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'Carnaby Street' is the second of a pair of Sixties City articles that examine the birthplace of the 'Swinging Sixties'. Read the first article here: Soho - The Beating Heart of Swinging Sixties London

A graphic map of the Carnaby Street shop and boutique layout in the Sixties

A Brief History of the Area . . . . . . .

Less than 200 yards in length, and lying within the Soho area of London, Carnaby Street is thought to have originally been laid-out in 1685 or 1686, as it first appears in rate books in 1687. Around 1590, two adjoining fields came into the leasehold possession of Thomas Poultney (Pulteney) in an area that became known as Six Acre Close. A small adjoining area was rented by the Earl of Craven as a site for 'pest houses' and a burial ground during the Great Plague of 1665, giving name to the street called 'Pesthouse Close'. Having obtained an extension to the freehold, following the Great Fire in 1666, Sir William Poultney granted building leases to William Lowndes and Richard Tyler. Tyler, a bricklayer by trade, constructed a building called Karnaby House in 1683, from which the street to the west of it derives its name, although exactly when and why the 'K' was changed to a 'C' is not known. This land remained part of the Poultney estate until around 1692/3 when it was divided up and sold to pay the debts of Sir William Poultney after his death in 1691 and the part including Carnaby Street was fully acquired by William Lowndes.

Carnaby Street, at that time, was populated by small houses and buildings (one of which was a girls' charity school that later moved to Boyle Street and is now The Burlington School, Shepherd's Bush) until the area was redeveloped in the mid 1720s. A few buildings from this period can still be seen at 10/12 Ganton Street, 17 Newburgh Street and 7/8 Kingly Street. Lowndes obtained permission to develop the area in June 1725 and, following agreements reached between the owners of various bits of adjoining land, including the Earl of Craven, major rebuilding took place. This included a large market area (called Lowndes Market) that covered the location now occupied by Newburgh Street.

The market house itself sat on the land that is now Lowndes Court and Marlborough Court and, when it was enlarged in the 1730s, the area became known as Carnaby Market. The market, having survived for a century, finally closed in 1820 and the area within Foubert's Place (originally Foubert's Passage and Tyler Street), Marshall Street, Ganton Street (originally Cross Street) and Carnaby Street was redeveloped, although many of the buildings from that period do still exist. Despite these improvements Carnaby Street never fulfilled its potential in acquiring the status of being a fashionable area to live so, by 1820, most of the buildings had become commercially occupied. Morrell's Stores became established in Carnaby Street around the turn of the 19th/20th century, purveying domestic items ranging from pots and pans to paint and candles. By the 1920s it was supplying a whole range of goods to large retailers and companies in the West End. When, in the 'swinging sixties', the nature of Carnaby Street changed and it became the place to be seen buying and wearing the latest fashions, Morrell's relocated to Mortimer Street, W1.

The modern character of the street is generally accepted to date from when its first jazz club was opened there in the 1930s. Amy Ashwood Garvey (nee Ashwood), who was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, in 1897, became one of the founding members of the Universal Negro Improvement Association when she met Marcus Garvey, becoming his first wife in 1919. Following the ending of their marriage in 1922, she travelled the world and, in 1934/5, ended up in London where, with musician and composer Sam Manning, she founded The Florence Mills Social Parlour (named after the Harlem jazz queen who had died in 1927) in Carnaby Street. This quickly developed into a jazz 'club' and was a popular gathering place for people of Caribbean origin and supporters of Pan-Africanism.

There appear to have been a number of public houses in the street at various times. Records dating from the mid 1800s record landlords as running The Bulls Head at 44, (1841 - 1900), The Harp at 52, (1848 - 1938), The Castle at 24, (1856 - 1900), The Ship at 13, (1856 - 1885) and The Coach & Horses at 43, (1856 - 1945).
Some texts reminisce that there were a couple of old fashioned pubs there in 1967, but it is unclear as to whether they were actually in the street itself, as there were (and still are) a number of establishments very nearby that were popular during the period, notably The Grapes pub, a timbered building on the corner of Gt. Marlborough Street that now forms part of Liberty's department store.
A significant part of Carnaby Street at the Beak Street end was occupied by a large building owned by the St.James and Pall Mall Electric Lighting Co. Ltd, a building which was closed down in 1922 during the formation of the London Electric Joint Committee between 1920 and 1923 and remained unoccupied for many years, adding to the run-down appearance of the area. This was exacerbated by the war which saw the area occupied by 52-55 become a bomb site which was not redeveloped until the early Sixties. Some original address numbers seem to have been lost in the period leading into the Sixties, with properties being confusingly sub-divided. Numbers 17 to 20 don't appear to exist by the Sixties and 31 has also disappeared, although the latter is probably due to the Northern end of Carnaby Street being redesignated as Gt. Marlborough Street as the area opened out. I'd be interested if anyone has information regarding 17 to 20 (where Carnaby intersects with Ganton on the east side).

