Carnaby Street is one of the most famous places in London – it’s become an attraction in itself to both Londoners and tourists. But Carnaby isn’t just about the great shops – the street represents a momentously exciting time in London’s history – the Swinging Sixties. But what was it before, and what has happened to it since? We thought we’d pull together a brief history of one of the most iconic streets in London (that we just so happen to be attached to!):
Pre-60s: there wasn’t much going on in Carnaby Street before the 60s – it was the cheaper side of Soho, with a few restaurants and workshops. It’s believed that Carnaby Street is so named because of Karnaby House which was built in 1683. The street itself was probably laid out around 1685.
Its iconic status started thanks to the arrival of John Stephen, a clothing entrepreneur. Stephen started a clothing shop in the cheaper area of Carnaby Street – avoiding the more expensive rent of Jermyn Street – aimed at the younger, more flamboyant audience, who didn’t want to dress like their mothers and fathers, and couldn’t quite afford the suits, either.
By popular demand he opened up several more shops on the street, and before he knew it, Stephen lit a trend – and soon Carnaby Street was buzzing with boutique shops – selling cheap and fashionable clothes that embodied an era.