Considering that the Swinging Sixties is among our favorite style decades, we’re pretty disheartened that one of its most preeminent designers, Barbara Hulanicki, claims that American women are “terrible” dressers because, “they all wear the same thing.” This is the women who democratized fashion by founding High Street emporium Biba in London back in 1964, during the Diana Vreeland-coined Youthquake movement, where long hemlines didn’t exist and their postergirl Twiggy was the bee’s knees. Biba was a mainstay for movie stars, as well as all the rock ‘n’ rollers of the time, including David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, who would often hang around her posh outpost.
During its reign, Biba expanded exponentially, making each new store a destination and launching cosmetics, home goods, furniture, and even sports equipment. Hulanicki captured the spirit of the time and allowed her trendy designs to be accessible to the masses. For even more proof of the lady’s prowess, Anna Wintour made her foray into fashion working for Biba at 15.
So, we’ve gotta put some weight behind her quotes when Hulanicki claims all women are guilty of not going against the style grain (Americans being the worst, of course). She told the Daily Mail:
“I think people are too concerned about what’s fashionable. Women have such boring wardrobes these days because they must follow fashion, they must, they must. There’s too much interest in clothes now and it makes women dress less well.”
Perhaps we’re blinded by our admiration, but in some light, we see where she’s coming from. If we were one of the most formative designers of our time, and dressed the likes of Marianne Faithfull and Brigitte Bardot, we’d be a little disappointed by the excess amounts of Forever 21 strolling around. But isn’t that mass commercialism what skyrocketed Hulanicki’s business in the first place? In fact, many of her latest ventures, such as her collaboration with Topshop, have directly benefited from appealing to the uniformed masses. She even goes on to say that dressing is hard, so she relies on wearing all black. We happen to know a lot of Americans who go by that same code, and think designers who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…
But let’s face the hard truth: American Girls are no strangers to international fashion condemnation. British journalist Colin McDowell recently launched a diatribe against American fashion by way of The Great Gatsby. And let us not forget the time that Roberto Cavalli also deemed our style “terrible” while giving Wintour one of the most backhanded (and thus kind of amazing) compliments we’ve ever heard.