Bill Green - 'Vince Man's Shop'

In the 1940s, Bill Green was a local photographer who specialised in artistic images of 'muscle men' and male wrestlers. His models wore fairly revealing (for the time) homo-erotic garments that were mainly designed by himself due to the lack of availability of commercial items. He decided to develop this business and by 1950 was selling them through mail-order catalogues appealing mainly to the gay community. Following European trips in the early Fifties he expanded his portfolio to include the 'existentialist' look that was popular in France and Italy and was the first to introduce British men to 'Beatnik'-style fashions.

With the continued success of his mail-order business, and aware of its popularity with the gay community, he opened Vince Man's Shop in 1954. The establishment was located in Newburgh Street, an intelligent business decision as this was right at the heart of London's gay community and very close to Marshall Street Public Baths which was a well-known and popular meeting area for gay men. One of the earliest advertisements featured a muscular Sean Connery in a 'matelot' vest and skin-tight jeans.

His colourful and unconventional designs, which included velvet and silk materials and pre-faded denim, quickly widened its appeal by attracting younger members of the Bohemian and Thespian fraternities who frequented the West End of London. The window displays were provocative for the time, often featuring mannequins wearing outrageous fashions including briefs and pink hipster-style slacks, and his wide range of clientele included the likes of George Melly, Peter Sellers, Sean Connery, Pablo Picasso and even the King of Denmark!

The fashions in the establishment were not cheap, and were generally out of the normal price range of ordinary teenagers, but this brought a certain 'respectability' to the informality and flamboyance of new styles and were certainly one of the catalysts in the major changes that were to take place in the fashions appealing to young males in the Sixties. As the decade progressed, and 'boutiques' started providing a progressively fast-moving outlet for cheap fashion clothing, Vince's came under increasing financial pressure and the establishment was forced to move to a less expensive location in North London. Bill Green closed the shop for good in 1969, subsequently becoming the manager of a Soho restaurant.

John Stephen - 'The King of Carnaby Street'

The meteoric rise and success of fashion boutiques, particularly in Carnaby Street, is almost entirely due to the vision of one man, who actually learned much of what he knew about the business while working for Bill Green in Vince Man's Shop during the Fifties - John Stephen. The sixth of nine children, John Stephen was born in Glasgow on August 28th 1934. On moving to London at the age of 18 he found a job in the military department at Moss Bros in Covent Garden where he acquired his training in traditional tailoring. In the 1950's he imported the first Levi jeans to Britain - five guineas (£5.25) a pair and had to be shrunk to fit - just one of the entrepreneurial activities that led to him being able to buy his first Rolls Royce in his early twenties.

Stephen was, himself, a homosexual but much more in touch with the main-line youth fashion ideals and the possibilities of the 'mass market' than Green. In 1956 he opened his own fashion retail outlet, in partnership with 'boyfriend' Bill Franks, at 19 Beak Street (originally Silver Street), but a fire in 1957 forced them to move premises to a narrow, fairly nondescript road behind The London Palladium, at 5 Carnaby Street. In 1958, Carnaby Street was pretty run-down, occupied by only a few shops, a tobacconists and a sizeable Central Electricity Board building. Within six short years it was to see the changes that would transform it into the Capital's centre of fashion.
'His Clothes' was painted bright yellow, pumped out pop music and sold a wide variety of short-run clothing designs, many emulating or incorporating the styles currently popular with the youth of european countries such as Italy who were, at that time, perceived to be at the forefront of stylish fashion.

