Dedicated followers of fashion - A history of London's trendsetters

First published: 24-02-2016

Carnaby Street Sign

London is forever associated with fashion - the two come as a pair. But it's not just the recent emergence of the hipster that has lead the nation's capital to earn this reputation, with designers and trendsetters flocking to the southern streets long before the 2010s.

As London Fashion Week edges ever closer, we've taken this opportunity to take a trip down memory lane, back to the 60s and beyond, where fashion's frontrunners weren't just making an impact on trends and style, but on the culture of a nation.

The birth of Carnaby Street

Everyone has heard of Carnaby Street, dedicated follower of fashion or otherwise. Just in case you haven't, well, if London is the fashion capital of the UK, then Carnaby Street is the fashion capital of London.

While its roots can be traced back all the way to the 17th century, it was in the 30s that things really started to take shape. In 1934, the Florence Mills Social Club opened its doors, attracting the youth population of the early 20th century to Carnaby Street for the first time, playing popular jazz music.

It wasn't until 1958 that the first boutique opened, paving the way for what the street would become firmly associated with. His Clothes was the name of the shop that instigated the new era, which was only set up here because the owner's previous premises burned down!

A city and street in blossom

The hippie and mod style bore fruit in the 60s, and Carnaby Street was central to this new fashion-loving generation. Some of today's household names, such as Mary Quant, first opened their doors on that very street, as it gave birth to a series of independent boutiques.

Throughout the 60s and beyond, the fame of Carnaby Street would extend beyond the realms of fashion and into popular culture as a whole, with many bands and artists referencing it in their music, most notably The Kinks' Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

Carnaby Street today

Nowadays, the first few boutiques have well and truly multiplied, with the so-called street now encompassing 13 roads in total, comprising of over 150 shops and more than 50 eateries, too. While it was best known for its independent boutiques, Carnaby Street is now home to an equal amount of London's - and the world's - most notable designers.

Billboard on a shop window celebrating London Fashion

At the forefront of fashion


Aside from the notable Mary Quant, there was a host of other designers whose rise to fashion fame coincided with the rise of this trendy hub in the capital. Marion Foale and Sally Tuffin sprung up, as well as names such as Take Six and Merc.

When London Fashion Week was born in 1984, a famous designers from right here in the capital took centre stage: Betty Jackson, famous for creating the outrageous costumes of Edina and Patsy on Absolutely Fabulous.


2016's London Fashion Week is going above and beyond to reconnect with the city's fashionable roots, with a giant screen being erected on Carnaby Street itself, showing the proceedings of the show over five days.

Stretching far and wide to the likes of Turkey and even Georgia, London Fashion Week welcomes a range of designers and brands from all over the world, with renowned London brands still featuring prominently, including Burberry and Paul Smith.

On the catwalk this year


The London designer's distinctive tartan pattern harks back to a time even before the birth of the London mod scene, with the company dating back to the previous century. Still as popular as ever, their signature colour scheme is displayed across all kinds of items, even wrist wear.

This ladies' Pioneer watch blends together modern and vintage influences, combining Burberry's timeless tartan with an art deco inspired face that wouldn't look out of place in The Great Gatsby.

The slim nature of the piece means that it's beautiful yet understated, and versatile enough to work alongside a range of colours. This theme continues on the face itself, with batons favoured over numbers, blending different shades of gold together seamlessly.

Burberry Ladies' The Pioneer Watch

You can see Burberry's live show at 13:00 on Day Four of London Fashion Week, on Monday 21st September, on the giant screen in Carnaby Street.

Paul Smith

Expanding into a fashion giant from his humble beginnings of one single shop, Paul Smith's pieces contain an ever-present nod towards the 60s in style and colour, often being bright and eye-catching.

This men's Tempo watch triumphs the swinging 60s in a different way, however. Its bold numbers on the face are indicative of 1960s fashion, while the colour scheme of black and white sparks images of the Mary Quant chequered dresses that would have lined the high street 50 years ago.

Paul Smith Mens Tempo Watch.jpg

Paul Smith's live show is on at 16:00 on Day Three of London Fashion Week, also showing on the Carnaby Street screen.

London has long been the epicentre of all things fashion in the UK, and is showing no signs of slowing down. From the first shops to appear on Carnaby Street to the 150 boutiques that exist now, what better place is there to be during the events of the famed London Fashion Week?


Related articles