Rockins Loves Vintage Designer Boutiques
Designer Boutiques Circa 1960s-1970s: Mr Fish, Thea Porter and Mr Freedom
On 5th July 1969, The Rolling Stones held a free concert in Hyde Park in memory of their former band member Brian Jones. Standing on the stage in a pure white dress, complete with romantic ruffled sleeves, Mick Jagger resembled a 17thcentury Shakespearean leading man, preaching to the crowds that worshipped beneath him. This outfit marked a significant moment in the history of dress, and paved the way for a new attitude toward men’s fashion, and style in a wider sense. Often wrongly cited as being designed by Ossie Clark, this iconic dress was in fact designed by Michael Fish or Mr Fish, 17 Clifford Street.
Mick Jagger at Hyde Park
Previously an apprentice on Jermyn Street, Fish developed his skills at various traditional tailoring firms, before opening his first independent shop in 1966. Mr Fish became a favourite of the pop aristocracy; the exclusivity of the shop was largely determined by its high prices. Expensive coloured silks and cottons were draped generously to create a contemporary silhouette; loosely fitted and finished with ruffled adornments became the must have silhouette for men. Printed across the shopping bags was a fitting slogan; ‘Peculiar to Mr Fish’. In 1970, David Bowie lounged across a crushed velvet couch on the cover of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, dressed in a rich, velvet frock designed by none other than Mr Fish. While the success of the business was short lived, Michael Fish had made his mark by challenging the rules of men’s style; he transformed the traditional idea of dandyism and created a flamboyant, yet elegant, aesthetic.
Michael Fish outside Mr Fish
Designer Michael Fish
While men’s fashion was experiencing a dramatic upheaval, women’s wear was certainly not far behind. Thea Porter, interior decorator turned fashion designer, like Michael Fish, drew great inspiration from Middle Eastern dress. Born in Jerusalem in 1927, Porter spent her childhood years living in Syria; her nostalgia for these countries was integral to her designs. In July 1966, Porter moved to London and opened her first shop on Greek Street, an interior decorating business offering imported cushions, fabrics and wall hangings. Inspired by the garments she would cut up to make cushion covers, she began to design her own range of kaftans; a swarm of high profile clients followed, from Talitha Getty to Bianca Jagger and Elizabeth Taylor. For the cover of their 1967 album Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd wore embellished jackets and printed shirts designed by Thea Porter.
Model Penny Slinger wears a white chiffon dress and cape ensemble from British designer Thea Porter’s summer ’72 collection
Thea Porter by Barry Lategan Vogue 1971
Porter had a passionate love of antique textiles, and an innate understanding of their characteristics; 1930s French voiles and Ottoman velvets would be draped with lavish brocades from Damascus. Often creating exclusive textiles designs herself, she introduced her many clients to a range of non-Western styles, from the ‘chazara jacket’ and ‘sirwal skirt’ to the dramatic ‘abaya’; her knowledge of Eastern dress was unparalleled.\
Designer Thea Porter in her workroom on Greek Street
Like Porter, Tommy Roberts of Kleptomania, and later Mr Freedom, began his design career with antiques. Kleptomania on Carnaby Street was an obscure mix of Victorian militia, 1920s boating blazers and velvet double-breasted blazers, along with vintage collectables and erotica. An early client of Roberts was Jimi Hendrix, who regularly purchased frilled shirts by Sam Pig In Love sold at Kleptomania.
Kleptomania Shop Front
Inspired by the success of Kleptomania’s ‘wearable’ items, Roberts started making and selling clothing; Mr Freedom opened in Chelsea during the summer of 1969. Named after William Klein’s anti-American movie, the boutique sold glam satin jackets alongside bright, pop-culture inspired t-shirts. Mick Jagger wore a Mr Freedom t-shirt emblazoned with his Leo zodiac sign at The Stones ill-fated Altamont gig in 1969. As the brand grew, Roberts moved the shops location in December 1970 and launched with a glittering guest list including Cecil Beaton, Ossie Clark and Jack Nicholson. Mr Feed’Em, Roberts restaurant opened in 1971 in the shop basement; in keeping with the futuristic, bold brand aesthetic, rice was dyed red, burgers were blue and napkins were adorned with Mae West as the Statue of Liberty.
The launch of Mr Feed’Em was to be the demise of Roberts’ business and the boutique eventually closed its doors. Mr Freedom was instrumental into pushing fashion into the 1970s after the manic boom of the Swinging Sixties. However, the future occupants of 430 King’s Road retained the pioneering spirit of Tommy Roberts; Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren began their punk revolution with Let It Rock where Mr Freedom once stood.
Mick Jagger at Alatmont wearing Mr Freedom
There are few periods in history that are so defined by fashion as the late 1960s and 1970s; this was an era driven by youth – an era where fashion, music, art and film intertwined as one. The words sung by Mick Jagger in 1965, couldn’t have been more apt – ‘What a drag it is getting old’.