I was a Biba babe

Date
Published in
Sunday - News of the world magazine (UK)
Written by
Fiona Webster

Not everyone's got the fashion flair for flares. But for Kim Wilde, an original Biba youngster in the Seventies, it's child's play.

When it comes to talent, Kim Wilde's family have got most areas covered. If the 32-year-old needs musical inspiration, she turns to Dad, Fifties idol Marty. While her mum Joyce has inspired the sultry singer's latest look - the swinging London style of shopping emporium Biba. For Kim has put aside the sexy leather dresses of old and rediscovered the famous store of the Sixties and Seventies, where Joyce used to take Kim as a youngster.
"Mum was a keen Biba shopper and my brother Ricky and I loved going with her when I was about 13 or 14. Now I'm wearing the same sort of clothes I watched her buy. In fact, I wore them, too, because Biba had a kid's section which Mum used to choose things from for us. I wish I'd kept them, they're probably worth a fortune now. But we didn't realise then we were part of a mini-fashion legend.
"We lived in Hertfordshire so it was a great treat going to Kensington. Biba was so elegant, very Twenties Art Deco and full of glamorous women. I was mortified when the Biba building in Kensington High Street became a Marks & Spencer. I remember writing it in my diary", she says about the shop which closed for ever in 1975.
"I searched our Mum's old Biba stuff in the attic, but the trouble is her gear is size 8. Though I've bought a lovely Biba-style chiffon dress."
Kim reckons she was an ugly chickling in Biba's heyday. But now the look is back, she can wear the styles that didn't suit her teenage awkwardness. "When I was 13, I was 5ft 6in and my feet were size 6. At my school, you were thought pretty if you were petite with small feet and long hair. I had a middle parting, which was the fashion, but my hair was curly and didn't look right.
"I wanted to wear platforms, but thought they made my feet look even bigger. Now I wear them and have started styling my hair in a centre parting again. I used to wear flares, now I go for flared leather jeans. It's a great look and I'm having more fun wearing Sixties and Seventies fashions today then I did at the time."
Despire memories of looking gangly, Kim says that her teens were terrific. "The music was brilliant - the Stylistics, Elton John and Wizzard. Dad played the serious stuff at home, like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, which influenced my music, too.
"I was desperate to look like Lynsey de Paul and my ambition was to dance with Pan's People on Top Of The Pops. And Gary Glitter was my hero. No we're friends after sharing a rehearsal room once. He did his act for me in the dressing room, and it was brilliant."
The new look is a big hit with her boyfriend of seven months, Rupert Kenyon, 22, a psychology student in the University of Buckingham. They met at a disco in the posh French skiing resort of Val d'Isere. "He marched up to me and started singing, "We're the kids of Val d'Isere." I couldn't believe his front", she says about the spoof chorus to her hit Kids In America. "But we're still going strong."
She reckons the 10-year age gap doesn't matter. "It's not a problem. We do have differing tastes, but I don't insist that people I have relationships with have the same tastes as me. And I don't feel the need to be involved with someone in the music biz. I love the industry, but you need a balance in life.
"There's no problem having different friends, either. The trouble is, friends only tell you what they really think after the relationship's over. Then it's, 'Oh, we never liked him.'"
Now Kim thinks she may have got it right. "When you reach your 30s, you're more relaxed about things. In your 20s, you make mistakes because you are so eager to get on with life and you come up against a brick wall. As soon as you stop doing that, it tends to have a natural flow", she explains.
Kim's love life before Rupert was almost like the title of her hit, Chequered Love. She split up with Johnny Hates Jazz star Calvin Hayes after two years in 1991. Car dealer Paul Holmes went the same way earlier this year. And just after she split with Calvin, her career was at a standstill, too.
"I was burned out and put on so much weight. I was drinking too much and working too hard. My record company tried to mould the way I looked, but it wasn't me. Though I have to take the blame, too., I did see a doctor, but it wasn't medical help I needed. I thought, 'It's my problem and I'm going to sort it out.'
"First, there was my health. It was an achievement for me to go the gym once a month. Now I go three times a week. I cut down the the booze and now I never drink during the day, though I might have a beer later. I lost more than a stone. Then I got my work into perspective and moved to the country."
The star moved into a £300,000 converted barn in Hertfordshire in 1992. "When I first moved there, I was a bit lonely and resented the countryside. I used to think, 'I'm a London person.' Pathetic really. But I can't see myself slipping back into my bad old ways because I've got so many safety nets. I've got my house and my family, who I see often."
Her family - dad Marty, 54, mum Joyce, 53, plus her brothers Ricky, 31, Marty, 12, and sister Roxanne, 13 - are vital to Kim. "My brothers and sister are very proud of me, there's no jealousy. And they'll always give me an honest opinion of my work, be it good or bad. I'm close to Mum and Dad, and they're so important to my career."
Kim admits she's even been thinking of starting her own family. "I'd love children and if I had them, I would give 100 per cent. I'd give up work for a while, then gear my schedule around my kids. I wouldn't take them touring, as I don't like the idea of leaving them while I go on stage. But them my parents took us everywhere and it didn't do us any harm."
So does Kim have Rupert in mind for the role of father? "No comment, that's private", she laughs.
Her career, like her personal life, is blooming. She's got an album out in September, her first collection of greatest hits, and is also planning a European tour. "I get such a buzz out of touring. I'll have a drink with the lads after the gig, I'm a real rock 'n' roll babe! But I don't drink as much as I used to when I'm performing.
"Now I'd like to get into other things like managing another act, perhaps interior design. But on a small level, nothing as grand as Biba."