Tag Archives: Biba

Interview with Illustrator Kasia Charko

The logo above was drawn by my latest blog discovery, Kasia Charko.  Her name may not be familiar, but I’m betting that you will recognize the work she did for Biba, the London store and mail order company owned by Barbara Hulanicki in the 1960s and 70s.  What makes Kasia’s blog so good is that she is telling the story of the early 1970s fashion scene in the UK as only an insider could tell it.

Kasia graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.

1.  Tell us about your training as an artist.

  I trained in graphic design at Leicester College of Art,  England from 1969 -1972.   All commercial art was taught, editorial illustration for magazines and book publishing,  typography and some photography, illustration for advertising e.g. posters and ad campaigns.

2.  How did you land the position at Biba?

One of my tutors was Adrianne Le Man who was the Art Director for The Illustrated London News at the time .   She taught us one day a week, and when I moved to London we kept in touch and she alerted me to the fact that the Biba graphics team  was  looking for an illustrator as the one they had was not working out.   I was already working for various magazines doing fashion illustration  and other drawings in an Art Deco style.   Much to my surprise I got the job.

3.  What were your responsibilities there?

The design team was Whitmore Thomas;  they designed the interiors of the new store and Steve Thomas led  the graphics team as well.  The day I started he gave me the brief which was to come up with ideas and drawings for all logos for each department that was going to be in the new Big Biba store.   He then went to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks. It was nerve wracking to say the least , but when he came back he liked what he saw and took the drawings to a meeting with Barbara Hulanicki who made the final approvals  and we were on our way .  Now we had the look , Steve and I expanded the work to include all kinds of  things like postcards, badges, food packaging – it was never-ending.  I did not really deal with Barbara, I hardly ever saw her, but she gave final approval of all work.

4.  How did Art Deco become so much a part of the imaging of Biba?

  I think that is explained better in Barbara Hulanicki’s autobiography ‘ From A to Biba’.   In the early 70’s in Britain there was a great nostalgia for old things from Victorian right through to the 1940’s. This was seen in fashion , graphics, music.  I think it was in America too.   I touch on this in some of my blogs.  Also old clothes , furniture, etc. was still available very cheaply  and clothes in particular were much sought after.  Biba clothes had that old glamorous look.

5.  How were you personally influenced by the Art Deco movement?

   I was influenced unconsciously at first by an old Art Deco cinema around the corner from my house when I was a kid.  You can see a photo of the interior on my first blog.    Those three Art Deco ladies certainly made an imprint on me.   I did not know what Art Deco was but I loved it. Also we were exposed to an enormous amount of old Hollywood  movies on the T.V. as kids in the 60’s.  At college I studied all aspects of Art Deco and loved it, still do.

6.  After your work at Biba was finished, did you continue to work as an artist?

When Biba ended it was very strange because a door had definitely closed on that style of work, there was a lot of change in the air.  I still got work but felt a bit typecast.      The situation in Britain was very bad , very gloomy so my husband and I had a break and went to Canada . We worked mostly in advertising,  I got into childrens’ book     illustration in the early 90’s which I am still doing today.
Many thanks to Kasia for taking the time to tell us about her experiences at Biba.  And to read more, be sure to visit her blog, Kasia Charko.


Filed under Designers, First Person Stories, Vintage Clothing