Written by Hannah Silver
In the year of the Platinum Jubilee we take a retrospective wander through the history of Bond Street, exploring its long standing connections to the Royal family and international links, as well as discovering why this luxury thoroughfare continues to draw such an eclectic and artistic mix of visitors. Bond Street’s status as the centre for artistic movements, fashion moments and luxury finesse has long meant it has been synonymous with royalty. Its history is intertwined with the Royal Family’s in a web of cultural references which can be traced back to the nineteenth century, when artists and creatives began to be drawn to the area.
An avant-garde group of artists, poets and nobility gathered at the art galleries, goldsmiths and, in 1917, auction house Sotheby’s, spearheading a cultural shift. It culminated in a groundbreaking artistic movement, as the beginning of modernism ushered in a rebellious new spirit expressed in new materials and imagery, with Bond Street and its surrounding areas enticing the cream of society. They gathered in a hub which centred around what was originally The Arcade, becoming The Royal Arcade in 1882 when Queen Victoria’s visits there to shirtmaker H.W. Brettell prompted a rename.
The area’s reputation as a fashion mecca is linked to its proximity to the Royal Palaces, as merchants flocked to the area to provide the clothing and materials the artists and nearby wealthy residents began to require. The creative and outspoken people shaping society included and attracted artists who continue to be drawn to Bond Street, from William Pitt to Banksy - whose Falling Shopper on Bruton Lane casts a sharp, satirical eye. The Queen herself was born at 17 Bruton Street, in the neat marriage of society and the sublime which has always characterised the area. This cultural melting pot is encompassed in the Royal Academy of Arts, which draws on its own long relationship with the Queen. Her frequent visits, including the one in 2018 when she marked the redevelopment of the Burlington Gardens building, reflects her enjoyment in seeing the ongoing refresh and rejuvenation of the area.
Now, these artistic roots are celebrated as both the Royal Family and Bond Street embrace evolving roles guided by contemporary codes, with the latter welcoming new brands, adding a richness to the area’s already multilayered history. These roots weave their way into a wider international network, reflected in cosmopolitan fashion brands and cementing Bond Street’s status as an international luxury ambassador. This fashion and jewellery heritage has been influenced by the world’s capitals, with Tiffany & Co and Ralph Lauren tracing their history back to the United States. The elegance of Paris is encompassed in Chaumet’s fluid high jewellery, Cartier’s iconic designs and Charbonnel et Walker’s gastronomical delights, while London cool is encompassed in Burberry, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, Spanish style in Balenciaga.
Queen Victoria was a particular fan of French splendour; so enamoured was she with the exquisite design and craftsmanship of jewellery house Chaumet, she granted them a Royal Warrant in 1851. She had been particularly impressed with the head of the workshop, Jean-Valentin Morel, who brought to life a pin design the Queen had created.
French chic characterises other notable high jewellery brands residing on Bond Street, who are drawing on their own histories in a modern rethink of what it means to be regal. Cartier, who opened their first London premises in 1902 after a surge in demand as customers prepared for the coronation, was granted its first Royal Warrant by King Edward VII two years later. This marked the beginning of a long relationship with the Royal Family for Cartier, who tapped into the creative spirit which characterised London in the early twentieth century for designs later loved by flappers, who coiled jewels around their ears to offset their distinctive bobs. Cartier have created many intricate pieces over the decades, including an order for an impressive 27 tiaras in 1937 to be worn at King George VI’s coronation. Taking pride of place in this collection was the Halo tiara, purchased by the future King for his bride Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who later became the Queen Mother. After being given to Princess Elizabeth on her eighteenth birthday, the tiara was later worn by Catherine Middleton at her wedding to Prince William in 2011.
Princess Margaret, too, has been seduced by a French elegance. For her official birthday portrait in 1951, she was draped in a couture fairytale gown created by Christian Dior, a moment captured by photographer Cecil Beaton. Royalty also gets a sartorial spin from Hermès, who have released a limited-edition scarf in support of The Queen’s Green Canopy Initiative, which invites people from around the UK to plant a tree for the Jubilee. The initiative takes a tangible form in the ‘Voitures Exquises’ scarf, designed by Polish multidisciplinary artist Jan Bajtlik, the proceeds also going to The Queen’s Green Canopy.
Royal connections reach across the pond, taking on a canine cool for Tiffany & Co, with the Bond Street brand’s royal relationship dating back to 1860 when the Prince of Wales’ Newfoundland dog sported a Tiffany & Co sterling silver dog collar. Bulgari are intertwining their Italian roots with a spectacular marking of the Jubilee, unveiling a one-of-a-kind high jewellery tiara which features a jaw-dropping 63.44-carat Zambian emerald carved with a blooming lotus flower, in an exceptional feat of craftsmanship.
Closer to home, Boodles are also putting a modern slant on a rich heritage with the unveiling of their new Peace of Mined collection, released to mark the Platinum Jubilee. Each piece features stones from the Cullinan mine - where the incredible stones in the Queen’s Royal Sceptre, later worn in the Imperial State Crown - were sourced. De Beers, who have a history of celebrating their royal connections, have created a magnificent diamond-studded crown for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Brands such as Asprey are inspired by the Queen herself for products to mark the Jubilee - their limited edition decanter, the first which will be gifted to the Queen, etches her favourite horse breeds into the glass. For Royal Warrant holders Charbonnel et Walker, limited edition gift boxes come in embroidered antique satin bags which, circa 1880, would have commonly been filled with chocolates. Later, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret couldn’t resist the Chocolatier's peppermint creams. Historical pastimes are celebrated, too, in Smythson, whose rich history unites Royal families around the world, encapsulated in the sombre day before King George VI’s funeral in 1952. The Kings of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the ex-Queens of Romania and Spain, and Princess Marina of Kent with the Duchess of Aosta all gathered in the store in a regal first for Bond Street. So notable was the occasion Smythson reportedly created their Three Crowns paper to mark it.
Bond Street’s iconic fashion brands are also commemorating their glamorous links to royalty: in Burberry, a cutting-edge Britishness is brought to life in their unique juxtaposition of heritage and modernity. The Royal family have long been admirers of Burberry’s tailoring and skill, with both Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales granting them Royal Warrants. Across the fashion industry, sustainability promises to be a key element for brands going forwards, with Stella McCartney leading the charge. As well as designing the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding reception gown, her ethical focus is at the centre of an ethos which upholds the progressive principles encapsulated in Bond Street.
Norman Hartnell, who designed the Queen’s wedding and coronation dress, was to be found on Bruton Street, just 250 metres from New Bond Street. Tod’s are marking the Jubilee with the re-release of pieces much loved by Princess Diana - her favourite D bag famous for its buttersoft leather and classic silhouette is now named after her, with the Di bag newly launched this year. Now, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George are frequently snapped in Tod’s intricately crafted shoes, the skillful designs of which can be assembled from up to 35 pieces of leather.
Cutting-edge fashion continues to reign over Bond Street, with the area recently welcoming a new Balenciaga store, a stripped-back space in concrete celebrating the sharply contemporary design of what they term ‘raw architecture.’ It offers a tantalising glimpse into Bond Street’s fashion-forward future, as does Bond Street Underground station as it prepares to open the new Elizabeth line. It marks an innovative new era for Bond Street, with the pioneering spirit of the last three hundred years keeping this royal-approved area on the map for centuries to come.