After graduating from design college Barbara worked as a fashion illustrator, regularly travelling to Paris to draw the collections for British newspapers and magazines. She found the parade of calf-length skirts and fitted jackets in stiff fabrics and muted colours very dull, claiming there was nothing for young people.
Encouraged by her new husband, businessman Stephen Fitz-Simon, Barbara began designing her own clothes to sell via mail order. The couple opened a small boutique in London’s Kensington, called Biba. The Biba look was luxe but fun, with mini-skirts, velvet trouser suits and rich, saturated colour all signatures, yet prices were affordable. It was an instant hit among young women with big fashion appetites and not much money.
As word spread, queues formed down the street and anxious mothers peered through the windows. Biba moved to larger and larger premises, before eventually settling in a multi-storey Art Deco department store on Kensington High Street.