Bill Gibb

Born: Fraserburgh, Scotland, 1943
Died: London, England, 1988

Bill Gibb joined Central Saint Martins at the age of 19. Here he found his signature aesthetic designing bohemian, ethnic-inspired clothing with an ultra feminine feel. He then went on to study at the Royal College of Art where he continued to develop his style that was embodying the cultural hippie movement.

Gibb met American artist Kaffe Fasset in a King’s Road club.  Together they started a knitwear collaboration that envied the likes of Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark. Kaffe produced beautiful, brightly coloured patterns and prints while Gibb moulded the fabrics into his bohemian designs.

They produced designs for mass market label Baccarat and the duo’s success enabled them to open a boutique in Kensington, opposite the iconic Biba store. However, without financial backing and business acumen, the shop was forced to close.

By 1970 Gibb was successful in his own right and his designs were being photographed by Cecil BeatonDavid Bailey and Sarah Moon. In the same year, he was voted Vogue’s Designer of the Year.

With his success growing, Gibb decided to spend time road-tripping across America when he landed his first big break. A young Twiggy was making her debut acting appearance in the movie ‘The Boyfriend’. On meeting Gibb she asked him to design the outfits for her premiere appearances. Gibb utilised his hippie, feminine aesthetic and produced costume and couture style dresses which brought him the attention of the fashion elite.

Gibb’s debut collection was in 1972. The front row was filled with stars including Cecil Beaton, David Bailey, Beatrix Miller, Lord Snowdon and his long lasting friend, Twiggy.

His success continued and, with Vogue now behind him, his glamorous dresses were worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Bianca Jagger.

Gibb’s designs were pieces of art. Each could take months to complete with intricate embroidery, beading and appliqué. His handcrafted designs used patchwork and were influenced by the medieval and renaissance periods Gibb loved as a child.

But, when fashion changed to the power dressing of the eighties, Gibb’s design lost popularity. His bohemian designs were no longer fashionable and his last collection was in 1986. Gibb continued to design for private clients until his premature death from cancer in 1988.

Regarded as an un-sung hero of British fashion, Bill Gibb’s ability to mix contrasting prints and fabrics resulted in dramatic glamorous designs. His sculptured and structured clothing have inspired many of today’s premier designers.

Bill Gibb Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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