The Mods, among which there was a strong Jewish element and, therefore, a familial interest in clothing, had previously bought from tailors in East and South London who, being used to supplying the Edwardian fashion requirements of the earlier Teddy Boy culture, could create suits and clothing from drawings that they supplied.
All Mod groups had their leaders, or 'Faces', who generally dictated the style and fashion of the group. One of the more well-known 'Faces' was Mark Feld (who was later to achieve fame as Marc Bolan with T.Rex) who regularly shopped at 'His Clothes' (other popular early Mod labels were John Michael and Harry Fenton).

John Stephen's early fashion designs were very much influenced by what had been found to be successful at Vince's and included hipster trousers, multi-coloured denim, coloured tab-collar shirts in shades such as peacock blue, foggy-gray or pink, and he even adopted a similar approach to advertising as Bill Green with the use of drawings of musclemen and informally dressed 'macho' models looking like James Dean and similar.

In 1959 he opened a third boutique at 49/51 Carnaby Street and, as other premises became available, John Stephen's 'empire' of boutiques in Carnaby Street expanded with outlets that included 'Mod Male', 'Domino Male' and 'Male W1'.

Two of the three crucial elements in Stephen's phenomenal success were originality of style and the brand 'placement' and visibility resulting from the fact that his fashions were worn by the music idols of the time for whom Stephen's boutiques were an essential shopping location. Right at the beginning of the decade Billy Fury and Cliff Richard were already regular customers. Decca recording artist Neil Christian and boxer Billy Walker were among the celebrities modelling for him in 1962 and, by the mid-late Sixties, his clientele read like a who's who of the London and UK pop scene, including the likes of Tommy Bruce, The Kinks, The Pretty Things, The Who, Barry Gibb, The Rolling Stones, The Small Faces and, of course, The Beatles.

The third element was the relative affordability of 'high throughput' fashion to the masses. His jackets were generally priced between £7 and £10, with trousers and shirts at £3 to £5, when the average wage of a teenager in the early 1960's was about £16 a week.
British rock author and journalist Nik Cohn was to write
" Every time you walked past a John Stephen window there was something new and loud in it, and when you counted out your money, you found you could afford it". English jazz singer, writer and critic George Melly commented "It didn't matter how quickly everything fell to bits. The clothes weren't meant to last, but to dazzle. Their shops, blaring pop music and the vying with each other for the campest window and decor, spread the length of Carnaby Street and its environs".

Carnaby Street was the location for several movies and television shows in the Sixties. A Liberace TV spectacular was filmed in John Stephen's Teen Store and Petula Clark was filmed performing a song in the 'Man's Shop'. The same year, 1964, saw the introduction of the "John Stephen Fashion Award" for 'The best dressed man'. Stephen had also expanded his business geographically, acquiring locations in King's Road, Old Compton Street, Great Poultney Street, Regent Street, Kensington, Loughton, Brighton and started a clothing manufacturing facility in Glasgow before setting his sights beyond Britain. He opened 'The John Stephen Shop' in Minneapolis, USA, in1965 and also operated franchises that included not only other locations in America, but in Rome, the Italian island of Ischia, Oslo and even the U.S.S.R.

By late 1966, John Stephen owned at least fourteen boutiques on Carnaby Street (reports on the actual number vary), as well as branches on Regent Street and in Brighton and Loughton. Apart from his boutiques for men, such as 'His Clothes', 'Mod Male', 'Domino Male', Male W1' and 'Adam West One' he also owned unisex boutiques called 'His'n'Hers' and 'His, Hers & Theirs' (His & Her Clothes and Their Records), an outlet for female fashions called 'Tre Camp' and his own tailoring manufacturing shop. In 1966 you could buy a suit from John Stephen for 37guineas (£38.85) and a gold lame leather jacket for 50guineas (£52.50).

'The King of Carnaby Street' enjoyed all the usual extravagant trappings of young entrepreneurs of the time, including homes in Cannes and Marbella, and he owned a white German Shepherd dog called Prince who accompanied him to night clubs as well as being allowed into the fashionable restaurants of the time like The Ivy or Mirabelle who didn't normally cater for animals.

