumn/Winter 2007 was also panned as 'the kind of thing that's already over-available in fast fashion chains.'[13] Freud left the company after just 2 seasons in June 2007 to relaunch her own label.[14] The Biba relaunch failed and the company went into administration for a second time in 2008.

House of Fraser bought the company in November 2009 for a second relaunch by an in-house design team, announcing Daisy Lowe as the new face of the label.[citation needed] Hector Castro and a five-strong team were selected to replace Freud[15] with couture hats created by Prudence Millinery.[16] This relaunch was highly successful, outselling House of Fraser's other in-house brands in just two weeks of its launch, boosting its year end sales.[17] Meanwhile, Hulanicki instead designed capsule collections for rival high-street company Topshop,[18][19] and once again expressed her unhappiness with the relaunch, attacking the new Biba as 'too expensive' and 'for failing to reflect the original Biba style'.[20] She also signed with Asda to produce three to four collections of clothing retailing between £11 and £18.[21]

In 2014, it was announced that Hulanicki would be a consultant to the Biba brand, after signing an agreement with House of Fraser.[22]


  • A musical play called Biba: The Musical based on the story of Hulanicki and the original company was in the works in 2009.[23]
  • 'Biba dresses' were listed by Leeds alternative rock band Grammatics Inkjet Lakes from their self-titled debut album.
  • Biba's closing sale is mentioned in the lyrics of the Pet Shop Boys' track 'Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin' (featured on the album Elysium).[24]
  • In the film Made in Dagenham (2010, set in 1968), the main character, Rita O'Grady, borrows a red Biba dress for her first meeting with Barbara Castle, only to find that the minister's outfit comes from C&A.
  • 'The Biba Crowd' by Edward Rogers
  • In the film Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), 'Mary Austin' (Lucy Boynton) the former fiancé of Freddie Mercury', (Rami Malek), works at the Biba store. Several referrals are made to Biba. When Freddie Mercury visits Mary Austin during her shift in the Biba store, he tries on a velvet suit from the woman's department. In one scene, Freddie compliments Mary on her beautiful coat. [Freddie] 'I love your coat'. [Mary] ' Thank you, it's Biba'.

See also[edit]

  • 1960s portal


Bella Freud Art Dealers

  1. ^ abcdeMarsh, June (2012). History of Fashion. Vivays Publishing. pp. 100, 104, 118. ISBN978-1-908126-21-4.
  2. ^'BIBA: 'A Strange Disneyland''. British Style Genius - High Street Style. BBC. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  3. ^
  4. ^': Kasia Charko :'.
  5. ^[1]Archived November 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^'Welcome to Big Biba'. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  7. ^ abVictoria and Albert Museum. 'Blouse by Biba (1980 relaunch)'. V&A. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  8. ^Smith, Angie. 'Vintage Fashion Guild: Label Resource: Biba'. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  9. ^'Dear Annie: Ready to wear'. The Independent. 1 September 1996. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  10. ^'Biba is back... and its millionaire creator is none too happy about it'. The Independent. London. 29 January 2006.
  11. ^Sarah Mower (2006-09-19). 'Biba Spring 2007 Ready-to-Wear Collection on Runway Review'. Archived from the original on 2011-05-19. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  12. ^'Catwalk Queen: Bella Freud revamps Biba'. 2006-09-21. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  13. ^Sarah Mower (2007-02-14). 'Biba Fall 2007 Ready-to-Wear Collection on Runway Review'. Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  14. ^'Bella Freud Exits Biba The Fix'. Daily Front Row. 2007-06-20. Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  15. ^'A five-strong creative team, headed by Hector Castro, will plug the gap left by Bella Freud at Biba ( UK)'. 2007-07-16. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  16. ^'Biba - Fashion Brand and Label - Profile with designers, editorials and more on FMD'. 1978-11-27. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  17. ^'Relaunched Biba helps boost sales for House of Fraser - Business News'. Yorkshire Post. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  18. ^Jardine, Cassandra (2009-04-28). 'Bibas queen is back in London'. The Daily Telegraph.
  19. ^Jessica Bumpus (2009-04-21). 'Barbara Hulanicki's Topshop collection ( UK)'. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  20. ^'Biba designer promises Asda range Fashion'. 2010-09-29. Archived from the original on 2011-01-01. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  21. ^[2]Archived October 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^Bergin, Olivia (3 November 2014). 'Barbara Hulanicki to return to Biba label after 39 years'. Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  23. ^'Biba The Musical'. Biba The Musical. Archived from the original on 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  24. ^'Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin'.


