It’s something of a relief to escape the hurly burly of the homogenised high street for the cocoon of calm and cool that is Carnaby Street.
Although just a stone’s throw from busy Regent Street and Oxford Street, you immediately feel as though you are stepping into a different world.
The pedestrianised main strip lends a village-like feel to the area but it is the collection of quirky one-off shops, restaurants and boutiques that sets the network of 13 streets that comprise Carnaby Street apart.
Thursday 1st May will see one of London’s biggest shopping parties and everyone is invited to join in the fun. More than 30,000 shoppers are expected on the night to take advantage of discounts at more than 100 fashion brands while enjoying live music from upcoming bands including The Struts and Eyeshadows, playing at Cheap Monday, and more than 15 DJs spinning the decks in store.
The inclusion of live music is no coincidence, given Carnaby Street’s heritage as the hub of Swinging London in the Sixties. Known for its underground music bars, the area attracted followers of both the Mod and hippie styles and became the stamping ground of bands such as Small Faces, The Who and Rolling Stones.
In the interests of research, Hello! spent a day recently savouring the atmosphere and checking out the retail treasures, armed with a camera from hip photography store Lomography, which will be hosting free workshops on 1st May.
First up, a delicious chicken sausage breakfast at chicken and egg concept restaurant Whyte & Brown, which is offering all shopping party ticketholders a complimentary Whyte wine spritzer at their pop up bar in Kingly Court.
The three-tiered Kingly Court complex with open courtyard has become something of a foodie’s mecca, boasting independent outlets such as The Detox Kitchen, The Rum Kitchen, offering spicy Caribbean fare, and family-run Camellia’s Tea House, famed for its bespoke teas, homemade cakes and cosy atmosphere.
Next up, an expert manicure at Benefit, the brand’s first store to offer beauty treatments in-house as well as a champagne bar. Over at Cowshed, if you spend £50 on the night, you’ll receive a complimentary manicure while gents can head to Pankhurst for free beard trims and a glass of whisky.
As for fashion, you are spoilt for choice, and what’s so refreshing is that each retail experience is totally different. There’s the bespoke boot service at Dr Martens flagship, an abundance of cool Scandi T-shirts and jeans at Cheap Monday and Monki, affordable LA luxe-style clothes at French brand Brandy Melville, and Amsterdam couture at uber trendy Scotch & Soda. Other brands taking part include Diesel, American Apparel, Barbour, Paul Smith, Vans, The Kooples, ELEVENPARIS and AQ/AQ Women’s.
Everyone who registers on www.carnaby.co.uk for a free ticket will be entered to win £500 shopping vouchers and plenty of other treats. Carnaby Street’s shopping party is on Thursday 1st May from 5-9pm.