FAULT Fashion – interview with Barbara Hulanicki

Barbara Hulanicki designer
Barbara Hulanicki. Photography by Dania Graibe

Whilst many fashion legends of the 60s have faded into history, Barbara Hulanicki, founder and head designer of Biba, is still making her artistic mark on the world.  Though she is only involved with the Biba brand, which made a high street fashion and interiors revival in 2010, on a consultancy basis she has busied herself with (much more exciting) ventures in interior design and a new fashion range called Iconclub.

The 79 year old – and OBE – now lives in Miami, designing the interiors for hotels and nightclubs and turning her narrative illustrations into scarves, bags and tshirts that inject the same sense of fun and liveliness as the Biba brand did in the 60s with a modern day update.

FAULT quizzed Barbara on her thoughts on fashion yesterday and today…

Talk us through the concepts for the illustrations on the new scarf collection…

It is so exciting to work with new digital printing techniques. In the past, I was restricted by cost because of the number of screens one would want for a design yet today it’s so wonderful to design on a computer, anything is possible. I generally start with an original illustration and we scan it in the computer and have a go with colors, styles, prints etc.

Barbara Hulanicki scarf

Why did you decide to manufacture the new scarf line in Britain?

I just wanted so badly to work with a UK factory like I did during the BIBA days where we manufactured everything in London’s east end.

What’s your design philosophy?

I just keep observing everything and watch how and when fashion changes. The most recent is how the high heel died! I was wondering when women would just say STOP.

We think it’s incredible that you’re still working, do you think you will ever stop designing?

There is no “work” word in my vocabulary. There is so much more to learn and absorb from new situations and meeting new people.

What does it take to succeed in the design business?

Perseverance and just hard plod!

Iconclub Barbara Hulanicki

What have been some of your favourite projects to work on?

There are always new projects coming up. I seem to be interior design at the moment. I am very excited about working on a Hotel in Hollywood called Runway. It is the perfect partner for my fashion project Iconclub.

Why did you decide to settle in Miami?

It was not a conscious decision. I loved it as it was so rough, so raw. I came to Miami Beach to work on a club in the late eighties for Ronnie Wood. I met Chris Blackwell during that time, and he had just bought a job lot of hotels in Miami Beach. He gave me one to begin with, The Marlin Hotel. Then I continued to work with him on his hotels for about twenty years.

What do you think about the revival of 60s and 70s fashion in modern fashion?

Oh boy! Seen and done it and to me it’s not really new, the designers are stuck!

Who do you think is creating groundbreaking fashion today?

I really like Rick Owens and a few people who are still independent and not just governed by sales figures, the people who move forward regardless.

What’s your fault?

I am lazy, terrified to give in.