FC Exclusive: Barbara Hulanicki
FC: We saw your talk, show and pop-up shop at Bath in Fashion a couple of weeks ago, what made you decide to join the annual event?
BH: I was asked to come down to participate in a Q&A with Hilary Alexander, whom I love, and then there was going to be a vintage Biba fashion show which I was excited to see. My new online store called IconClub sponsored the event as well.
FC: Your talk was sold out, it seems people love to reminisce over the Biba days what do you think it was that made that time so special?
BH: Many of us were young, and our generation was free to make our own choices. Everyone was earning his or her own money and the first step was to leave home and become independent.
FC: We hear you like to keep incredibly busy with consultancy for George, interior design projects and your own IconClub range – what drives you?
BH: I love IconClub, it is all produced in England apart from the canvas bags, which are made in my homeland, Poland. What drives me creatively is all the interesting projects that come my way. The more different they are, the more exciting they become. There is always something more to learn.
FC: The t-shirts and scarves for IconClub are produced at Fashion Enter’s factory in North London, what made you decide to manufacture in the UK?
BH: As in Biba, all the clothes and tee shirts were made in either London or in Leicester. I wanted to be producing locally, it is faster and the production has soul. My partner, Damian was brilliant and found Fashion Enter and the printing, which made IconClub work immediately.
IconClub scarves featuring Barbara’s illustrations
FC: Fashion Revolution took place last month to raise awareness about who makes our clothes and address the issue of fair and ethical working conditions – what’s your personal view on fast fashion today?
BH: I love fast fashion. You need change in clothes but not at the cost of slavery. In the Far East, the massive profits the factory owners make should be distributed among the employees. It’s heart breaking the conditions in which some of these people have to survive. I have been lucky enough to work for fantastic companies such as George at ASDA, they produce great clothes at great prices.
Barbara’s designs for George at Asda
FC: Its graduate season now, what would you advise to young designers wanting a career like yours?
BH: Don’t be grand. You have to start by picking up pins or doing jobs in the stockroom. You should enjoy learning about business from the ground up. Believe me it will be very useful to have knowledge all across the business, not just your niche.
FC: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
BH: Lots, but it is very unlucky to spill the beans before they happen. At the moment we are working on the interiors for a hotel on Harbor Island, Bahamas. I am designing a new shop they are building as well and they have asked me to design the logo merchandise. Everything is custom designed at the hotel, from the furniture, rugs, and down to the bedding print, which is such fun to do…
In September the V&A are publishing a Biba book, which I have done with Martin Pel from the Brighton Museum. It’s in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary coming up…
FC: You have a one-way ticket, where would you go and what would you pack?
BH: I would trade it in for a return ticket. I don’t want to be stranded in a foreign land with no return. And I’d pack only what fits into a baggy on wheels…