Thursday, 9 May 2013

The King Of Carnaby Street

 Male W1, Carnaby Street in 1966
It's it only befitting that a blog called 'The Carnaby Chronicle' should begin with The King Of Carnaby Street himself, Mr John Stephen.

John Stephen owned as many as eight shops along Carnaby Street in the sixties, with more in places such as Regent Street, Old Compton Road and the Kings Road as well as eventually the USA and Europe, but not a huge amount seems to be known about this enigmatic entrepreneur.

Originally from Glasgow, John Stephen began his menswear career in 1952 by working firstly for Moss Bros. and then in Vince's Man's Shop which was situated just off in Newborough Street, London. He opened his own shop in 1956 in Beak Street, just off Carnaby Street. A fire at the Beak Street shop resulted in a move to number 5 Carnaby Street, and the Carnaby Street fashion parade began!

Before John Stephen and His Clothes arrival, Carnaby Street was a narrow back street in central London, not too far from The London Palladium and behind the prestigious Regent Street. By the end of the sixties Carnaby Street was the centre for fashion and the heart of Swinging London's look. John Stephen had expanded to multiple shops including several branches of His Clothes, Male W1, His 'N' Hers, Trecamp (Womens wear) Domino, Mod Male and John Stephen's Man's Shop.

John Stephen's company was publicly floated in 1972, but closed and assets sold off to competitors in 1975, around the time that Carnaby Street was considered to be on the down turn. After which, there isn't an awful lot of information available on what happened to our Mr. Stephen. He worked for Francisco-M, importing European designs in the seventies and later represented fashion franchises in the UK, including premium fashion house, Lanvin but after that, there seems to be a question mark over what became of him.

He died in 2004 at age 70 and in 2005 Westminster City Council unveiled a plaque commemorating his influence on Carnaby Street and importance to London and the fashion industry.

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