The director of Shaftesbury tells Ana Santi how the property firm plans to celebrate 50 years of retail on Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street [where Shaftesbury is the landlord] is celebrating 50 years this year - how has the area changed from its swinging 1960s heyday?
Carnaby Street in the 1960s was all about youthful energy and creativity in fashion, music and lifestyle. The area became world famous as the centre for the boutique revolution, and was the place you went to find things you couldn’t find anywhere else. Its prominence as a fashion destination went hand in hand with the pop music revolution, with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Kinks and Jimi Hendrix among many others not only performing in the clubs and bars in the area but also being regular shoppers, which all helped to create the vibe.
In this respect, Carnaby Street today is very similar - it’s unashamedly a destination for youth fashion and the area is a hub of creativity with new designers and exciting new concepts.
You commissioned London College of Fashion’s Judith Clark and Amy de la Haye to curate an exhibition of the history of Carnaby Street - what interesting facts and anecdotes came up?
Judith and Amy’s research went back to the early 16th century, when Carnaby was just green fields with a windmill.
It was later the location for the first plague pestilence house in London, a centre for immigrant workers and where the cause and subsequent prevention of cholera was discovered. In the 1960s, this was where Paul McCartney met Linda, John Profumo ‘entertained’ Christine Keeler and Jimi Hendrix allegedly released a pair of parakeets.
How do you see the area developing in the next 10 years?
Our vision is to keep the area fresh and dynamic and a true destination for youth fashion and leisure. We are constantly seeking new British and international brands, as well as new design talent from the fashion colleges.
Last year you did a “swap” between indies in New York and those in Newburgh Quarter, just off Carnaby Street. Was it a success? The project was very successful and the press coverage generated awareness for the Newburgh Quarter, which is where many of our independents and concept stores are located in Carnaby. We’ll look to do something similar in the future, maybe encompassing the whole Carnaby area, or on a smaller scale for Kingly Court.
What other initiatives are in the pipeline for Carnaby Street? As part of the 50th anniversary, we have a Summer of Love music festival on the weekend of June 5-6. We will have emerging bands performing in and around Carnaby Street.
How is the retail property market faring in general?
I can only really comment on London’s West End, where trading figures have been very encouraging. London has a unique mix of theatres, museums, galleries, shops and restaurants, making it the world’s most popular city destination for visitors, and so helps it to withstand poor economic conditions elsewhere.
Which is your favourite shop?
Diesel Male store on Carnaby Street.
What would you like to do if you weren’t working in fashion?
Be a game warden in Botswana.
Who is your favourite designer?
Isaac Mizrahi, who has designed the artwork on our sponsored elephant, part of the Elephant Parade charity, which will be resident in Carnaby throughout the months of May and June.
Who in fashion do you most admire?
The London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. They produce a constant stream of talent in all areas of the industry, which maintains such a high quality of UK design and innovation.