In 1967, he began designing women's clothing as well, his fashions adorning celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Dusty Springfield and Sandie Shaw. 1968 saw the opening of a Carnaby Street Scottish Highland Shop, complete with a Scotch and Soda Bar, where customers could enjoy a drop of the good stuff while being fitted for a mini-kilt. His was the first of the fashion companies to link itself to football and its advertising banners appeared in Mexico during the 1970 World Cup, but by this time the British high street had caught up with his sales revolution, slowly reducing Carnaby Street to a tourist attraction for visitors wanting to see the site of the former fashion Mecca. Stephen had already recognised this change and moved into wholesale, opening a factory in Glasgow that employed nearly 100 people.

His company was publicly floated in 1972, but within three years it was struggling financially and he sold both it and the rights to his name in 1975, when his extensive fashion archive of records that he had kept meticulously over the years was donated to the Victoria & Albert Museum. After another takeover in 1986, the company finally ceased to exist. Stephen re-invented himself as 'Francisco-M', selling more exclusive menswear in outlets situated in locations such as Bond Street.

John Stephen died on February 1st 2004. In his last interview, published in Paul Gorman's fashion history 'The Look', Stephen commented on his career: "I was the same age and into pop music, so I gave kids something they could wear to complement that. There was nobody else around doing what I was doing, so I had it all to myself for a long time. Once others started coming through, all they could do was copy me."

He was known both as "The Modfather" and "The King of Carnaby Street," and his life and achievements are celebrated in many books, the best of which are probably the well-illustrated 'Boutique London', a history of Carnaby Street called 'Carnaby Street: 1960-2010' and an excellent biography entitled 'The King of Carnaby Street'.

Don Arden

There are two Westminster City Council green plaques on Carnaby Street: the first is dedicated to fashion entrepreneur John Stephen, who was responsible for beginning the Mod fashion revolution here, and can be found at 1 Carnaby Street, close to the site of 'His Clothes', which he opened in 1957. The second plaque is located at 52/55 Carnaby Street and is dedicated to the Mod pop group The Small Faces and their manager Don Arden.

Don Arden was the father of Sharon Osbourne (and father-in-law of Ozzy Osbourne). His showbusiness career began in 1939 as a singer and stand-up comic when he was just 13 years old. In 1944 he changed his name from Harry Levy to Don Arden and, after being demobilised from the British Army at the end of World War II, he returned to showbusiness on the variety circuit until 1954 when he decided to become an agent as it was likely to be more profitable. Initially he organised Hebrew folk singing contests, but by the end of the decade he was putting together his own shows, bringing many American rock'n'rollers including Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent to tour Britain.
He launched his career as a manager when he signed up Gene Vincent in 1960. In 1964 he moved into pop group management with the Nashville Teens who had chart hits with "Tobacco Road", "Google Eye" and "Find My Way Back Home".

In 1965, Arden met aspiring pop group The Small Faces in his Carnaby Street office and, seeing their potential immediately, signed them up within half an hour. Small Faces' drummer, Kenney Jones recalls: "You liked him immediately because he was enthusiastic and he talked about what he could do and what he couldn't do and whenever he said - "I'll do this, I'll do that" - he did and it came true".
In 1966, Arden and a squad of 'heavies' turned up at the offices of impresario Robert Stigwood's office to 'teach him a lesson' for attempting to discuss a change of management for The Small Faces. One of the more notorious incidents in the 1960s British pop business ensued when Arden allegedly threatened to throw Stigwood out of the window if he ever interfered in his business again. Years afterwards, the band was never entirely convinced that Arden had paid them everything he owed them!

Regent Sounds StudioTrident Recording Studios
The Swinging Sixties

Because the term "Swinging Sixties" is embedded in our history and language as a description of the decade, a quick analysis of the origin of the expression:

The term "Swinging London" was defined in the 15th April 1966 edition of America's 'Time' magazine that featured a pop art cover and an article which stated: "Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the 'gear' boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other's clothing" Although this article is considered to be the 'birth' of the term, the use of 'swinging' in a fashionable or 'hip' way was already in fairly general use by 1966 and had been since the start of the decade.
Television host Norman Vaughan used the terms 'swinging' and 'dodgy' as catchphrases, most famously while compering the variety show 'Sunday Night at The London Palladium' and in 1965, a year before the Time article, Diana Vreeland (editor of 'Vogue' magazine) is quoted as saying "London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment". In the same year, Roger Miller had a chart hit with a record called 'England Swings' which also used the expression in this context. In the summer of 1966 the term was adopted by the pirate radio station named 'Swinging Radio England'. (Sixties City - Pirate Radio Stations)
The emergence of Carnaby Street as a centre of youth fashions was a vital element in the establishment of 'Swinging' London and a shrine for the youth cultures that were emerging from the post-war years of austerity. In its early, formative years, the mainstream fashions were spearheaded by the Mods, with their love of 'sharp' Italian style suits and footwear, which was so prevalent that the Daily Mail newspaper ran a series of articles in 1963 entitled "How to Look Mod".

