The inspiration of Biba: a Brighton Museum and City College collaboration

The Royal Pavilion and Museums and City College Brighton and Hove have collaborated on an Enterprise and Innovation Project inspired by the Biba fashion brand. Biba, and the work of its founder, will be the subject of our Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki exhibition opening in Brighton Museum this September. Tomorrow, a sale of craft items created by the students will be held at City College.

Jane Campling of City College describes how the students incorporated the inspiration of Biba into their work.

The Sale: An Overview of the Enterprise and Innovation Project

Brighton Museum invited Level 1, 2 and 3 Diploma Art and Design students to make artwork in response to a forthcoming exhibition that they will be launching in September 2012, showcasing the Biba brand and its founder, Barbara Hulanicki. Biba started as a mail order company in Brighton in the early 1960s, later opening stores, the first of which was on Queens Road, Brighton and then High Street Kensington, London.  Barbara Hulaniki was born in Poland but lived in Brighton, studying Fashion Illustration at Brighton University.

The Diploma Art and Design students had the opportunity to examine the original Biba products on a behind-the-scenes tour of the collection, looking at clothing, make up and advertising, guided by the curator of the exhibition.  Back in the studio, students carried out further research into Hulaniki and the inspiration behind the Biba brand which included social and political influences surrounding this iconic fashion revolution.

Students opted to follow either a Fashion or a Graphics brief, using their research to create artwork inspired by Biba but with a contemporary twist. Students following the fashion brief were presented with a plain white T shirt (symbolic of the fashion staple of today) and experimented with surface manipulation techniques inspired by Biba. Each student designed and created a bespoke T shirt and applied their most successful techniques synonymous of their own underlying research messages.  Final fashion pieces were modeled and photographed in 1960s fashion shoot style.

The Graphics brief involved students designing logos to represent contemporary youth cultures – skaters, goths, scene kids, indie kids and emos. These initial motifs were then developed to create dynamic patterns, using colours from the Biba palette of plums, ochres and olive greens. They were then screen printed, with some products embellished with embroidery.

The students worked in ‘design & entrepreneur teams’ to learn how to take their ideas from an initial design through to a marketable product. They explored different ideas for the company name, settling on “Marka”; this means ‘brand’ in Polish, making reference to Barbara Hulanicki’s roots and also their own hand crafted mark-making throughout the project. They carried out market research and reviewed pricing: developing ideas for how they could add value to the products through packaging – something that was very important to BIBA in the 60s. The products have been designed with the Biba philosophy in mind – fun, youthful and affordable.

Jane Campling
Curriculum Team Leader Art and Design
City College Brighton and Hove


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