Monday, January 11, 2010

Fashion Divas, Williams and Hulanicki, and SAVE Dade

On January 10, the Wolfsonian Museum, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and SAVE Dade, presented two films, the first about Irene Williams, "The Queen of Lincoln Road," known for her extraordinary, vivid outfits, which she designed and made, including the hats; the second about Barbara Hulanicki, the designer, who founded Bibi in London in the 1960s and is now working in Miami. Both women developed, adapted, persisted.

Williams said she hated Boston, "There was nothing for me there." She moved to South Beach, to an apartment on Michigan Avenue, and set up business in a small office on Lincoln Road as a public stenographer. Every workday morning, dressed in one of her creations, she would walk from her apartment, down Lincoln Road, to her office. One day, Eric Smith spotted her. They became friends. It was Eric who made the film, "The Queen of Lincoln Road."

Williams at home with her hats.

Barbara Hulanicki and her husband were at first enormously successful in London. Her little, inexpensive gingham dress caught on, and the business went from a small shop to the grand Bibi in Kensington, successful until partners ruined it. Hulanicki walked away, worked in Brazil, came to Miami, where for the first time, without any experience, she designed interiors, among them the lobby of the Marlin Hotel. I wish I had a picture of that lobby with its polished metal design and metal bar. I would take friends to see it, the lobby, and the women's room tiled in bright colors. Sadly it's been changed. Barbara wore black to yesterday's screening.

A page from the Bibi catalog.

Two of the volunteers from SAVE Dade, an organization founded "to protect gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation," welcomed us at the door. All the volunteers wore the SAVE Dade tee shirt with the bright red equal sign.

There were contrasting looks at the Wolfsonian: Williams in bright colors, Hulanicki in black, SAVE Dade in boldly lettered graphics: red, white, and blue.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post, Mim. I found some pictures yesterday, but this is fantastic. The trailer to the movie about Irene Williams can be seen at you tube.
    You should share this with Ari, from the advanced style, I'm sure he would love it!
    I admire the self-confidence and think Irene Williams is just amazing in her creating-style.

  2. ps...there is a link to the trailer hidden in my comment, whoever is interested...

  3. Smilla: It was a fascinating program! I will e-mail a link to Ari, whose blog I follow.

    Yours for Stil,

  4. Oh, Mim, role models for me....
    so, what do you think about me moving to South Beach? It sounds like paradise, better than Boston.....
    I hope it's above freezing....
    this was a lovely post...

  5. Melissa, I think you would love South Beach.


  6. Lovely post. I would like to see some of those hats up close!

  7. I love Irene. I want to be her when I grow up.
    Thank you for this glimpse. Wonderful. Beautiful. Such wicked and gracious goodness.

  8. A fascinating post, here Mim, of people with whom I'm not familiar, but the philosophy behind their work and their work itself seems wonderful.
    there is something about these creative and revolutionary people sticking to their guns. Thanks for telling us about it.

  9. So glad you liked the post. Irene Williams said she never worked with a pattern and had not sewed until she began making clothes when she moved to Florida. She made one of her hats out of a green plush toilet seat cover.