Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swinging Through London

In 1965, Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, said "London is the most swinging city in the world at the moment." And she wasn’t far wrong!

If you were a bright young thing in the 1960’s hip and with it, Swinging London was the place to be. For fashion and culture, London was the centre of the universe, and symbolized one of the quickest and most explosive cultural revolutions of the 20th century. London flourished and the rest of the world followed its lead in all things modern and hip.

Basically a youth-orientated phenomenon that lay emphasis on the new and the modern, Swinging London saw its beginnings in the recovery of the British economy after post World War II austerity.

This was a time when the world’s first supermodels were becoming celebrities in their own right, Jean Shrimpton was the world’s highest paid and most recognized. Shrimpton at the time was being hailed as “The Face of the ‘60s” and was considered by many as "the symbol of Swinging London" and the "embodiment of the 1960s.” Veruschka, Penelope Tree and Twiggy were fast following behind the Shrimp’s sling-backs and were putting London on the map.

Two of the epicenters of this phenomenon were the fashionable shopping areas of Carnaby Street Soho and Kings Road, Chelsea. Carnaby Street proved a magnet for hippies and mods alike with many independent and well known designers setting up shop there. Mary Quant, Marion Foale Sally Tuffin, Lord John, Merc, Take Six, I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Kleptomania, Mates, Ravel, and others drew crowds of bright young things shaking off the conventional attitudes of the 1950’s to embrace the swinging sixties. With bands such as Small Faces, The Who, and Rolling Stones appearing in the area to work, shop, and socialize, it became one of Swinging London's coolest destinations.

As Time Magazine proclaimed “Perhaps nothing illustrates the new swinging London better than the narrow, three-block-long Carnaby Street, which is crammed with a cluster of the 'gear' boutiques where the girls and boys buy each other clothing…”

The British flag, the Union Flag, became a symbol, assisted by events such as England's home victory in the 1966 World Cup. Adorning everything from mini-skirts, shirts, bags and shoes one would think that all our fashionable young Londoners were very patriotic.

It is strange today to associate one city with a cultural and social revolution. With advances made in technology and with the help of the internet changes and trends are universal and instataneous. Swinging London developed over time and exploded just when the time was right.

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