For the increasingly popular and high-profile music artists the decision on what to be seen wearing in public and during performances, particularly on 'Ready Steady Go!' the incredibly influential weekly music television programme, was a serious business. Among many others, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beatles, Françoise Hardy and Elton John (who, incidentally, used to make the tea on-set for the RSG presenter, Cathy McGowan) were all frequent visitors to the street, mingling with the public and buying (in some cases initiating) the latest fashions. This, in itself, was one of the unique aspect of Sixties youth culture - there was probably no other time in history where you could stroll along to the shops on a Saturday morning and find yourself shoulder-to shoulder with personalities you had watched on TV, or seen performing at a local venue the previous evening, in a completely informal public environment.

David Canter - 'Cranks'

While David Canter was converting premises in Carnaby Street for the Craft Potters' Association, a nearby vacant bakery came on to the market and he decided to acquire it. At that time in the early Sixties Carnaby Street was, in his words, "… not swinging, but a street of small shops and cafés". His vision resulted in the first 'Cranks' restaurant being opened in Carnaby Street in 1961.

This was a true ground-breaking enterprise as there were very few vegetarian restaurants in the UK at that time. The décor included solid natural oak tables, hand thrown pottery, woven lampshades and seat covers and dark brown quarry tiles with a menu consisting mainly of salads of various sorts that quickly became popular and successful. Cranks was relocated to larger premises in Marshall Street in 1967, at the height of the Swinging Sixties.

Dougie Millings, who tailored for The Beatles, opened his first shop in 1962 at number 63 in the nearby Old Compton Street. The 'Farmer Brown' sandwich bar in Carnaby Street was opened in 1963 by Harry Brown and his son Paul. The street also housed the Roaring Twenties Night Club, run by the West Indian club owner Count Suckle.

Warren, Harold and David Gold - 'Lord John'

Brothers Warren and David Gold opened the first 'Lord John' boutique in 1963 as the craze for the latest fashions, and the competition to supply them, was reaching its peak. The Lord John outlet was a success and was soon expanded into a lucrative chain of boutiques, with Warren Gold adopting the persona of a self-made rag-trade king and achieving some notoriety with his involvement in a series of high-profile court cases initiated by rival John Stephen over ownership of the name 'Lord John'.

Nik Cohn wrote this about him: "When I interviewed him, Gold wore a see-through body shirt over a golden-tanned spare tyre and was not communicative: 'Let's make this fast , young man - I've got a very busy day'."

In 1967 the artistic talents of BEV - Binder, Edwards & Vaughan were commissioned by the Gold brothers to decorate the exterior of the Lord John premises at the corner of Carnaby Street and Ganton Street with a huge, eye-catching psychedelic mural. In combination with a very skillful press advertising campaign, this increased the success of the business considerably.
By 1970, the Gold brothers owned eight boutiques, expanded to thirty over the next few years. As the fashion boutiques came under pressure from the high volume and production levels from high street stores, they pulled out of the retail market. Warren Gold remained in the clothing business, returning to his roots in Petticoat Lane, opening a clothing factory outlet store called Goldrange' in the 'Big Red Building', which he still owns. David Gold owns the Geoffrey Davis shop.

Tom Salter - 'Gear'

Carnaby Street was enough of a phenomenon to be satirised in the 1967 film Smashing Time. One song, entitled 'Carnaby Street', includes the lyrics:
"You'll pay for the gear on display to appear on the scene / It's no good being mean / They'll have your every bean".

A boutique with a difference called 'Gear' opened in 1964. It was owned by Tom Salter, managed by Ian Grey and his wife Ann, and was filled with oddments of Victoriana and the Art Nouveaux era. Posters were becoming ever more popular and Gear offered poster-sized enlargements of Victorian medicine and corset adverts, as well as fashions based on the costumes of the Cockney 'Pearly Kings and Queens'.
It was the location chosen for the party to celebrate the premiere of George Melly's satirical Swinging London film 'Smashing Time' and also for the release of Tom Salter's celebrated book about Carnaby Street that now fetches about £200 a copy.

