The Online Mod/ern/ist Archive

archive of original modernist recollections and information .
we are glad to hear from anyone with memories of the time, but we do not rewrite history .

5 Jun 2009


Turning mod into money

The board of directors meet in John Stephen’s flat. Left to right : Dean Rogers, Myles Anthony, Angelo Uragallo, Ivy Dean, Frank Merkell, Keith Dodge, Bill Franks (managing director) and John Stephen. Except for Uragallo, everyone in under 30.

He’s the Mod King of Carnaby Street.
Ask if he’s a millionaire and he says : “I don’t think I’ve got that much in ready cash – but I must be just about there in assets.”
Ask about the diamond rings on each hand and he grins and says: “I think I paid about £300 for that one … and this one, not more than £200. If I remember. I love diamonds.
Ask if he’s happy and he replies in his Glaswegian accent: “Oh, aye well enough – but I’d like to be REALLY satisfied with something I do.”

His name is John Stephen and he’s only 29. He’s the working class boy who made a fast fortune – not out of the SOUND of the Beat groups but out of the LOOK of them.


In Carnaby street on the fringe of Soho London. John Stephen has seven shops all in a row, all selling the same thing – Mod clothes. Beat music pours out of each shop on to the pavement.
In Carnaby Street the Beatles first bought the collarless jackets that became known as Beatle jackets.
The Rolling Stones shop there. So do The Mojos, the Dave Clark Five and the boys of the Manfred Mann group.
Not to mention such switched on leisure wear connoisseurs as Peter Sellers and the Duke of Bedford.

Away from Carnaby Street John Stephen has fifteen more Mod shops around London – boutiques for boys called His Clothes.
He also owns two clothing factories, an estate agency, a driving school and a vegetarian restaurant.
And this week he’s negotiating to take over a hire-car firm with a fleet of Jaguars.
“Oh aye, I’ve come a long way since Glasgow.” Says John Stephen “My father’s mind boggles when he hears I’m giving the mills orders for things like £60.000 worth of trouser material …”
His father has a corner grocery shop in Glasgow. John who was expected to take over the shop one day left home ten years ago to see what London had to offer. He got a job selling uniforms in a big store.

A YEAR LATER he opened a boutique for a friend who put up the money – and turned a revolutionary line of striped denim trousers into a best-seller.

A YEAR LATER with his savings and the extra money he had made working nights in a coffee bar – he opened his own boutique.
“And with a lot of flair and a lot of hard work” said one of the young directors who now help to run The John Stephen Organisation “ he has got where he is today.
The flair was in gambling on such things as men’s fleecy mohair sweaters eighteen months ahead of anyone else – and in getting singer Cliff Richard to buy one.
The hard work was putting in twelve hours a day, six days a week. And he’s still doing that.”

The Beat Look worn by folk singer Peter Martin: Candy-stripe denim suit, £ 9 10s.; white shirt with collar and cuffs, £2 9s. 6d.; black knitted tie, 12s. 6d.; blue belt, 24s. 6d.; shoes, 55 s. All by John Stephen.

The board of directors of The John Stephen Organisation were holding a meeting in his smart Chelsea flat when I called there at 8.30 at night.
Only one of them was over thirty – and they discussed with enthusiasm the “ new English double-breasted, slightly waisted suit with slant pockets.”
John Stephen told me: “One big secret of success is getting the right people around you.
Each one here can do something better than I can do it myself.


He got up and suggested supper at a club.
”I get so restless” he said “Often I can’t sleep at night – and I relax by getting up and wandering around the streets studying the windows of my rivals…”
At weekends he drives down in Brighton in his Rolls Royce with his white Alsatian, Prince to gee up the decorators in his luxurious new house on the sea front.
He thinks he owns dozens of suits, knows he only drinks Scotch and smokes 8s 6d apiece cigars, but feels he is basically still an ordinary Glaswegian.


“A year ago.” He said “I thought it might be better for my image if I tried to change my accent.”
But I decided it was better to sound like a working class man who knew what he was talking about – d’you follow? “
When I left John Stephen he was discussing a new girls wear department, the wholesale supplies for stores throughout Britain – and world export markets.
I had the distinct impression he knew what he was talking about.

Dixon Scott – Daily Mirror – March 1965

1 comment:

PG said...

Great post. Have you seen A Bomb In The Collection? Fantastic book of fashion interviews from 64 with quite a revealing interview with JS.
You know I was the last person to interview him.
He wasn't very well but an absolute sweetheart.