Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street

During the 1960s, Carnaby Street in Soho became world famous as a hot spot of 'swinging London'. It was a key place for Britain's youth revolution and had a long-term influence on London's shops, fashions and tourist industry. By the end of the 1960s, Carnaby Street was London's second-most-visited tourist attraction after Buckingham Palace.

Before the 1960s, Carnaby Street was a place of run-down, cheaply rented property. It was on the western, quieter, edge of Soho and housed workshops, a few local shops and restaurants. Its transformation into a world-famous shopping street began with John Stephen, a clothing entrepreneur who had arrived in London from Glasgow in 1952, aged 19.

Stephen began his career working for Moss Bros, but started his own menswear workshop on Beak Street in the mid-1950s. A fire caused him to move around the corner to Carnaby Street, where he also opened a shop to sell directly to the public.

His designs were considerably more flamboyant than traditional menswear, and popular demand encouraged him to open other small shops in the streets with names such as 'His Clothes' and 'Male West One'. Other clothing manufacturers followed suit and by the early 1960s the street was being taken over by small 'boutiques', selling cheap and fashionable clothes directly to a young clientele.

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