If you thought today’s Apple stores, those vast sleekly designed spaces used as shrines to the iPad, iPhone, are the first Apple stores in history, it’s time to introduce you to the short-lived Apple Boutique. This fallen icon of swinging sixties’ London was a shrine to all things 60s hip. It also tried to redefine the shopping experience in that everything in it was for sale – from the light shades to the clothes – but it only lasted eight months.
Believe it or not, the Apple Boutique was also the first business enterprise of English band, The Beatles, under their trademarked “Apple Corps” name and the first outlet in a planned national chain of “Apple” shops.
It opened on Baker Street opened in London in 1967 with a launch party everyone talked about for days after and was aimed at ostentatious swinging Londoners. It was designed and stocked by a Dutch artists’ collective known as The Fool, who designed a psychedelic style mural for the outside which they hired art students to paint. It featured graduated rainbow colours, which may or may not remind you of something…
Inside it was an extravaganza of crazy designs and it also offered demo recording in the shop’s two studios and apparently had its own on-site astrologer. “It was magical, there were pictures of gods and goddesses everywhere and lots of colourful designs and people had a lot of curiosity for it,” says one of the shop’s managers, Jenny Boyd (George Harrison’s wife), in the documentary The Beatles, Hippies and Hells Angels.
The 1968 comedy Hot Millions, features a young Maggie Smith shopping at the Apple boutique.
The shop went downhill fast though and closed only eight months later. Reasons included reports of an issue with shoplifting and the Fab Four being fleeced by a variety of chancers. John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono also decided at the time it wasn’t the right image for The Beatles to be capitalists.
The night before it closed, each of The Beatles, their wives and girlfriends came and took whatever they wanted. The next morning it was announced that all the remaining stock would be liquidated and given away on the basis of one item per person. The public nearly rioted trying to get their hands on the merchandise.