Mary Quant had started the 'boutique' trend with her 'Bazaar', in Chelsea, but her 'fashion designer' selling style was aimed at a more specific type of customer. Carnaby Street boutiques operated more like factory outlets or market stalls, selling fashionable clothing direct to the teenaged mass market.

Philip Townsend, Photographer:
"You would always see The Beatles and The Rolling Stones wandering around - the Stones had their offices in Regent Street. But we didn't have "celebrities" in those days, we just had interesting people, they didn't have minders and cars following them. You would also see all the models who were always upper-class girls. I was one of the first photographers to get out of the studios and go outside and use real life as a background. The continental magazines loved it."

Danny Benjamin - 'Carnaby Cavern'

Also in 1964, Danny Benjamin opened the 'Carnaby Cavern' in nearby Ganton Street - a legendary Sixties and Seventies boutique that has every right to be considered a major contributor to the Sixties fashion revolution that was taking place in the area, and not just becuase he used to throw fireworks around the street to attract customers.... The image on the right is an iconic picture of 'Carnaby Street fashion' but how many know it is actually staff from Danny's boutique in Ganton Street?
Danny has been kind enough to provide Sixties City with some of his personal memories and anecdotes of the boutique business and the times - fascinating stories and a unique insight into the Sixties fashion scene, which can be viewed here.

Irvine Sellar - 'Mates'

One of the first chains of 'unisex' boutiques in London was 'Mates', founded by Irvine Sellar who, like the Golds, had first encountered the clothing industry via a stall in Petticoat Lane market. He had opened Irvine Sellar Menswear in 1964, but noticed a change in the 'shopping' culture taking place in Carnaby Street, with an increasing number of girls accompanying the boys on their fashion safaris and decided to open a boutique that would sell fashionable clothes, but cater for both sexes. By the age of 32 in 1969, he was the owner of a chain of 24 boutiques and when he sold Mates to a South African group in 1981 he had 90 outlets in the UK.

Nik Cohn wrote about Sellar: "He had his own factory in Neasden, and a house in Brighton, and a very large flat overlooking Marble Arch, impersonal and full of antiques which he paid a friend to choose for him. 'This is one of the biggest flats in London, and I can prove that', he said. 'It has ten rooms, three bathrooms and the furnishings are worth a fortune.' He was not villainous. It would be pleasant to depict the Carnaby Street operators as bloodsuckers, ruthless exploiters, milking innocent kids of their very last dime; but Sellar wasn't like that. 'I'm in business', he said, 'and when you're in business, your personal tastes come second to your profits, or they should do. People try to get at me but I'm not a monster, I'm a human being, like everyone else".

Elizabeth Sellar recalls the times:
"We moved to the area in 1964. In those days Carnaby Street had a greengrocers, a grocers and a laundry. But even then you couldn't believe how buzzing it was. My husband (Irvine) had a menswear shop in Gerrard Street but I remember saying to him: "You've got to have a look at this street, you cannot move in it." He ended up buying the greengrocers, the grocers and the laundry and turned them into Irvine Sellar Menswear. I asked him if I could have the basement of Number 27 for womens wear. We thought of the name 'Mates' because one of my friends worked as a Playmates model.

We simply could not get enough stock - you could sell anything. The French loved these mini-kilts and mini-Shetlands we used to sell. You could have stocked them to the ceiling and they would have sold out. I remember people saying "are these belts or skirts?" because they were so short. We had celebrities coming in all the time but it didn't phase me at all. It wasn't like today, back then a real mixture of people of all ages would come in.

One day Bette Davis came in and said, "Have you got anything for a size 16?" She just filled a bag full of stuff. Another time Nancy, Lady Astor (the first female MP) came in to buy sweaters. On another day you might see President Johnson's daughter there chatting with pop stars. That is how it was. You would see The Rolling Stones or The Monkees or The Beach Boys. They would turn up and buy stuff and tell me: "If you watch Top of the Pops tonight I'll be wearing this shirt." I remember the Stones' Brian Jones coming in quite a bit, always completely gone. The atmosphere was electric, incredible really. My children once asked what it was like but I couldn't quite explain it - it was just there.

