The British Boutique Movement - Part III

Discussion in 'British Boutique Movement 2005 by EmmaPeelPants' started by emmapeelpants, Aug 30, 2005.

  1. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    The Boutiques - The Namesakes of the Movement

    Annacat

    Formed in 1965 by friends Jane Lyle and Maggie Keswick, Annacat was the Biba of The Brompton Road. Although little is known about the origins of the boutique, it is easy to show the sense of fun and youthful enthusiasm which encapsulates the Boutique Movement through the designs of Annacat. They were highly favoured by British Vogue (something which Biba and Mary Quant struggled with throughout the 60s, despite their fame and obvious charms), and the two female designers would appear to have been very 'in' with the London scene at the time - which might explain their favoured status. There is a real sense of fun and decadence about their pieces, regularly trimmed in ostrich feathers, printed in feminine, swirling psychedelics and with historically influenced, sexy shapes. I have often regarded Annacat as the truly girly version of Foale and Tuffin. Party girls, party clothes and (judging by some comments I've read online by those who went there) a real party atmosphere in the boutique itself.

    [http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat1.jpg]

    Annacat founder Janet Lyle with Patrick Lichfield in Vogue, September 1968. Janet Lyle wears her own sea green velvet dress, Patrick Lichfield his own yellow shantung shirt. Both destined for New York where Annacat has opened a boutique at 924 Madison Avenue. Janet Lyle's dress is full length, with small bodice, cascading white lace sleeves sewn with green satin ribbons. Patrick Lichfield's shirt, with ruffles and a detatchable sash to tie in a large floppy bow, is from his first collection of men's shirts which will be sold in a special boutique inside the New York Annacat. Happily, they are both available at the London Annacat, too, £33, and 15 gns to order, from 270 Brompton Road, SW3.

    Annacat clothes were decadent, wild and a tad impractical - in my time, I don't think I have ever seen any Annacat daywear!! One of their signature looks was feather trims, as shown in this photo from Vogue, September 1968 and secondly in a mini dress from my own collection:
    [http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat2.jpg"]

    [http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat4.jpg]

    Left: Vogue, September 1968, 'The Life That's In British Fashion'. Swan-white silk peignoir in the star tradition, right, caught in a mesh of gold, feathered with wild ruffs of white ostrich, cut with vast mediaeval sleeves, a white silk belt buckle din gold under the bosom, 80 gns, to order from Annacat</i>. Right: c1968 feather trim mini dress with psychedelic print chiffon

    When I say decadent, I mean it! This green dress is bordering on the indecent, but somehow manages to pull back and just look outrageously sexy!

    [http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat6.jpg]

    Green Grecian-styled jersey dress - slashed to the waist. c.1969.

    They even managed to give some glitz to dungarees!

    [img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat3.jpg]

