There were plenty of friends in the house for Bella Freud's official launch of the much-adored Biba label. In fact, the front row looked like a lineup of London's fashion and social aristocracy: Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant, Phoebe Philo and her husband Max Wigram, and behind giant sunglasses, Lucy Ferry and Amanda Harlech. These are not regular sightings at any old London fashion show, but proof of a groundswell of affection for Biba's sixties and seventies highsand for Freud herself.
"When I looked in the archive, I realized there's so much to play with," the designer said. "The proportions are so good, with that narrow high waist, strangled shoulder, and belled sleeves. And it's sort of casual, too." In practice, the collection didn't stray far from a more-or-less faithful vintage revival. There were little cord suits, forties crepe dresses, knickers, and denim dungarees, and lots of play with mini, midi, and maxi lengths.
Still, this is 2006, not 1966, and Freud's Biba is reemerging in a completely different context from Barbara Hulanicki's brilliantly original, disposable fast-fashion-for-teenagers concept. These days, the prices are much higher, and the clothes are aimed at a designer bracket that is almost the opposite of what Hulanicki envisioned. Just goes to prove you can't really go back. To judge from the interest surrounding the label, this is a brand that's going to be pushed hard worldwide, though to cut it in a luxury market it will need a bit more polish.