  • Hulanicki, Barbara (1983). From A to Biba. London: Hutchinson & Co.
  • Thomas, Steven, & Alwyn W. Turner (2006). Welcome to Big Biba. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club.
  • Turner, Alwyn W. (2004). The Biba Experience. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors Club.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Biba.
  • Exploring 20th century London - Biba Items and oral histories from Biba
  • BBC British Style Genius Video. Twiggy with Barbara Hulanicki discussing Biba

Coordinates: 51°30′05″N0°11′32″W / 51.5013°N 0.1921°W

Retrieved from ''

Name: Bella Freud

Founded: 1990


Location: London

Fans:Kate Moss started it all, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Alexa Chung, Camille Rowe… Basically just about any fashion girl (or boy) with exceptionally good taste

The Look: Mod overtones with reggae undertones while a punk record blares in the background

Fundamental Fashions: The 1970, Je T’Aime Jane, Ginsberg is God (Godard is Dog on the back!), and The Last Poets jumpers

Style Summary:

To understand what exactly Bella Freud fashion is, you have to know the history behind two of her most famous jumpers.

For example, the Bella Freud Je T’Aime Jane sweater was born after a slight misunderstanding:

“I received a message on my voicemail from the agent of the legendary Jane Birkin saying ‘Jane has heard about your Gainsbourg is God jumper and loves it’. I had made a jumper with Ginsberg is God written on it. What to do? I decided to make her a jumper in the style of a schoolgirl’s dedication to her heroine: Je t’aime Jane with Gainsbourg is God on the back back, and Serge on the sleeve – where the heart is.”

FreudSigmund freud art

The happiest mistake makes the sweetest sweater — at least for Bella Freud!

Here’s the story behind the Bella Freud Ginsberg is God sweater, because obviously, Bella Freud can tell the story behind her fashion better than I can:

“I made a short film with John Malkovich called Hideous Man about Beatnik girls waiting around at a club for their favourite poet to arrive for a reading. I wanted the leader of the group to wear a jumper showing her devotion to literature and art, a bit like a band t-shirt. I was throwing out names with my assistant, and Ginsberg is God tripped lightly off the tongue. ‘But what about Godard is Dog, I mean God?’ she said. Godard is Dog is what is written on the back of the jumper.”

Basically Bella Freud’s most famous jumper (okay, maybe the most famous after the 1970 design — but this one was the first sweater I was exposed to via Kate Moss in 2005. Oh I wanted it badly but couldn’t find it!) was created for basically a poet’s fan (groupie?) to wear while waiting for him to arrive for a reading (not concert)… A fan shirt for a beatnik poet… Let me say that again…

A ? fan ? shirt ? for ? a ? poet.

It’s based off of an Eric Clapton shirt from the 70s that said “Clapton is God.”
Isn’t that the most genius, hilarious, and adorable thing ever?

And this begins my summary for Bella Freud’s fashion.

The whole Bella Freud vibe can be a bit hard to put your finger on. Yes, the jumpers are very beautiful and so easy to wear. They’re undeniably chic and can be worn on uptown girls and downtown girls alike. But how they work with the rest of her collection, that’s where the fun begins. The theme of the jumpers set the tone for the whole collection. How they tie into everything is what makes me so obsessed.

The Bella Freud London look reminds me of a friend of mine.

She is obsessed with 1960s/70s England, Patti Smith, and all things punk. She’s the first to make a joke and the quickest to laugh at one. She wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to the books and music she loves. She gets excited and doesn’t hide it. She isn’t afraid to be herself and let that self loose.


Suzy Menkes says of Bella Freud fashion:

“Wearing a plain sweater with the words “The last poets”, she (Bella Freud) manages to capture the free-wheeling artistic spirit of the Seventies without a fringe, a flared trouser or a platform-sole sandal in sight.”

That to me is the Bella Freud vibe. A kind of 1960/70s, excited, but irreverent, and ready to go feeling. It’s knowing when to take a stand for something. It’s expressing how you feel and what you think. It’s actually caring about something. But while all that is going on, being totally playful and relaxed about it and not taking it (too) seriously. Even if you don’t totalllllllly understand the sweater, it’s like a piece of fine art: open to your own interpretation

Whether you’re taking that stand through what’s written on your jumper or a well-tailored blazer, Bella Freud’s fashion gives your look extra depth.

Take a trip over to Bella Freud’s website and explore all the clothes you could ever want… And pillows… And candles… And even a “Ginsberg is God” throw (top of my dream list)!