Following her success as the designer of Biba in London, Barbara Hulanicki became an icon of sixties British fashion with her short skirts and mod styles sold at affordable prices. In days post-Biba, Hulanicki has been living in Miami designing interiors for several hotels in the area. At an exhibition of fashion illustrations last year, Topshop brass approached her about doing a special line for them. The result is a capsule collection of animal-inspired prints and brightly colored flowy dresses, along with graphic tees, head scarves, hats, and bathing suits. We talked to Hulanicki about the line, which launches today, as well as Biba, her love of Miami, and her great dislike of baby-doll dresses.
What was the inspiration for this collection with Topshop?
It became a good girl/bad girl look. Some pieces are very naughty, such as the hand-over-the-breast dress. But there’s a floaty chiffon top for the good girl. The fashion illustrations and prints were developed first. Once Topshop selected their favorites, the designs were selected to suit the image I had made. The swimsuits are definitely forties-inspired, with large brimmed summer hats and stretchy jersey dresses.
Does the line have a similar feel to your original collection for Biba?
I was asked to do a collection that was representative of me now, something that wasn’t Biba. But somehow there is no way to get away from that name or the spirit.
Is this collection for a different audience?
They are both very similar. The customers are young working girls with great individualist style who love fashion.
Are you planning on doing accessories with Topshop?
Not at the moment.
How does it feel to be designing again?
I am loving it!
You’ve become quite a fashion icon; how does that feel?
You’re based in Miami now. Has that changed your fashion sense, or do you still associate with British fashion?
I am a chameleon. In the early nineties, Ronnie Wood asked me to design a nightclub for him in Miami Beach. I immediately fell in love with the city, its dilapidated Art Deco hotels and the beautiful weather. Miami has incredibly bright colors and it’s very sunny, so my interior work definitely reflects that. I think it’s a bonus that I am starting with a summer collection for Topshop, as I am expert at dressing in the heat.
What was the first designer item you ever bought (or wore)?
My mother’s homemade dresses. Under my supervision, of course.
Where do you like to shop?
Topshop in London, of course, and now, thankfully, in New York! I love Barneys in New York, as well.
What trends are you liking this season?
The new structure of shoulder pads.
And what trends do you wish would go away?
Barbie Doll, puffed sleeves, and baby-doll dresses.
Any item you’re coveting right now?
Anything black: shoes, jackets, narrow pants, and messenger bags.
What’s something every woman should have in her closet?
Lots of T-shirts. Basics.
Finish this sentence. I never leave the house without …
The collection is available at Topshop, 478 Broadway, nr. Broome St.; 212-966-9555.