Warsaw-born Barbara Hulanicki first burst onto the fashion scene as a 19 year old Brighton Art College student in 1955, winning a beachwear competition sponsored by the London Evening Standard. After working as a freelance fashion illustrator for magazines including Vogue, Tatler, and Women’s Wear Daily, Hulanicki opened, with her late husband Stephen Fitz-Simon, Biba in 1964.
Thanks to, ‘a rock ‘n roll friendly mix of mini skirts, feather boas, velvet tuis, tie-dye tees, and floppy felt hats’, regulars at the uber-fabulous and famous Kensington shop soon grew to include Marianne Faithful, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger, as well as Anna Wintour, whose father secured his young fashionista-in-training a job there at age 15. Biba closed its doors in 1976 and Hulanicki went to work for Fiorucci and Cacharel. From 1980 to 1992 she designed a line of children’s wear called Minirock.
Today Hulanicki lives in Miami, Florida where she has reinvented herself as an interior designer. Her first project began with Woody’s on the Beach which she designed in 1987 for Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood. Other projects encompassed work for Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Chris Blackwell on both private houses and hotels including the Cardozo on Ocean Drive and the Netherlands building also on Ocean Drive for which she won an award from the American Institute of Architects.
Throughout her career Hulanicki has designed costumes for both stage and film, designed wallpaper, textiles and fashion collections for British brands Topshop and Habitat. In 2009 the V&A republished her memoirs From A to Biba which inspired a documentary about her life called Beyond Biba. In 2012 a major exhibition about her life and work of her work opened at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.