We manufactured 80 per cent of our own stock, which we had designed and cut by our own people in the East End and we had our own little factory in Kilburn. Then one day this very handsome 17 year-old boy came in and said: "How would you like to buy some stuff in?" So we ordered five designs from him and had 20 of each in the shop in Carnaby Street and they sold out in half an hour. His name was Richard Caring (now around 100 in Britain's Rich List).

It was a time of incredible freedom, anything could happen. I remember one occasion when Tom Jones was walking down Carnaby Street with a cheetah. It was to publicise a store about to open called Tom Cat. He had just started out at the time. There were no credit cards then and if people really wanted something but couldn't afford it they would do anything to secure it. I remember guys leaving valuables like silver flasks and saying: "You keep this for me, I'll come back with the money." It was such fun."

Harry Fox - 'Lady Jane'

The Carnaby Street area was popular with the proponents and followers of many fashion styles, although by far the biggest market was in Mod and Hippie styles. Many independent fashion boutiques came and went, and it was 'the place to be' for innovative fashion designers.
The street widened its appeal even further when fashions exclusively for women were introduced. 'Lady Jane', the first ladies' fashion boutique in the street and the female equivalent of 'Lord John', opened its doors in 1966. For the first three days it had girls changing in the shop windows which was of great interest to both passers-by and the national press. Henry Moss says 'Then I got arrested. I thought it was for indecency, although the girls were wearing underwear. I was tried at Gt. Marlborough Street Court and fined £2 for obstructing the highway'!

Originally owned by Harry Fox and Henry Moss, they soon went their separate ways and Harry Fox expanded the business by adding 'Lady Jane Again' and 'Lady Jane's Birdcage' womenswear boutiques. Henry Moss opened Sweet Fanny Adams and Pussy Galore (with additional design rooms and offices on the first floor of 52-55), all on Carnaby Street.
Harry Fox also added a tourist souvenir shop and a menswear shop called 'Sir Harry' to his growing chain. 'Lady Jane' was frequently visited by female personalities on trips to the capital, notably Jayne Mansfield who visited amid a huge blaze of publicity.

Ian Fisk, John Paul and Robert Orbach - 'I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet'

'I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet' was originally opened by Ian Fisk and John Paul at 293 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London in 1966 and was a clothing boutique, managed by company director Robert Orbach (who had previously worked for John Stephen in Carnaby Street), famous for selling antique military uniforms as fashion items. Notable among the shop's clientele were Mick Jagger, The Beatles, The Who, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Peter Blake, the designer of the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album cover has suggested that he and Paul McCartney got the idea for the cover picture when they walked past the Portobello Road boutique together.

Orbach reminisces: "After convincing John Paul to make the move to Carnaby Street we found that Warren Gold of Lord John had a free corner shop in Wardour Street, so we rented that. You couldn't get to the famous rock venue the Marquee without passing the shop, so there was good passing trade. We painted all the windows black so people were curious. By then we were selling Union Jack shirts and target T shirts. We started buying plastic jewellery, cheap rings made in Birmingham. Little shirt makers made the Union Jack shirts, we had seamstresses all over the place. It started like that - it was fun, it was simple. The name 'Lord Kitchener's Valet' was thought up by Ian Fisk just because we sold Victoriana. It conjured up images of Edwardian smoking jackets, top hats and canes and Birdcage Walk on Sunday".

The Fisk and Paul partnership split up in the summer of 1967 with Fisk retaining sole ownership of the Portobello establishment, renaming it The Injun Dog Head Shop (subtitled Once I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet). Paul and Orbach opened a new branch of Kitchener's in Foubert's Place, off Carnaby Street, selling militaria and 'Swinging London' novelty goods.

Orbach: "In about 1967 we took over Kleptomania on the King's Road, so we were now operating in both streets. Carnaby Street was really run by working class people. The upper-middle class Cambridge crowd were all in the King's Road and they didn't like us working class heroes. For a while the King's Road did better than Carnaby Street. There were rope barriers down the centre of the shop to direct people towards the cashier. The till was going all day long." The boutique in Carnaby Street closed its doors in 1977 and the Portobello Road outlet eventually became 'Hideout Clothing'. A song recorded by Peter Fenton in 1966 and, also, The New Vaudeville Band, was taken from the name of the shop.

