Barbara Hulanicki

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Barbara Hulanicki

Barbara Hulanicki.png
Warsaw, Poland
EducationBrighton School of Art
OccupationFashion Designer

Barbara Hulanicki OBE (b. 1936) is a fashion designer, born in Warsaw, Poland, to Polish parents and best known as the founder of clothes store Biba.[1]


Hulanicki was born in Warsaw, Poland, to Polish parents.[2] Her father, Witold Hulanicki, was assassinated by the Stern Gang in Jerusalem in 1948,[2][3] and the family moved to Brighton, England.[4][5] While studying from 1954 to 1956 at the Brighton School of Art,[6] Hulanicki won an Evening Standard competition in 1955 for beachwear. She began her career in fashion as a freelance fashion illustrator for various magazines, including Vogue, Tatler and Women's Wear Daily.

Hulanicki sold her first designs through a small mail-order business[6] that was featured in the fashion columns of newspapers such as the London Daily Mirror. In 1964, she opened her Biba shop in the Kensington district of London with the help of her late husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.[6] The shop soon became known for its "stylishly decadent atmosphere" and decor inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco.[6] It became a hangout for artists, film stars and rock musicians, including Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marianne Faithfull and Cathy McGowan, presenter of British pop/rock TV programme Ready Steady Go!. In the shop, a young clientele bought affordable mini-skirts, floppy felt hats, feather boas, velvet trouser suits and unisex tee-shirts dyed in rich, muted colours. Anna Wintour started in fashion at age 15 as a Biba employee.[7]

After the shop's 1975 closure, Hulanicki moved to Brazil, where she opened several other stores.[6] She kept designing for labels such as Fiorucci and Cacharel and from 1980 to 1992 designed a line of children's wear, Minirock, licensed to the Japanese market. In 1981 she opened a new shop in UK.[6] In 1987 she moved to Miami, Florida, where she opened an interior design business,[6] designing hotels for Chris Blackwell in Jamaica and the Bahamas. She has designed wallpaper for the Habitat store chain in Europe and launched a fashion and home range in India and also wallpaper in her widely recognised Art Deco[8] style for Graham & Brown.

British retailer Topshop opened a New York City store in April 2009 and later that month launched a collection featuring Hulanicki's designs. She produced a collection for Topshop featuring billowing chiffon dresses and blouses reminiscent of her original Biba style along with several jersey pieces printed with her original illustrations, bikinis and a cropped suede jacket. In the same month, a handbag in her Art Deco[8] style was made by the Italian label Coccinelle. About the design scene in 2009, Hulanicki has said: "There is very little difference today as opposed to the '70s; although, there is much more choice now. Both periods share the same enthusiasm, if you press the right buttons."[9]

In December 2013, she was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, where her top choice was "The Girl from Ipanema" by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, vocal by Astrud Gilberto. In September 2015, she was interviewed on the BBC TV's HARDtalk. She has said: "Now whenever I finish something I take some photographs and say 'goodbye'. When you lose everything, you realise that the only thing you have is what's in your head."[10]

In 2009, the British department store group House of Fraser bought the rights to the Biba label. In 2014, Hulanicki agreed to serve as a consultant for Biba, the first time since 1975 that she had been involved with her created brand.[11]

In 2021, Hulanicki started a new venture with virtual reality company, BrandLab360, to create a new label titled 'Hula'.[12] The new brand will be sold exclusively to trade buyers on BrandLab 360's digital showroom and was created after Hulanicki met with the platform's founders in Miami, where she is now based.[13]


Hulanicki received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2010[14]

Hulanicki was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to the fashion industry.[15]


  1. ^ 'Most girls want to be thin – enjoy it while you can BBC News. 3 September 2015
  2. ^ a b Sherwood, Harriet (11 December 2011). "Mystery of father's murder may soon be over for Biba's Barbara Hulanicki". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Ginor, Isabella; Remez, Gideon (2010). "A Cold War Casualty in Jerusalem, 1948: The Assassination of Witold Hulanicki". Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. 4 (3): 135–156. doi:10.1080/23739770.2010.11446622.
  4. ^ "Hardeep Singh Kohli, Dr Pamela Stephenson, Alan Root, Barbara Hulanicki, Nadine Mortimer-Smith, Midweek – BBC Radio 4".
  5. ^ Hall, Duncan (21 September 2012). "Biba And Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki". The Argus (Brighton).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Elizabeth Lomas; Archive of Art and Design (Great Britain) (2001). Guide to the Archive of Art and Design, Victoria & Albert Museum. Taylor & Francis. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-57958-315-6.
  7. ^ Sawer, Patrick (30 May 2015). "Fashion's ice queen Anna Wintour opens up about family". Daily Telegraph.
  8. ^ a b "V&A · Biba". Victoria and Albert Museum.
  9. ^ Espinosa, Renata (23 April 2009). "Biba Founder Barbara Hulanicki Returns to Fashion with Topshop". Fashion Wire Daily. Archived from the original on 16 May 2009.
  10. ^ "Desert Island Discs: Barbara Hulanicki". BBC. 8 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  11. ^ Bergin, Olivia (3 November 2014). "Barbara Hulanicki to return to Biba label after 39 years". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  12. ^ "How Biba Founder Barbara Hulanicki Rewrote the Rules of Fashion". W Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  13. ^ Roberts, Lauretta (25 February 2021). "Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki is back with a new label HULA". TheIndustry.Fashion. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  14. ^ "Heriot-Watt University News: Summer 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2016.
  15. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 11.

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