Carnaby Street

Flower Power in Carnaby Street: An Elan in Carnaby Street c 1967/ 69


The Social History series has been created specifically by the A&R to explore how wider social and cultural events and design interacted. In particular it seeks to demonstrate the extent that Lotus designs influenced taste, fashion, identity and impacted on the world stage.

The editor watched the BBC series the “High Street” and recently read the book.

In the book there is an extremely redolent black and white photograph * of Carnaby Street at the height of the “Swinging Sixties”. Physically to the foreground and in popular culture it self is an Elan. [ Reg No. NMY 97E]  [Goggle Carnaby Street and discover this image and explore many related period photographs and details.]

In this article we will examine and evaluate why the Elan had such an impact within the context of the era, the designers and fashions.


Figure 1.Photography by Henry Grant,”Carnaby Street Scene” c 1968 The Museum of London -see book refrence below Swinging Sixties.

Brief description of the Published Photograph.

To help set the scene/ context for article and for those perhaps unable to examine the photograph a brief thumbnail sketch might assist. The picture contains:

  • The deduction is that this black and white photograph was taken between 1967- 1969. Based on evidence of the Elan and known history of Carnaby Street. It’s possibly spring or summer. The hood is down on the sports car and the people are in light clothes .Its a daytime photo. The photograph seems to be looking south from the Oxford Circus end.
  • This is not an “art” contrived or composed photograph but rather authentic.
  • Identified boutiques include John Stephen [34] His’N’Hers, Ravel, Lord John Lady Jane and Irvine Sellars [see details above]
  • Part of the “character is that family business and mixed use still remains i.e. La Carretta [restaurant] Carnaby Signs, Ranjit Travel and Tom Cat
  • The street retains some of the earliest buildings but there is evidence of bomb or fire damage not rebuilt [no.37]
  • The narrow street seems one way and there are double yellow lines
  • There are cars in front of the Elan including a taxi [Reg.No 135 BGJ {4773}] a delivery van and part obscured Mini parked outside John Stephen.
  • There is milieu of people many walking in the road. Its not self evident if it’s a weekday or Saturday.
  • The Granada office building closes of the view to the south end [Beak Street]
  • Union Jack flags are draped across the street
  • At first floor level some properties have window boxes. These may be offices and there may be small flats above.
  • London would be smoke free but the tall houses retain chimneystacks and pots silhouetted against clear sky. The original gas lamps have been up graded.

British Design

Subscribers are invited to view the A&R article on this subject. Its very relevant covering the period 1948-2012.It also contains a detailed bibliography.

Subscribers might also like to see A&R article Lotus Design Decade where we explore in detail a social history of the decade and look at some comparative costs and wages.

Britain and specifically London in 1960’s

Britain experienced a post war baby boom. Children born in 1946 would be tennagers at the start of the decade and in their twenties by the middle period. This was a large demographic consumer base. Furthermore the full employment and relatively high standard of living particularly in London and the south gave youth spending power. Youth had their own values and perhaps the era ushered in “retail therapy”. The TV, media, film and pop music culture had a very strong British connection and emphasis. Much of the industry had its connections/ roots within London. Therefore by combinations London had a metropolis of a high youth population, easy accessible transport, a music industry of original musicians, and the production side, all bound together with a spending power.

In addition many of the most famous Designers emerged from the best London schools of fashion and design.  Retailers responded to the markets.

The decade of the 1960’s was something of a cultural Renaissance. Twenty years after the war the nation was enjoying peace and prosperity. It was also possibly inherently democratic as in the majority could buy in and participate. London was increasingly cosmopolitan and world financial centre. There was a revolution in fashion, music, literature and the arts. The opening up of mass communication allied to the arts movement magnified this explosion. The era was also slightly more hedonistic and permissive in the widest sense. Significantly from a sociological perspective there was the development of feminism and a higher profile male “peacock revolution”

Across Carnaby Street hung a sign that read, “Carnaby Street Welcomes the World”.

In the late 1960’s it’s suggested that Carnaby Street was the second most visited tourist destination after Buckingham Palace.

Simply expressed there was a youth market, youth spend and youth fashion.

It catered in turn for the mods and hippies.

This was the essence of the “Swinging Sixties”


Gear Guide

In this article we are looking in detail at Carnaby Street and fashion. The designers of this era competed to outdo each other with original and outrageous ideas increasingly flamboyant and innovative garments and accessories etc. The designers most identified with and directly involved are:

Carnaby 2

Carnaby 3

Figure 2. from the net:Carnaby Street c 1967 [ see ref below :”The British Invasion]

Street Name No. Boutique Name
Carnaby Street 5 to 7 The Village store
9 Topper
23 Donis
25 Mates
27 Irvine Sellars
28 Tomcat
29 Lady Jane
35 Gear
38 Male W1
39 Paul’s Male Boutique
41 His Clothes
43 Lord John
45 Topper
46 Trecamp
49 John Stephen’s Man’s Shop
52 to 55 John Stephen
Marlborough Court 1 Foale & Tuffin
5 The Button Queen
Marlborough Street 27 to 28 Carnaby Hall
Great Marlborough Street 34 Take Six
Newburgh Street 15 Vince
Ganton Street 12 Hat Gear
26 Palisades
Fouberts Place 15 I was Lord Kitcheners Valet
Kings Road 36 Men
84 Fifth Avenue
97 John Stephen
106 John Michael
122 Michael’s Man Boutique
135A Top Gear & Countdown
138 Bazaar
161 Dandie Fashions
170 Guy
201 His clothes
253 Chelsea Antiques market
341 Simon Shop
342 Gloryhole Boutique
414 Susan Locke
430 4.3
488 Granny Takes a Trip
Tryon Street 9 Just Men
Radnor Walk 47 The Shop

Foal &Tuffin                         Marion Foal & Sally Tuffin] both women were Royal College of Art trained. Designed “fun clothes” and had a shop in Carnaby Street. David Bailey might have featured designs that appeared in Vogue c 1962?

John Stephen                     [John Stephen] possibly one of the most significant figures of the 60’s.considered the “King of Carnaby Street”. He introduced young menswear and a high turnover of disposable fashion. Carnaby is My creation” was his claim. Its believed he may have had [remises in Carnaby Street from 1957/58 possibly starting with “His Clothes” The A-Z of London suggests he owned 10 shops in the street and 14 John Stephen boutiques for men too.

Jean Muir                              Started at Liberty and Jaeger c 1956.Between 1962-66 she developed her own brand known as Jane & Jane. Her designs were fluid timeless often-made in jersey or sued.

John Bates                          Started with Jean Varon in early 60’s. He is considered one of the decade’s most audacious designers. Attributed to him are brief mini skirts, trouser suits, cat suits, broderie-anglaise eveningwear etc. In the 70’s he moved onto long maxi coats and fluid evening dresses. Perhaps his greatest achievement is associated with the fashion he created for Diana Rigg in the “Avengers”. [See A&R article.]

Peter Blake                          Designed the Sergeant Pepper sleeve in 1967 and it’s believed that inspiration might have partly come from “I was Lord Kitcheners Valet” shop in Portobello Road whilst visiting with Paul McCartney.

Detailed Case Histories

Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark and Cecelia Birtwell are considered to have produced some of the most innovative styles of the sixties. They were at their peak 1965-74.They were based in a Boutique named Quorum in the Kings Road. It’s believed they may have had clients such as Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, the Beatles and Liza Minnelli. They new David Hockney who famously painted the couple.

Their designs included hot pants, maxi coats, gypsy style dresses, short zipped leather motor cycle jackets with wide collars and through the 1970’s long dresses with wrap round deep necklines and small waist.

Zandra Rhodes

Royal College of Art trained. Her designs from 1960 included chiffon scarves, caftans dresses with handkerchief hems, hand printed fabric and floating garments in silk or chiffon. In the 70’s she reintroduced a crinoline look referred to as “Conceptual Chic” she is also renown for clothes in Art Deco style with zigzag motifs in pale delicate colours.

Mary Quant

Mary Quant is an icon and very much an epitome of the 60’s along with her husband Alexander Plunkett-Greene. She trained at Goldsmiths College.

She is believed to have said “ good taste is death; vulgarity is life”

She was both influential and a visionary. She could vary between novelty and experimentation. Giving youth culture the trendiest, fun and fantasy it craved through its disposable income. She very much established the “London Look” associated with and instrumental in the creation of the pop culture of the Swinging Sixties. It was a mixture of arrogance, aggression and sexiness. She catered for young hip customers. Her designs revolutionized the youth/ teenage market in that they were inexpensive, and classless.

Although London based she was developing an International following.

She was a wonderful advertisement for her own designs.

She is identified with the designs of miniskirts, hot pants, and white lace up plastic boots. PVC plastic wet look rain coats, and the “Lolita” look slip dress, short pinafore dresses, skinny rib sweaters, coloured tights, hipster belts, sleeveless crochet tops and hats. Quant produced a makeup set known as  “Paint box”. [Smokey eyes and bob haircuts]. Later in her career she found further success with “Daisy” logo for cosmetics, shoes and footwear, household furnishings and men’s ties

From the early / mid 1950’s she opened Markham House as boutique and restaurant later followed by Bazaar in 1955? In the Kings Road. She started to create the Chelsea Set. This was followed in the early 60’s with a range of household goods

In c 1963 she was involved with the Ginger Group

[* see A&R review of Mary Quant’s autobiography]

Barbara Hulanicki

With Stephen Fitz –Simon founded Biba

The couple started with mail order and progressed to a boutique. Barbara had worked as an illustrator, having studied at the Brighton School of Art. With the fashion industry booming she started designing clothes for teenagers but would be in their price range too.she st up mail order which was successful .This resulted in her opening Biba in Abingdon Road in 1963.Later she opened her famous department store in Kensington High Street in 1969.

The Biba shop’s ambience was part inspired by Art Nouveau and the 1930’s. Overall decadent, stylish and lavish. It had an  all-black décor.It also became a tourist attraction.They are noted for their clothes range that included velvet trousers suits, mini skirts, unisex tee-shirts, floppy hats and feather boa’s.

Terrance Conran:

In his early career traveled in France picking up ideas. Back in London he helped establish the restaurant “Soup Kitchen” in 1955 assisted Mary Quant with her Bazaar boutique.

Its believed he opened Habitat in 1964.Expansion followed and branches were opened in Paris and New York.

Early habitat is remembered for its glossy mail order catalogue targeting young relatively high income couples. The formulae involved quality products immediately available and self-assembly. Habitat suffered a crisis in the 80’s.However Sir Terrence Conran has sponsored good British design and contributed to the establishment of the Design Museum.

Entrepreneurs and Related of the Era

Harry Fox and Henry Moss: “Lady Jane”

C 1966 First ladies boutique and equivalent of Lord John. Based in Carnaby Street sold kaftans with bells sown in. Harry fox was president of the Carnaby Street Trading Association and is attributed with getting the sign erected which read, “Carnaby Street Welcomes the World”

David and Warren Gold: ”Lord John”

Opened in 1964 and famous for the pyscadellic mural painted on their Carnaby street premises in 1967.

Ian Fisk, Robert Orbach & John Paul:” I was Lord Kitcheners Valet”

Based in period at 293 Portobello Road, selling antique military uniforms. It has been suggested the premises were inspiration to Peter Blake and Paul McCartney for the Sergeant Pepper album cover.

Tommy Roberts and Trevor Myles: “Kleptomania”

c 1966 shop in Kingly Street that runs parallel with Carnaby Street and Wardour Street. Specialized in Victoriana and Military wear.


Established in Carnaby Street c 1967 catered for the mod look. Characterized by razor sharp cur, attention to detail and immaculate finish.

Irvine Sellars:”Mates”

Typically flower power flares.


Shoe shop

Sidney Brent:” Take Six”

Based in Carnaby Street c 1964-72. Supplied showbiz clientele. Typically long frock coats with “Highwayman” collar.

Tom Slater: “Gear”

C1964 specialized in Victorian bric-a-brac.

Carnaby Street and Boutiques.

Boutique is French for shop. It was adopted in Britain in the 1960’s significantly in London. Its association is with elite, fashionable clothing and jewelry.

In 1960’s London the greatest concentrations of boutiques were in Carnaby Street, Kings Road and possibly Portobello Road. Some of the earliest might date from the late 1950’s. E.g. “His Clothes” by John Stephen.

Carnaby Street is situated behind the London Palladium. It is also close to Oxford [Oxford Circus] and Regent Street. There are a gaggle of similar roads adjacent like Great Marlborough Street and Beak Street.

This western end of Soho was developed around the late 1600’s and comprised tall terraced houses of London stock in the Georgian style. [And it was the ground floors predominantly that formed the boutiques in the 1960’s] local shops [some continuing into the 1960’s workshops and restaurants. The upper floors make have been living quarters for the shop owners .Its believed there was a small market in the street around 1820. The street is narrow originality just sufficient for a horse and cart.

It offered run down cheaply rented accommodation.

Certainly Soho had an established entertainment industry and in streets surrounding Carnaby Street there was The Florence Mills Social Club [jazz] from the 1930’s and Marquee Club in Wardour Street and the Roaring Twenties Night club nearby.

The street also saw the introduction of one of the cities earliest health food shop’s “Cranks”

Boutiques success was based on:

  • Small young businesses
  • Adaptability and speed response; close to or making trends
  • Operating costs low.” Up back streets” with low rents, and other overheads. Ambience suited to small more intimate interior that did not require large fronts or display windows.
  • The proprietor likely to be owner, designer, manufacturer buyer and sales assistant. Perhaps making fashion on the premises.
  • Publicity and sales by word of mouth
  • Place to be seen. Total experience and possibility of rubbing shoulders with celebrities [see below]
  • Informality and relationship between owner and customers; sharing so much in common i.e. age, taste, music, cultural values etc.
  • Pop music played within
  • The London “phenomena” sheer concentration, the crucible and engine. The physical proximity. A culture of for and by youth.
  • Impact of TV programs such as Top of the Pops and radio etc.
  • Low tech slightly improved version of market stall?

It’s an inevitable socio-economic phenomenon that Carnaby Street should blaze onto the world seen briefly. The landlords caught up, rents were increased. It was pedestrianised in 1973 and many other buildings nearly three hundred years old would be unsympathetically demolished and redeveloped. The boutiques relocated as is the constant economic migration and Carnaby Street would lose much of its ambience as only the “chains” that moved in could afford the rents. Today it trades on its historical connections and the modern equivalents moved to parts of East London typically Brick Lane.

Relative and Comparative  location and Costs

B’Name St.No Address Item Price Proprietor
Count Down 137 Kings Road 2-60gns J.Wedge &
/ Pat Booth
Quorum 52 Radnor Walk Underwear £1-3 Alice Pollock
/ clothes £3-30
Susan Locke 414 Kings Road Shirts £3 Susan Locke
Trouser Suits £20
Unique 56B Kings Road Dresses 3-15gns Eric Shemilt
VanessaFrye 6F Sloan Street £2-10-£35 V.Denza
Source “King’s Road” by Max Decharne c 1967
Same source quotes 1 once of hash costing £8
Comparative costs c.1975
House £11,700
Chelsea, London Bed/br £9.75 per week
New LP record £2 average
T shirt £1.50-£2
Pair of Jeans £6
Ticket to Hammersmith
Oden £2 average
show at Marquee,London £0.75p
Mary Quant rain shoes
“Quant afoot” £8 Acrme Attractions
As quoted in King’s Road by Max Decharne

The Names and Celebrities of the 1960’s associated with Carnaby Street

  • Sly and Family Stone
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Shirley Bassey
  • Julie Christie
  • Dusty Springfield
  • Sammy Davis
  • The Animals
  • George Fame
  • Cat Stevens
  • Martha and the Vandellia’s
  • Peter Noone and Herman and the Hermits
  • Donavan
  • Joan Collins
  • Jane Mansfield
  • Roger Daltry /The Who
  • Twiggy
  • Cathy McCowan
  • John Lennon /Paul McCartney, The Beatles
  • Eric Clapton
  • The Kinks
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The New Faces

Cars of the Decade

Italian Super cars of the 1960’s were particularly aesthetically beautiful combining power, form and function in near prefect articulation. British hand made cars of the era were well engineered and beautifully crafted like:

  • C.
  • Bristol
  • Aston Martin
  • Alvis
  • Frazer Nash
  • Lagonda
  • Morgan

Other mass-produced British road cars tended to be rather bland. However the list below highlights the most significant models. Each in its way was democratic [their affordability meant they could be sold in mass market and to younger audience] they also were radical and possessed high levels of design ingenuity and complex engineering problem solving. Possibly for the first time they were unisex and genuine fun. This might be overlooked but was extremely important to the era .It contributed to equality. In the case of the Elan it decisively removed the exclusive male identification with the sports car. The smaller cars were also green and economical and are iconic and a bench mark. Sixty years on they have not been improved upon in many respects and continue to provide inspiration.

All of the cars mentioned entered the public psyche as they featured in TV programmes and therefore had worldwide exposure. They were cosmopolitan and sold to international markets. They became part of the cultural landmark and near obligatory backdrops at the highest level of fashion. They were British and directly helped sell Britain abroad.

Lotus and the Mini [through Rally] were also known on the World Competition stage.

  • The Elan
  • The Seven
  • The Europa
  • Jaguar E Type
  • The Mini and Mini Moke
  • Jensen FF

The Significance of the Elan and the Avengers.

There are not many drama programmes that are so redolent, representative, quintessential or emphatic of an era as “The Avengers”

It stuck a very precise note and sociological observation of the time. It exactly counterpoised and juxtaposed tradition and modernism. In particular it reflected the feminism and emergence of capable women like the designers mentioned.  The symbolism was heightened and accentuated by the casting and roles. The character John Steed represented the old school English Gentleman and Mrs. Peel the very emancipated and thoroughly modern woman.

Their characters were further polarized through the choice of fashion. John Steed deferring to Saville Row and Mrs. Peel, Carnaby Street and the designs of John Bates.

The final visual and technological allegiance was set through their respective cars. John Steed the Bentley and Mr. Peel the Elan.

We might question what other vehicle Mrs. Peel might have adopted to complement her style. The options might include:

  • Elva Courier
  • M.G./ Austin Healey Sprite/Midget
  • M.G.B
  • Sunbeam Alpine
  • Triumph Spitfire
  • Fairthorpe
  • Turner
  • TVR

The editor feels that none of these really matched as perfectly or symbolically as the Elan. The reason are contained in the specification of the Elan:

  • Sleek smooth, compact functional but elegantly integrated body. Compact dimensions. Ideally suited to London roads, traffic and parking but also unbeatable on A roads beyond the city.
  • Attractive rounded streamlined shape with functional/ futuristic but aesthetic pop up headlamps .Low set radiator. Moulded in bumpers adding function, practicality and fine flowing integration of form and function.
  • Overall sculpture and architecture sporting and purposeful, modern but not aggressive or excessively male.
  • Practical disc wheels and 4-wheel disc brake.
  • Wide doors
  • Boot and general internal storage and “packaging”
  • Purposeful hood and convenience [English weather]
  • Mystique and brand identify i.e. British success at F1
  • Technically advanced lightweight car weighing estimated 1500 lbs.
  • Practical and powerful sophisticated 1558cc Ford Lotus twin cam engine.
  • 4 wheel independent suspension.
  • British made at Cheshunt [just outside Greater London boundary]
  • Good comfortable adjustable seating with all-round visibility
  • Dealer network
  • Exceptional ultra responsive balanced, safe predictable handling capable of demolishing more expensive, more powerful and more established marques. Simple a dragon slayer.
  • Launched in 1962/63 [1962 Earls Court Motor Show] by the time adopted in the Avengers it had already established a track record but was fresh and futuristic as they come.
  • Simply stated a unisex sports car in which a woman could enjoy civility, sophistication, practicality, reliability, and safety and compete with men on equal terms. The Elan was a reasonably cost effective option at approximately / average of £1,500 in mid 60’s
  • The Elan was a total success. Its achievements both on off track. The package found willing buyers and it was commercially successful possible saving Lotus from disaster.

The Elan owned / driven by Mrs. Peel in the Avengers created a mutuality and self-reinforcing imagery. It was the ultimate in cool trendy, hip and now.

It caught and expressed the era, it made the era in the best of its idealism, optimism and applied technological thought. The Elan became a deserving icon that has remained until today.

The Proposed CCM&EC.

The proposed museum believes that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with an educational programme.

For these reasons our Business Plan includes provision for the promoting products and services that are consistent and complementary with the Chapman methodology of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. We propose merchandising goods that explain the total context of Lotus in “period”, help interpret or articulate its wider cultural significance.

Written into our Business Plan are extensive proposals for associated period fashion, accessories, related memorabilia and items from significant Designers of the respective eras.


The A&R argues the case for the CCM&EC based on Chapman’s and Lotus achievements. We endeavor do this objectively with reasoned argument. In this article we believe we have imparted an evaluation that suggests the impact that was achieved on a global scale. The selection of the Elan for the “Avengers” TV series was not random. It was calculated and justified to promote the best of British design.

As such a car is not merely a machine it takes on greater connotations. The A&R consider that Chapman and Lotus helped create and promote Britain, engineering, design, motor sport competition, drivers and tourism. It did so in a dynamic sense and as such moulded and determined a culture of design , aesthetics and equality. It did so repeatedly over time and in the process entered folklore. The editors believe that such impact in a free market where it competed and defeated the opposition is worthy of greater recognition. Further more the extent of its influence is so pervading, its intellectual and aesthetic content so persuasive we believe that a museum is fully justified in every positive manner to promote  and inspire future generations of British engineering design and manufacture.

London was the birth pace of Lotus and some of its greatest achievements as evidenced by the 1960’s were based here, London is felt to be the natural place for the museum with the additional tourism benefits that would support its self standing commercial existence.


Fashion Sourcebook in the 1960’s and 1970’s by John Peacock

See A&R articles “British Design 1948-2012” &Social History: Lotus and Popular Culture. [The Avengers and The Prisoner]

The High Street by Philip Wilkinson.Quercus.2010

ISBN: 9781849164207

Boutiques by Marnie Fogg.Mitchell Beazley.2008

ISBN: 1840006218

The picture reference is Topfoto/HIP/Museum of London but also se various Internet sites including Les Enfants Terribles

“Revolt into Style” by George Melly

Lotus: The Elite, Elan, and Europa by Chris Harvey. Oxford Illustrated Press.1982


The Lotus Book by William Taylor. Coterie Press.1999

ISBN: 1902351002

Jaguar E Type by Nigel Thorley.Haynes 2001

ISBN: 1859608132

Mary Quant.Autobiography.Headline.2012.


The A-Z of the 1960’s.Ann & Ian Morrison.Breedon.1989


Kings Road.M.Decharne.Phoenix.2006.


Gear Guide.Johnson & Dunkley.Atlas Publishing.[May 1967]

Republished by Osprey.2013.

ISBN: 978190840251

Swinging britain

Swinging Britain.Armstrong.


London in the Sixties.R.Metzger.Thames and Hudson.2012.


The Sixties.L.Jackson.Phaidon.2000.


City of Westminster Carnaby St. W1.David Block. Ed by “Lord Kitchiner”.

Boutique London.Lester.Arts Collectors Club.


Boutique London

*Swinging Sixties.Breward,Gilbert & ListerThe V&A.2006


Sixities Britain.Donnelly.Longman.2005


Fab Gear.Hewitt.ACC.2009

Photographing Fashion:British Style in the Sixties.Lester.ACC.2009



Fifty Fashion looks that changed the 1960’s.Reed.Conran.2012


Day of the Peacock.Ross.GA.Ross.V&A.2011.


Sixties Fashion.Walford.Thames & Hudson.2013.


The British Invasion:the Music, The Times,The Era.B.Miles.Sterling.2009.



Time [The Weekly Newsmagazine] New  York,15th April,1966.