The rise and fall of Biba

Nobody likes to see a venture go down the drain but this is how one happened:


BIBA, Kensington Church Street, London, 1963

The first Biba boutique opened on Abingdon Road in Kensington in September 1964 … the previous May, Biba had its first significant success when the Daily Mirror, as part of an article by Felicity Green (possibly the most influential of Fleet Street’s fashion editors at the time), offered ’a “Barbara” summer shift’ for sale. The pink gingham dress had a hole cut out of the back and it came with a matching triangular kerchief similar to one Brigitte Bardot had been seen wearing … and orders came flooding in.


Cilla Black & Cathy McGowan helping with the move from Biba in Abingdon Road to the new Biba premises in Church Street (1966)

In 1969 Biba sold control over to the Dorothy Perkins high street fashion chain. Biba still seemed to still flourish and expand and after two years Dorothy Perkins was brought by a property company called British Land. 

In 1973 the store moved to the seven-storey Derry & Toms department building. Initially the huge 20,000 sq ft Big Biba store seemed a big success and it attracted close to a million customers a week, making it, some have said, one of the most visited tourist attractions in the capital at the time.

Each floor of Big Biba 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.

Not long after the huge High Street Kensington super-store opened along came the property crash and subsequently the three day week. Sally Brampton wrote:

Just as it seemed that nothing could affect this charmed existence, disaster struck and a bad mail order season turned a booming business into a financial disaster almost overnight.


Not sure if this is the same company:


Wonder how much it did fold? The article was written by the founder who then left over creative disputes with this cigar smoker.  Thing is, London is property, it’s not creative people. At least, it might have creative people but not occupying that much prime real estate.

There is a clash of visions for London. There is also greed.

[H/T Chuckles]

1 comment for “The rise and fall of Biba

  1. November 12, 2016 at 20:48

    I remember Biba well! It was a beautiful store but I couldn’t afford the clothes. I did, though , buy some of the makeup from Dorothy Perkins. The black packaging seemed so different and chic!

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