The Rise and Fall of The Beatles’ Apple Boutique

The infamous Apple Boutique mural

The infamous Apple Boutique mural

There are some buildings and businesses in Beatles history which are so infamous and essential to their story, the musical associations and memories of which will long outlive the business or building itself. One of these could be the NEMS shop, the Epsteins’ business in Liverpool. AKA the shop where a “Raymond Jones” requested a copy of Tony Sheridan’s (and The Beatles’) ‘My Bonnie’, thus prompting Brian Epstein to discover The Beatles. Another of these in the infamous Apple Boutique, opened in 1967 around the birth of Apple Corps. The boutique is particularly well-known for a wildly psychedelic mural painted on its exterior. It, however, closed up shop less than a year later.

The Apple Boutique was situated on 94 Baker Street in London, and first opened its doors in December 1967. The concept behind the shop was to have everything in the shop for sale. A place of psychedelia, flower-power, gorgeous clothing and hippy-dom in general, Paul described it as “a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things” when it opened. It’s documented that there was other reasoning, too, than just setting up a shop for the sake of it. They were told by Clive Epstein (Brian Epstein’s brother, who managed the band for a short while after Brian died) that if The Beatles didn’t spend a whole heap of money almost immediately, most of it would be lost to the taxman. They decided to open a business to spend the money, and decided that if they were going to do so, they might as well create a business about something they all liked. And hence how the Apple Boutique came about…

An invitation to the opening of the boutique

An invitation to the opening of the boutique

The Apple Boutique opened its doors for the first time on the 5th of December, 1967. There was an official opening party, with invitations like the above sent out to various people. These invitations told the invitee to come at 7:46, and that a fashion show will be at 8:16. Wikipedia points out the irony of these exact times, as the Apple Boutique was not exactly known for its organisational techniques (more on that later…) John and George were the only two Beatles who attended the opening, and since the shop didn’t have an alcohol licence, apple juice was the drink served at the night. The boutique was managed by John’s childhood friend, Pete Shotton, and Pattie Boyd’s sister Jenny.

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The Beatles were digging a Dutch design collective called The Fool, at the time. The Fool had painted John’s and George’s cars,and John’s and Paul’s pianos, and had designed the Sgt Pepper inner-sleeve… So it isn’t surprising that The Beatles decided to employ The Fool to help with the boutique. The design collective were given 100,000 pounds to stock and decorate the boutique.

In my humble opinion, the clothes that The Fool designed for the ill-fated boutique were absolutely exquisite! The shop was opened in the height of psychedelia and consequently, the clothes that were designed consisted of extravagant silks, velvet and vinyl of bright blues, pinks, reds, yellows and oranges, strings of colourful beads, bell-bottomed trousers (and sleeves!), gorgeous patterned textiles, crop tops, mini dresses, maxi skirts, kaftans…

Some designs...

Some designs…

More...

More…

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An original design

However, the tags attached to the clothing were made of silk. And the clothes themselves were also made of expensive threads. Due to this, the garments sold at the Apple Boutique were outrageously expensive. The boutique was often extremely busy, but actual purchases being made was quite rare. Theft, however, was alarming common in comparison. And it wasn’t just customers stealing the clothes — staff did, too. The shop was quickly losing money, probably because the entire business was so disorganised. Much like Apple Corps itself…

The expensive tags...

The expensive tags…

In 1968, a film called Hot Millions featured a scene filmed in the Apple Boutique. This scene provides one of the only ventures into the interior of the boutique, and also shows a couple of the designs:

However, the most famous thing about the Apple boutique is probably the mural painted on its exterior.

The mural.

The mural.

Fool member Barry Finch designed the mural for the leased shop, and got a bunch of art students to paint it on the facade of the building. The mural was inspired by a similar painting in Carnaby Street, though the Apple version was much more colourful. The mural gained the boutique a lot of attention, obviously!

However, the Westminster Council had not given The Beatles permission to paint the mural. Nor had the landlord of the building. Due to a bunch of complaints from other spoilsport shop-owners, they were told to paint over the mural. And when they didn’t, they were threatened with eviction. The mural was sadly painted over in minimalist white. Very much a sign of the generation gap.

After the mural

After the mural

Five months into to boutique venture, The Beatles bought up another ’60s boutique called Dandie Fashions, which had been frequented by themselves, The Stones and The Who in previous years. They renamed it Apple Tailoring. It closed down within a couple of months, with the boutique.

Dandie Fashions...

Dandie Fashions…

...into Apple Tailoring.

…into Apple Tailoring.

But the Apple Boutique wasn’t turning a profit. Theft was still way more common then actual purchases, and the shop venture was quickly sending The Beatles into bankruptcy. And so The Beatles decided to close down the boutique. But to get rid of the stock, they didn’t just have a sale or something of a similar ilk. On the closing day, everything in the shop was infamously to be given away. Apparently each customer was limited to 1 thing, but this wasn’t managed… By the end of the day, the shop was completely stripped.

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The building where the boutique was is now knocked down. In its place is now a Beatles memorabilia shop, and a Sherlock Holmes museum.

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Hope you all had a great week, and I shall post soon! Good day sunshine 🙂