Biba and Beyond Retrospective

Hi Tory,

I remember going into boutique after boutique of utter grooviness

I've mentioned before that Mum and I went to Big Biba when it was the department store of dreams in the old Derry nd Tom's building on Kensington High Street. This was the summer of '73, when Mum had done her stint at modelling college, and we had an unlimited train ticket and a holiday to explore the wonder that was Glam Rock Britain.

I remember going into boutique after boutique of utter grooviness, without realising at the time that Barbara Hulanicki invented boutiques of utter grooviness. And then the moment came when we stepped into the hallowed halls of Biba... purple and black and gold and ostrich feathers and loud rock and impossibly thin creatures, and the most beautiful makeup in the most staggering colours.

Biba launched their cosmetics in 1970, featuring the famous "Auntie colours" of mustard and brown and sludgy green and purple and navy and black. Now this was the thing - these colours did not exist in cosmetics pre-1970 and outside of the theatrical world of Kryolan. Even Mary Quant with her paintboxes and face crayons, innovative though they were, did not have mustard and plum and the like.

So the exhibition at Brighton Museum blew me away for many reasons: memory, seeing iconic clothes for real, marvelling at how the impossibly thin and gorgeous creatures like Twiggy and Marianne Faithfull really were impossibly thin and gorgeous, and the makeup.

Even with Illamasqua and MAC and Urban Decay and so on, Biba colours still stand out. I actually caught my breath in front of the makeup cabinet and got quite emotional. Barbara Hulanicki was and still is a genius and an innovator - I am dragging you down from London to see this exhibition cos I know how you much you also love Biba and Twiggy! ;)

Hugs and kisses,

Biba and Beyond runs at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until April 2013.

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