Bill Gibb – A Welcome Discovery

We all have friends of our parents that have done something we admire, something a little bit cool, something which sets them apart from our parents other friends. For me, it is that one of my mother’s dear friends worked in Fashion PR during the 60’s and 70’s (I might have to double check the decades, I hope I haven’t just insulted her!). She worked for Cartier amongst others and as a Fashion PR girl it was her duty to always look impeccable.
Fast forward to the noughties and you’ll see her gifting me a heavy, knitted, silver and grey cardigan. At the time I must only have been about 19 and, whilst fashion conscious, I certainly didn’t have the love for well made pieces as I do now. It was all about whatever was IN fashion at the time, competing with my friends.
Thankfully my mother kept the cardigan and recently dug it out for me. And boy, am I glad she kept it.

Upon further enquiries to my mother’s friend I was informed that the cardigan was by Bill Gibb. A name that was unfamiliar to me. She told me some stories and remembered him with fondness.

Born in Scotland in 1943 he studied at St Martin’s School of Art and The Royal College of Art in London. Upon graduating he worked for prestigious London fashion house, Baccarat as a designer, but left 3 years later.  He was a partner in the Alice Paul clothing boutique in London and later opened his own named shop in London where he sold wonderfully designed pieces, elaborately influenced by the Far East and tribal uniform.

It is said that he was inventive and bold in his use of textures and fabrics, often mixing the 2 in ways that weren’t all too conventional at the time. A point that my mother’s friend made was that the cardigan she had given to me was all in one piece, with no seams. The idea behind this was that it would fall perfectly upon a woman’s figure. He understood the female body and shape and form were forefront in his designs.

Bill Gibb design commissioned by Twiggy for the LA premier of The Boyfriend in 1971

Crowned Vogue Designer of the Year in 1970, his shop was opened in the mid 70’s and he graduated from using rich wools and Liberty prints to designing with leather and furs. A quick jaunt online found a Bill Gibb mink fur stole reaching well into the thousands.
Liquidity struck Bill’s business in the late 70’s, but the mid 80’s saw him re-emerge with a runway show in collaboration with knitwear designer Kaffe Fasset. The show only proved what people from Twiggy to John Galliano already knew about Bill, that he was a master of decorative, baroque fashion with the ability to take influences from the hippy fashion at Woodstock to tribal customary uniforms in the far east.
Bill passed away at the age of 45 in 1988, leaving behind an army of admirers. He was described by Twiggy as her ‘knight in shining armour’ and according to John Galliano he was the essence of British design.

Bianca Jagger in a Bill Gibb kaftan

Since his death there have been numerous exhibitions dedicated to Bill, including in the Louvre in Paris, The Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
There are many books also written about Bill Gibb and I, for one, will be striving to find out more about him.

Here are a few (sketchy) pictures of the cardigan given to me. Camera excuses once again!! I can’t wait for an event for which to wear this. It’s so special that I think i’d wear it with black skinny jeans and a black vest and let the cardigan do all the talking. The balloon sleeves mean it’s perfect for winter & summer alike. Breezy.

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