    Vogue. June 1969.</b><i> Marianne Benet in snowy crepe dungarees, belted and held up by silver sequins. The Dungarees are 19 gns, the ruffled white crepe shirt, 13 gns, at Annacat.</i></center></small>
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    When the girls weren't adding sequins and feathers to things, their own take on the pseudo-historical trend was unashamedly, girlishly romantic. As you can see on the top picture of Janet Lyle, they were fond of velvets, period bodice styles and Liberty prints.
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    <Center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/annacat5.jpg" border="2"><p><Small>From my collection. A late 1960s renaissance styled white dress with extraordinary green and orange print.</center></small>
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    The shop also stocked concessions by other designers (such as Patrick Lichfield, above), amongst the Lyle and Keswick pieces. Apparently, the boutique was the first London outlet for Laura Ashley in the late 1960s - before her own shop opened on the Fulham Road.
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    Annacat was sold wholesale in 1970, presumably there weren't enough customers clamouring for sequin trimmed dungarees(!), and failed to continue with the critical success of the early years with a different designer at the helm. From being a seemingly permanent fixture in Vogue throughout the late 60s, I haven't seen anything of them in my 1970s editions. Perhaps proving that the main reason they were so successful in the first place had been the personality of the two young party girls who started it!
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  2. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    The boutique aspect of the movement had started to dwindle at this point. Despite the optimism behind the expansion of Biba into the Derry and Toms building in High Street Kensington, most boutiques were struggling to cover overheads - perhaps the sheer number of inexperienced youngsters running their own businesses was always doomed to fail as Britain moved into the 1970s: a time of unemployment, strikes and precariously unstable economy. The aforementioned 'Biba' was perhaps the poster child of the boom and bust of the Boutique phenomenon.
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    <center><B>BIBA</b></center>
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    Biba truly revolutionised the Boutique as a concept. Opening in 1964 on Abingdon Road, Kensington by Barbara Hulanicki and her husband Steven Fitz-Simon, Biba was aimed at young women, with moderate disposable income who would have felt somewhat disenchanted with the prices at Bazaar, Foale & Tuffin et al. Despite the fact those shops and designers had started with the best of intentions to design for their contemporaries and make it affordable, sadly the prices were still slightly out of range for the average teenager and young women with modest salaries. The clothes were never intended to be in fashion for very long, and the girls naturally wanted new outfits to wear each Saturday night. The first shop was an old chemists, and Barbara thrived on the dark and mysterious interior of this slightly dilapidated old building - seizing on the potential to do something vastly different to the bright and open feel of 'Bazaar'. It inspired the interior design of the three subsequent premises Biba would occupy.
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba14.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>The second Biba shop on Kensington Church Street</small>
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    </center>
    The clothes were cheap, they were (initially at any rate) bright and VERY young. By the time they had move to new premises at Kensington Church Street in 1966, they were attracting a wide range of clientele - from schoolgirls to pop stars. Cathy McGowan was regularly seen in Biba on TV show 'Ready, Steady, Go', which gave them a huge new audience of young women - all desperate to get the look. Other manufacturers were so desperate to get a piece of the action, they would buy Biba to copy. Hulanicki said: "We must have been the only designers who were copied at twice the price".
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba8.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>1967 print Biba outfits</small>
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    </center>
    In 1968, they started a mail order branch of their company. This enabled them to offer their unique look to girls across the country - and democratized the boutique movement even more, you didn't have to live in London to buy Biba!
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba6.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba5.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Left: Biba mail order catalogue, late 60s. Right: Black lace high neck blouse - illustrated in the catalogue - bottom right.</small>
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    </center>
    In these catalogue illustrations, we see the physical ideal that Barbara Hulanicki designed for - somewhat in her own image. High, tight armholes for skinny arms, small breasts, long gangly legs, curly hair and a doll-like application of make-up - all smudgy eyes, rosy cheeks and rouged lips. The colours also gradually became more 'sludgy' and retro, Hulanicki said she had disliked the colours from her childhood, when older ladies would wear them, but when she applied them to her clothes, it put a whole new perspective on it.
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba18.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba7.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba15.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Left: Typical Biba colour palette. Middle: Late 1960s broderie anglaise mini dress. Right: An archetypal Biba girl</small>
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    </center>
    They were also famed for their prints, which quickly became more sophisticated and 20s/30s inspired than the prints shown above from '67.
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba16.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba17.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Left: Print pieces from the catalogue, late 60s. Right: Print jersey top and skirt ensemble. The top is low cut and tight fitting and the skirt has four splits which practically reveal all!</small>
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    </center>
    Biba even managed to get into that other great British icon, Doctor Who. Assistant Jo Grant was conceived as something of a typical young woman of the time, and Katy Manning was definitely a typical Biba girl with her cute face, feathered blonde hair and tiny frame. The costume designer decided to regularly put her in Biba, which was later interestingly contrasted with assistant Sarah-Jane Smith who was regularly seen wearing Kensington High St. rivals 'Bus Stop'!
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba2.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba4.jpg" border="1">

