Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki has hit out at House of Fraser and joined forces with George at Asda to produce a low-priced fast-fashion collection just weeks after the department store spent millions relaunching the Biba label she founded.
In an interview with Retail Week sister title Drapers, Hulanicki made a stinging attack on House of Fraser’s interpretation of the Biba label – saying it did not reflect the original Biba style and that it was “too expensive”. Her collection for Asda will launch in November and will include around 12 designs. A further three or four collections will follow.
Hulanicki, who lost control of the Biba trademark in the 1970s, said: “I always find everyone who buys it [the Biba trademark] thinks of it as couture, but I think it is more like Woolworths – which is what it was always meant to be. [The House of Fraser collection] is too expensive. The prices [at Asda] are just amazing. These will really be Biba prices.”
“These [the George at Asda prices] are silly billy prices, which is what Biba is supposed to be. You go shopping, you buy your carrots, then you buy a dress.”
Asked whether the department store’s new take on Biba reflected the style of her original collection, she added, laughing: “No. It looks like House of Fraser. No comment.”
Hulanicki launched Biba in 1964 on London’s King’s Road. It was one of the original value retailers and became famous for producing low-priced versions of high fashion or celebrity designs such as Mary Quant mini-skirts and a pink gingham dress worn by Bridget Bardot.
However the business closed in 1975 after suffering financial difficulties and the trademark was sold on to a third party, closing a chapter on Hulanicki’s last direct involvement with the Biba name. It has since been owned and relaunched by several companies, returning recently as a high end London Fashion Week label and now as a premium own-label collection at House of Fraser.
Hulanicki’s collection for George wil retail for between £11 and £18 and will include tunics that play into the 1970s trend exhibited on the spring 11 catwalks and that epitomise the Biba brand. It will also include jeans. House of Fraser’s Biba collection is dominated by printed maxi dresses with prices ranging from £75 for blouses through to £350 for coats. Last week the department store said that Biba had been its best ever own-label launch, generating sales of £300,000 in its first week on sale. It will hit stores earlier this month.
The first Hulanicki collection for George was photographed on Tuesday, with styling by Caroline Bake, the one-time fashion editor of Nova magazine and one of the most famed stylist of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hulanicki has been “absolutely” involved in the design and production of the collection, and recently visited the factory in Istanbul, Turkey, where it will be produced.
House of Fraser chief executive John King declined to comment.