A Trip Down King’s Road

A Trip Down King’s Road

"After the war and the austerity years, the means to control how you were seen were newly available to the young.  And so was the ability to distinguish yourself visually from your parents.  From the Teddy Boys in the Fifties to the Mods and Rockers who took over, and on to the mini-skirted dollybirds of the mid-Sixties and the diaphanous hippies of the later Sixties, many more young people than ever before had, for various reasons, enough money to pay for dramatic self-definition.

"If they left school at fifteen without qualifications, they found jobs, lost them, found them again, easily earning money while often still living at home.  At any rate, there was enough surplus after paying the parents for your keep to buy a long, velvet-collared jacket and drainpipes, a sharp Italian-styled suit, a tiny scrap of a frock from Biba, Bus Stop or even, if you saved up, Bazaar, though only the genuinely well-off could afford any of the painted silks and velvets from Granny Takes a Trip.  Even when broke, unemployed and living in a damp bedsitter didn't present an impossible bar to style."

I've been re-reading Jenny Diski's book The Sixties, which dissects the big ideas of the decade in succinct manner.  The chapter on style in particular, extrapolating the idea that what young people wore was a constant rebuke against the previous generations is particular potent and something to keep in mind when watching this series of videos here.  Hopefully, none of you are a stranger to Paul Gorman, cultural journalist, writer and all-round expert and obsessive with the intrinsic relationship between fashion and music in Britain.  He has produced a series of films that reveal the yesteryear of Kings Road in London.  This well-to-do shopping street may be more well known for being a little bit posh-posh-ra-ra today and frankly, isn't a place that I frequent that often due to its homegeneity, but back in the sixties through to the eighties, there were a string of boutiques that showed independent spirit and emphasised the connection between fashion and music at that time in London, something that the Swinging Sixties started but continued on long after.  These establishments represent a side to Kensington and Chelsea that I'm personally obsessed with even though I never experienced it myself.  I only caught the very end of it when the once-vibrant Kensington High Street Market was still around in the late 90s and even then it was on its last legs.

It all kicked off with Mary Quant's Bazaar on 138a Kings Road, quite possibly the first ever independent boutique in the world, which opened in 1955 and heralded the arrival of Quant's mini-skirt to the world.  Then the notable Granny Takes a Trip opened up in 1965 on number 468, with its amazing shop fronts that featured cars crashing through windows and William Morris prints and decadent tight velvet suits.  David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would frequent Dandie Fashions on 161 Kings Road established in 1966, which was actually later acquired by The Beatles to become Apple Tailoring.  More luminaries such as David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton headed to the short-lived Paradise Garage on 430 Kings Road where they sold vintage denim and Hawaiian shirts injecting a bit of tropicana in West London.  The shop later of course became home to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren's SEX, Seditionaries and World's End.  The likes of George Michael, The Specials and The Clash were then fighting it out for what jazzy suits to wear on Top of the Pops at Johnson's The Modern Outfitters on 406 Kings Road.  There was even an eighties Japanese magazine  called London Ni Ikitai (I Want To Go To London) that dedicated pages to stores like Johnson's.  

Wander around Kings Road today and you'll be shocked that any of this went down… 


Leave a comment
  1. thechicmode

    2012-08-08 at 12:05 PM

    ohh so creative!!

  2. JM

    2012-08-08 at 12:27 PM

    I love how the area still feels so in love with its’ past. Amazing how the frontier keeps shifting from West to East – Kings Road in the Sixties, Soho and Covent Garden in the early Nineties, Hoxton and Brick Lane in the Noughties; and now Dalston and Broadway Market. Who knows where it’ll be in another few decades . . .

  3. Serdane

    2012-08-08 at 1:17 PM

    We all want to be different from our parents just because at first we’re not them and secondly because we don’t agree their way of life and all the things around it. Good post.

  4. The Provoker

    2012-08-08 at 1:23 PM

    now that’s what I call a blast from the past! Oh I’m doing my first ever giveaway which is an Alexander McQueen silk-chiffon skull print scarf, check it out.
    xx nathan.niche

  5. Louise

    2012-08-08 at 1:41 PM

    Great post. Most informative. T’is always interesting to find out about fashion, its origin and trendsetters. Really enjoyed reading, it makes a change to the typical everyday stuff.
    louloudaniels@blogspot.co.uk xx

  6. Tara

    2012-08-08 at 2:13 PM

    Again, another really informative post! Although my favourite eras for fashion and style has to be the 20s and 30s – just think of the iconic flapper girls and the debauched luxuries within Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – there is something very potent and engaging about the 60s.
    I like the way that you brought out the relationship between the musical stars of the 60s and the famed, independent boutiques. Especially as now – though the sartorial adventures of today’s musicians are heavily followed, critiqued and lauded – stars rarely tend to stray away from their trusted designers, as a opposed to seeking new talent or stalking the High Street for independent retailers.
    Best Wishes,

  7. Cinja

    2012-08-08 at 2:51 PM

    really inspiring!

  8. sally

    2012-08-08 at 4:53 PM

    What a great article, and what has happened to all those lovely vintage garments.

  9. Emma

    2012-08-08 at 6:56 PM

    great post!
    Lots of love,

  10. ttea

    2012-08-08 at 7:33 PM

    I love reading about the history of fashion, and how it’s shaped, and was shaped, by the world. Every time I go to Chapter’s I head for the fashion an beauty section. A book solely dedicated to the 60’s makes sense because there was so much happening. Even things that wouldn’t necessarily be directly referenced by fashion, there was still a link. From civil rights movements, to rock and roll, fashion is always a visible part of culture and history.

  11. Style This world

    2012-08-09 at 3:14 AM

    Interesting post!
    Welcome to my blog: http://stylethisworld.blogspot.com/
    Big Hug from México!!!

  12. Wee Birdy

    2012-08-09 at 11:34 AM

    Love this post! Can you believe that one of the first places I wanted to check out when I first moved to London was King’s Road?
    I remember trying to maintain some kind of semblance of awe as I walked down the road, taking photos of random Prets that stood on the site of something of cultural significance. *sigh*
    It wasn’t long after I arrived that Steinberg & Tolkien closed its doors. I think that was possibly one of the last good shops on King’s Road.
    p.s. I haven’t commented for aaages but I’m still an avid reader, and you’re doing a superb job, as always. X

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  14. Jonathan Ross

    2013-05-25 at 6:15 PM

    Your background pattern looks just like some wallpaper I had made by a guy with a studio at the top of the Furniture Cave. Does anyone remember him?

  15. laura

    2013-05-26 at 4:54 PM

    Another boutique near Granny Takes A trip and Gandolfs Garden was THE Sweet Shop frequented by Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Julie Christy and many pop groups. They specialized in patchwork and appliqued medieval themed dresses, tabards,cushions and wallhangings. opened 1967 shop in New York 1970.

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