image for blog article about decadent London

Psychedelic decadence in Chelsea, London

At the beginning of 1966, the graphic designer Nigel Waymouth and his girlfriend Sheila Cohen, a great Victorian clothing collector, opened Granny Takes a Trip at 488 King’s Road in the Chelsea neighbourhood of London. The couple is quickly joined by John Pearse, a former mod and a former apprentice at Hawes & Curtis on Saville Row, who, under the influence of late-century decadence and art nouveau (Aubrey Beardsley of course), used his skills to update vintage garments.

Granny Takes a Trip was unique, even in the Swinging London. First of all, the decorations of the storefront were flamboyant: a big painting of Indian Chief Running Bear, an Art Nouveau-style painting of 1920’s Hollywood star Jean Harlow, the front half of a 1947 Dodge Automatic coming out of the window entirely painted yellow, to mention only the most famous. The atmosphere of the shop was no exception. The walls were painted in purple and decorated with Aubrey Beardsley’s erotic drawings, the air was heavy with incense, patchouli and grass, the psychedelic music blared.

The price of clothes was prohibitive. Nothing was too good for Waymouth and Pearse who were buying Liberty fabrics at retail prices and using the same outworkers as Savile Row tailors. However, the clothes were of excellent quality because John Pearse paid a great attention to the tailoring. All was luxury, calm and voluptuousness: Dorian Gray in velvet hipsters.

The very select clientele, young upper middle class people, young aristocrats and pop stars (the Animals, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones …), enjoyed the relaxed and exclusive atmosphere of the boutique. Nevertheless, in 1969, the shop began to lose its impetus. Pearse regretted the increasingly hippy image of Granny Takes a Trip.

As for Nigel Waymouth, his partnership with Michael English, under the name of Hapshash and the Colored Coat, gradually took up all of his time. Waymouth, Pearse and Cohen ended up selling the shop to Freddie Hornick (who previously ran the Dandie Fashions boutique with Alan Hoston). But this is another story.

Shown in image; Peacock Silk Scarf and The Day of the Peacock: Style for men 1963-73