Renowned as the heart of the UK’s fashion industry in the 1960s, Carnaby Street’s origins go back to a mansion built here known as Karnaby House (with a ‘k’, although the street always apparently started with a ‘c’).
The house was built in 1683 although who it was built for remains something of a mystery. It was apparently was demolished within 50 years or so when the east side of the street, which had been laid out in the late 1600s, was recorded as the site of a series of “pest” (plague) houses.
The street was later home an abbatoir and while tailors had moved in during the late 19th century, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that it began to attract a reputation for fashion, becoming the epicentre of Swinging London during the 1960s.
Boutiques included John Stephen’s pioneering men’s boutique His Clothes – which attracted high profile customers including members of The Small Faces, The Rolling Stones and The Who – as well as Lady Jane, Lord John, and the wonderfully named I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet.
The street – which was pedestrianised in 1973 – is still home to a large number of fashion boutiques. It’s numerous pop-culture references include its appearance in U2’s video for the 1992 song Even Better Than The Real Thing and it being named as the location of the flat of ‘spy’ Austin Powers. In recent years it’s also has its own stage show: Carnaby Street: The Musical.
For more on Carnaby Street today, check out www.carnaby.co.uk.