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    </center>
    It was the late 1960s in which Biba thrived. The 'Swinging London' label was starting to look tired and the mood of the country was becoming far more 'retro', with a move towards the romance and decadence of the past. Biba perfectly encapsulated this mood, along with the country-girl chic of Welsh designer Laura Ashley, and it cemented Hulanicki's resolve to create a complete Biba emporium inspired by the department stores of the 1920s but with a very relaxed atmosphere. She, apparently, insisted that no shop assistant should ever say 'can I help you madam' or make any customer feel inferior, another example of the classless shopping Utopia she was creating. This ambition was truly realised when, in 1973, she was able to take over the old Derry and Toms building on Kensington High Street (just round the corner from where Biba had been). Vast amounts of money were invested in the interiors, creating one of the most decadent and ambitious shops ever to have existed. It was dark, lush, shiny and designed to be as little like a 'shop' as possible. They even had a restaurant at the top, where bands like the New York Dolls would come and play!
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba10.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba11.jpg" border="1"><BR><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba12.jpg" border="1"> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba13.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>The interiors of 'Big Biba' in 1973</small>
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    </center>
    They were selling the Biba lifestyle. Food, make-up, homewares, children's clothes, menswear....you name it, they sold it.
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    <center><img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba9.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Soap Flakes, Cheese.....</small>
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    </center>
    With the new store, came another approach to design. In an era of Glam Rock, where everything was sparkly and big - Big Biba came up trumps with sequined sweaters, enormous platforms and shiny fabrics.
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    <center> <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba19.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Sequined Biba dress I recently sold on eBay.</small>
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    They also ran riot with the deco inspiration:
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    <img src="http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i161/emmapeelpants/workshopimages/biba20.jpg" border="1">
    <P><small>Biba's naughty Thirties look, 1974</small>
    <P></center>
    Hulanicki had an uncompromising vision. Not one style she designed was made more than 500 times. She refused to have strip lighting in the store to eliminate the amount of shoplifting. She wasted piles of moss crepe if it happened to be in last season's colours. Girls would buy each style in all the different colours available, queuing to get the latest batch. It was this throwaway mentality which makes the clothes so collectable today, they genuinely weren't made to last. Unfortunately, cheap and cheerful did not go very well with opulent decor and waste. Biba was losing money all the time, and the economy was in a sharp downturn by 1975. Big businesses were taking over the High Street, and there was simply no room for quaint little Biba. The store was closing, people came and scavenged from piles of clothes, make-up and feathers to take their own little piece of Biba. By the end, people were just walking out without paying - Biba had always been notoriously badly hit by shoplifters and they weren't about to stop now. 1975 was probably the watershed for many of the boutiques and designers. The demise of Biba was felt by all, it had seemed so untouchable and the embodiment of the Boutique dream.
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    And that concludes my workshop on the British Boutique Movement. I hope I have been able to cover some of the most interesting designers of the era, and that you have enjoyed looking at all the photos!
     
  3. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Trade Member

    Annacat had a NY store?! That's interesting, and now I'll have to go through my late 60s magazines to see if there are any references to it. And I can surely see how Laura Ashley's early work would fit right in with this label.
     
  4. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Trade Member

    I've always thought I would have loved those Biba stores, partly because I was so caught up in that early 70s nostalgia thing. I love the interior pictures of Big biba.
     
  5. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    It's fabulous isn't it??? I'm mad keen on deco interiors, and Biba brought something even more fabulous to it - probably bad taste in other people's eyes!! ;) I'd always lusted after a purple bedroom, and when I was at University I was able to do that with my second rented room. Months later when my dad walked in to have a look, the first thing he said was 'Looks like a tart's boudoir'!!! :D

    Liz
     
  6. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes Registered Guest

    Patrick Lichfield reminds me of Austin Powers. lol

    Some of this renaissance influence stuff here makes me think of Jessica McClintock. Not similar looking exactly. but the white and green dress up there that you own would have been the princess, and then the gunne sax would have been the fair maid peasant girl.