Morrell's Hardware Store was established in Carnaby Street at the turn of the 20th century, selling domestic goods ranging from pots and pans to paint and candles and, latterly, electrical goods. By the 1920s it was supplying large retailers and companies in the West End. When Carnaby Street became a 'fashion centre', Morrell's eventually relocated to Mortimer Street, W1, remaining a family business.
'Merc' was founded by Javid Alavi in 1967 and its presence on Carnaby Street was established to fill the demand for a particular 'look'. It originally stocked brands such as Farrah, Lonsdale and Fred Perry, but later dropped these to concentrate clothing sales on its own brand label. It survived in the street until 2012.

Other establishments occupying Carnaby Street in the 60s included: Paul's Male Boutique, Shoes by Topper, Donis, Detroit Dry Cleaners, Tom Cat, Yvon, Rene Florists, The Bonbonaire cafe, Como's Snacks, Ravel's footwear, Carna B Hive (above the old Roaring Twenties club), Inderwick tobacconists, Kleptomania, Pop, Ranjit Travel, and a few others, tantalising glimpses of which can be caught in the contemporary film clips below.
Some accounts also refer to a Lyons Tea Room, a Bakery and a betting office (Universal Commissions?) which I would be grateful for further information on - and was Finlay's hairdressers and tobacconists in Carnaby Street or one of the cross streets? It was certainly next to a 'Kitchener's Valet' outlet! Also, what was at number 36, next to Morrell's, or did it occupy 36 and 37?

In the very nearby areas there were Foale and Tuffin and Toni Frith's 'Button Queen' in Marlborough Court, Carnaby Cavern, a later Foale and Tuffin and Palisades in Ganton Street and James Galt's toy shop at the Northern end, opposite a second Lord John and the Shakespeare's Head pub.

Since the Sixties . . . . . . .

Harry Fox went on to become president of the 'Carnaby Street Trading Association' (John Stephen was also on the board) and was instrumental in lobbying government to get the sign 'Carnaby Street Welcomes The World' placed across the street and initiating the subsequent paving and pedestrianisation of the area in 1973.

Its importance as a fashion centre subsided, with the main fashion scene moving to the King's Road area of Chelsea, West London, its main Sixties fashion 'rival', with stores such as 'Granny Takes A Trip', 'Mr Freedom', 'Hung On You', Dandie Fashions as well as more 'traditional' boutiques like 'Kensington', 'Biba' and 'Bus Stop'.

Carnaby street declined into a rather tacky and seedy tourist 'ghetto' during the mid to late 1970s, but is today owned by the property company Shaftesbury Estates, which has tried to revive the reputation of the area by keeping out major chain stores. More than 60 per cent of the shops in the local streets today are independent and it has since reinvented itself yet again to become a major tourist attraction, housing a variety of shops while retaining the better quality novelty and memorabilia outlets.

The Carnaby shopping area includes Kingly Street to the east, Marshall Street to the west, Newburgh Street and all the adjoining streets in between. You can still find boutiques and designer stores in Carnaby Street itself, such as Hugo Boss, Miss Sixty, American Apparel, Ben Sherman, Liam Gallagher's Pretty Green fashion outlet, and Merc is still trading, but the real legacy of Sixties Carnaby Street probably lies a bit off to the side in Kingly Court, near the Hugo Boss store, which is now occupied by many small independent boutiques in a three floor complex.

Walking Down Carnaby Street
We're Going To Have A Smashing Time
The History of Carnaby Street
The 60s
Swinging London and Carnaby Street
The 60s
Sixties Fashion, Carnaby Street, London
The 60s

Links to related Sixties City pages are highlighted in the text.

Also see Sixties City Pages: Sixties Fashion, Fads and Design plus the Image Gallery

Listed below are a few of the very many interesting external sites and links you can find elsewhere on the internet.

V&A Interview with Robert Orbach

British History Online - Kingly Street and Carnaby Street

Exploring 20th Century London - Carnaby Street

Boutique London
Richard Lester

Carnaby Street
Tom Salter

The King of Carnaby Street
Jeremy Reed


The Soho Society The Soho Society

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

Back In The Day - London Walks Back In The Day - Guided London Walks

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