Granny Takes a Trip (Granny’s) was a boutique in the 60ties through mid 70ties, founded by Nigel Weymouth and his girlfriend Sheila Cohen. Nigel was/is a graphic designer, who was mostly responsable for the interior, originally decked out as a psychedelic New Orleans bordello complete with an old horn gramophone and exterior of the boutique. Sheila, who was a dedicated collector of vintage clothes, Victorian and oriental, was responsable for the garments which were sold in Granny’s together with John Pearse, an ex mod and former apprentice tailor at Hawes & Curtis on Savile Row.
The name of the boutique was giving away its policy – ‘Granny’ symbolized the influence of the past, and ‘Trip’ , a colourful world of bougeoing hippie movement and its drug of choice – LSD. Granny’s opened in February 1966 at 488 King’s Road, a previously unfashionable part of the road also revered to as the World’s End, in London. The trio originally started “simply because we think young people have got the money to spend but they want to see more style. So many boutiques are beginning to sell the same things. We can offer an exclusive thing to everyone, because we rarely find two dresses which are identical. Probably the next biggest reason was that we all wanted to work for ourselves.”
A videoclip for the 1967 single, Granny Takes a Trip by the Purple Gang.
The garments sold in Granny’s were vintage clothes, twisted by John Pearse into the shapes preferred in the 60ties. They mended and cleaned all of their vintage fashions, using “a theatrical costume cleaner who cleans the things beautifully”, and then adapted other items which were handcut and beautifully made into brand new styles. The high prices at Granny’s were determined by the use of expensive fabrics Sheila and John were buying at Liberty fabrics and they were using the same outworkers as Savile Row tailors. As a result, shirts from Granny’s were prized at anything between 4 to 10 guineas. A floral jacket inspired by William Morris designs would set a buyer back an extortionate 15 guineas. Skinny trousers made out of velvet or satin (John: “They were sort of more foppish alternative to levi’s” ) would cost 6 guineas, and satin ties were priced at £1.10. However, the quality of the clothes was very good and John was putting a lot of emphasis on fine tailoring. Velvet suits were tightly fitting with tight buttoning. Double – breasted jackets were tailored in floral-printed fabrics.
One of the sales assistants, Johnny Moke remembers: “We used to cut up blouses and dresses and turn them into shirts or tops for men. What was great about Granny’s was that there were no boundaries. Anything went and they kept on changing. The effect of Granny’s clothes was foppish, flamboyant and decadent – a 1960’s reinvention on fin-de siecle dandyism.
Granny Takes a Trip quickly developed elite clientele. Nigel: ” The first people to sniff us out were the mixture of Chelsea gays and debutantes. Then pop stars started quickly coming after them. We had all these personalities coming through and groups like the Animals would have their photos taken outside”. The relaxed atmosphere was one of the attractions of Granny’s. Anybody who was rich enough to shop there – young upper middle class men, young aristocrats and pop stars enjoyed buying fancy clothes in the casual atmosphere of the boutique which epitomized Swinging London as a fashion epicentre in the 1960’s.
When the unique new designs became a major element of Pink Floyd’s shows (Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett notoriously carried his dirty clothes into the London boutique because he thought it was a dry-cleaners) at the UFO club their clientele soon expanded to include The Small Faces, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones and of course The Beatles. Nigel: “One morning we were sitting around cross-legged on the floor, passing a joint around and these two blokes came in. They looked around and said, ‘This is a nice place isn’t it?’ We looked up and it was John and Paul.”
But not only the clothes sold at Granny’s were revolutionary, the boutique also became known for its changing facade. In 1966 it featured giant portraits of Native American chiefs Low Dog and Kicking Bear. In 1967 the entire front was painted with a giant pop-art face of Jean Harlow and was later replaced by an actual 1948 Dodge saloon car which appeared to crash out from the window onto the forecourt.
Granny’s success, however was short-lived.When Granny started selling Afghan coats, there was a row between John and Sheila over the priorities of their business establishment. John did not like the increasingly hippy image of the shop: “My partners went more in that direction, but I was considered to be more urban creature(…) I never wore jeans (…) I was always more streamlined in my appearance. We may have been construed as being in the centre of hippydom, but we weren’t; what we did had a subtle difference”. Nigel, Sheila and John ended up selling the shop to manager Freddie Hornick in 1969.
Freddie brought in two New YorkerB, Gene Krell and Marty Breslau. They introduced a new, more dandified phase with rhinestones and applique’d velvet suits and stack-heeled boots.
In 1970 a branch was opened in New York and an outlet in Los Angeles. The London boutique closed in 1974 with the acquisition of the name by Byron Hector, who moved the premises along the King’s Road. It finally closed in 1979. The New York and Los Angeles also closed, mid-70ties.
Granny Takes a Trip became a legendary boutique that defined King’s Road of the 60’s. Original garments from Granny’s – especially from John Pearse-Sheila Cohen-Nigel Weymouth era, are highly sought vintage items. In 2012 a Royal Mail stamp, commemorating contribution to British fashion by designers from Granny Takes a Trip along with other revolutionary fashion designers as Ossie Clark, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.
John Pearse, Salman Rushdie & Paul Smith talk about Granny Takes a Trip
(I found a lot of information about Granny Takes a Trip on the fantastic blog: http://www.dandyinaspic.blogspot.nl/ )