    Thank you so much, Liz, this has been educational and entertaining. I plan to read more tomorrow as I had to zip out for a short time as well.

    I think really this makes me want to buy clothes LOL. I am serious because many things i want to wear from the 60s just don't suit me, but some of this later stuff seems that it would be more suited to my body type than the earlier, very angular extreme 60s items that I love and try to get myself into anyways.

    Those wild purple outfits with the hat are really great.
     
  7. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    It's absolutely my favourite clothes period, because of the retro/romanticism done with a very 'groovy' twist. I also think, I'm a bit biased, that this was done most successfully in London. I like some of the early Gunne Sax dresses I've seen, but I find them very twee - like a lot of the post-1970 Laura Ashleys. I'm drawn to Annacat, Biba and Bus Stop because they manage to bring a new twist to it, it's just outrageous and 'kooky'. I can see why the US market had only brief love-affairs with London designers, because it seems like the complete anti-thesis of the all-American look. Even when it was embracing the retro look, it was always done in a very purist way - a la Gunne Sax.

    Liz
     
  8. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    I should also add that I find the cut and the fit to be perfect for my shape, I have the same problem with mid-60s clothes that they are too straight and geometric for me. I like frills and big sleeves :D

    Liz
     
  9. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    I received a programme this morning from an Annacat/Mr Fish fashion show at the London Playboy Club in 1968. There are, sadly, no pics but it does list some of the names of the Annacat outfits!! (Spotted Dick, Buy British, Jane Eyre, Bathsheba, Miss Muffet, Milkmaid etc etc).

    It also has this fab advert, which I'm mighty tempted to pinch the slogan from! ;)

    <img src="http://www.vintage-a-peel.co.uk/images/annacat7.jpg">

    Liz
     
  10. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Trade Member

    How wonderful is that?! Liz, if you don't mind, I'm going to add the ad and your great Annacat info to the label resource.

    Also, I'd be interested in knowing about any great print resources. Are there any books on 60s fashion and London life that you would suggest?
     
  11. ourbabyroo

    ourbabyroo Registered Guest

    Liz ~

    I just wanted to say that I have read all 3 parts of this workshop and loved every minute of it! A wealth of information is right ~ and the photos are fantastic!

    Will definitely be referring back to these threads for future reference. :)

    Thanks so much for taking the time to put this all together!

    Christine
     
  12. BarbaraVilliers

    BarbaraVilliers Registered Guest

    Biba was unique. I have only seen an Annacat dress once in the retro dept of Libertys for £450. It was gorgeous but too small for me (sob) Pity we don't still have boutiques. I think buyers are growing sick of the chainstores and that partiaslly accounts for the downturn in retailing in the UK.
    Louise
     
  13. emmapeelpants

    emmapeelpants Alumni

    Feel free!! I would highly recommend 'Boutique' by Marnie Fogg. She makes a few errors (managing to spell Ossie Clark three different ways on one page) but it's worth it for the pictures alone. I think I read it three times before I actually READ it, if you know what I mean! There's also a great book, now out of print, Fashion in the 60s by Barbara Bernard. It's a little light (certainly inversely proportional to the amounts you have to pay to get one on eBay) but has some amazing photos too. She doesn't go into quite so much detail, focusing on the usual suspects. Shockingly, I've never seen Annacat in any book on 60s fashion. Marnie Fogg goes on and on about a designer called Georgina Linhart, who I had never heard of before and have NEVER seen turn up on eBay - but no Annacat, or Wainwright. More specifically I would highly recommend 'The Biba Experience' and the Ossie Clark book produced for the V&A exhibition.

    I'm still waiting for a definitive guide!

    Liz
     
  14. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Trade Member

    Thanks for the list. I have the little Fashion in the 60s book already, and it is very good. But the others are now on my wishlist!
     

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