Icons / April 2019

Christopher Gibbs: The King of Chelsea

We examine the influence of Christopher Gibbs, a tastemaker, pioneer of ‘distressed bohemianism’ and well-worn grandeur who spearheaded London in the swinging sixties.

Christopher Gibbs at his London home.

Even as a 14 year old, Christopher Gibbs sported velvet slippers, a monocle on a blue ribbon and carried a silver-topped cane. His school days at Eton were cut short after duping the local antiquarian bookseller, into buying back his own stock.

Born on 29th July 1938, the fifth son of Geoffrey Cokayne Gibbs KCMG and his wife Helen, Gibbs is widely recognised as one of the greatest characters in the antiques industry. He followed his schooling with what could barely be even called a dalliance in the National Service (he was discharged after only three months for being medically unfit). What Gibb’s might have lacked in good ‘ol British fortitude, he made up for with the insatiable constitution of an aesthete, which would make him a doyen of bohemian style in early sixties counterculture.

Gibbs took an iconoclastic approach to dressing, snubbing the trends of the early 50s to pioneer the free-spirited fashion moods of the 60s. Credited as the wearer of the first flared pants for men (1961) and an early advocate of floral patterned shirts and Regency revival jackets, Gibbs’ wardrobe, like many others of the time, took inspiration from all corners of a shrinking globe. As a young man he delved into the mystical city of Tangier, returning with Moroccan kaftans, rugs, textiles and an assortment of beautifully hand-crafted objects. He was fascinated by art, beauty and things in their natural state.

He opened his first shop in Camden Passage, Islington with a £10,000 gift from his mother. As he said later, even during his most drug-fuelled years, unlike most of his fellow party-goers he had to get up to work in the mornings. In a seldom lapse in the summer of 1968, at about 2am, he suggested to his fellow consorts, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that they disperse to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise. Whisked off in Richard’s chauffeur-driven Bentley, they arrived at the ancient landscape in time for the sun ascent. Still high on acid, they adjourned to a pub in Salisbury and breakfasted on kippers.

 

Contributor

Freddie Anderson