Originally Malcolm McLaren had a stall with a friend at the back of a shop called Paradise Garage and he sold items he collected from the 50s including rock and roll magazines, collectables and memorabilia. The owner of the shop had seen him outside wearing his favourite suit and then invited him in as he thought he looked interesting. It was only weeks later the owner then handed over the shop to him.
When Malcolm and Vivienne Westwood first met she was married, a school teacher and a mother who was making jewellery and selling it at the Portobello Markets. She was drawn to Malcolm's rebellious nature who was an art college drop out several times over. Her first marriage ended not soon after meeting him and she moved in with him into a council flat and had her second child.
They renamed the shop and they gave it a makeover before then changing it to 'Let it Rock' and then eventually 'Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die' in 1973 where they sold rocker fashions. Secondhand and vintage clothes were a big trend at the time due to the 'three day week' that was introduced by the UK government to conserve electricity.
The rebranding came from turning their interest to biker clothing, zips and leather and they used a flag with a skull and crossbones as the sign.
Their rebellion went into overdrive and the pair began to produce t-shirt designs with obscene themes and images. With this new image they seemed to find their niche and renamed their shop SEX with huge pink rubber letters out the front that was made by Glen Matlock who would later become the bass guitarist for the Sex Pistols.
The walls inside were covered in graffiti and store assistants included Sid Vicious and Chrissie Hyde and Jordan Mooney who became known as the face of the store.
Jordan felt at home in the shop and was protective of the wares they had for sale, viewing them as art and only letting people buy items if she felt they were right for them.
Designs by the pair from this era are highly covetable and collectable.
The next imagining of their store and lifestyle was to come. Evolved in 1976 to 'Seditionaries - Clothes for Heroes' they traded under that name until 1980. Clothing from this time are highly covetable and can fetch thousands of dollars and only set to increase in value over time with many pieces kept in museums.
Malcolm McLaren was not only a fashion designer and shop owner, he was also a musician and during this period became known as a promoter and band manager. Malcolm had helped initiate the punk movement in the UK with his clothing and was about to see how his influence could spread further. Music was going to be what took punk to a whole new level. He had seen the New York Dolls, a glam metal band and in 1975 started supplying them with stage wear from the shop and convinced them to let him manage them for a while. He changed their image which wasn't favoured by the public and the band soon disbanded. This was to be a learning curve for him and fate was soon to lend a hand.
The Sex Pistols were originally a group called The Strand who were a pair of friends called Paul Cook and Steve Jones who approached Malcolm McLaren in his store to manage their band for them. Malcolm soon later met Johnny Rotton ( John Lydon ) who had rebellious image and fashion style and so he was asked to become lead singer of what would become the Sex Pistols. The band were dressed by the store and their entourage included Jordan. Glen Matlock who had created the outdoor SEX sign and worked in the shop from time to time became the original bass player.
On October 1976 they signed up to EMI records with Malcolm having held off record companies until getting the best deal for them. EMI arranged their first TV appearance in December which proved to have unexpected results. The TV presenter was drunk as were the band so he goaded them into giving controversial statements and answers. The TV show had gone LIVE and it was seen as so shocking it made the front of all the newspapers.
EMI gave into pressure and ended up sacking the Sex Pistols in January with Glen Matlock leaving the band in February. Sid Vicious was a fan of the Sex Pistols and eagerly joined as the new bass player ( despite not really being able to play) and he would later appear as a lead vocalist. He was another controversial figure that would later be known for his drug use and for being arrested for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
The Sex Pistols is one of the most famous and influential punk bands ever known yet in reality only existed for two and a half years, four singles and one studio album.
While all this was going on the store was still trading and Westwood started licensing designs to the Kings Road Boutique BOY who issued them with some alterations over the next eight years.
In 1980 the shop at 430 Kings Road re-opened under the name World's End and both Malcolm and Vivienne remained designing and selling from there until 1984 and is still owned by Vivienne.
This is just a brief overview of the boutique known as SEX and the people and situations that have emerged from it. If you would like to read more about the history of punk , the Sex Pistols etc here is some recommended reading for you:
Some of my favourite original and authentic vintage punk and Sex Pistols finds:
If buying original punk items from the 70s or 80s is a little out of reach now there is some great modern bootleg options and gifts for punk lovers that are usually hard to buy for: