Inspired by Westwood and McLaren’s Kings Road boutique, which by 1974 had re-named itself “SEX”, Acme Attractions opened as a stall in the Chelsea Antiques Market “Antiquarius”. Acme sold items ranging from Zoot Suits and vintage clothes to jukeboxes, and was managed by the soon to be Punk Reggae DJ, Clash co-hort, and film maker Don Letts.
“Acme was the coolest “club” in town, where the interaction between the different factions became more important than selling merchandise, even though at that age it was a deadly combination”. — Don Letts
The shop eventually moved into nearby basement premises, apparently, because of the grand wodge of complaints about Don’s love of playing dub reggae records all day long, and at foundation rattling levels. His assistant in the shop at the time was future PIL member Jeanette Lee.
By the mid 1970s, and just as Punk had flicked its own ignition switch, the shop became as much of a “scene” as a shop, and attracted regular visits from members of The Clash and the Sex Pistols, through to Chrissie Hynde, Gene October, Billy Idol, Debbie Harry and even Bob Marley, who maybe had heard Don’s reggae soundtrack….possibly all the way from Jamaica if the reports of the volume are to be believed. Letts, however remembers that “Marley came by because he knew he could get a good draw from the thriving black-market action that also went on in Acme”.
The “scene” in Acme also led to the formation of Chelsea and later Generation X. Acme accountant, band manager and soon to be entrepreneur Andrew Czezowski, did a little bit of maths of his own and based on the “scene” at the shop, started up The Roxy club, London’s first dedicated Punk Rock venue in Covent Garden. The Roxy’s ethos came from Acme, as did many of the early bands. Unsurprisingly, Czezowski took Letts along with him as DJ. At the same time as Punk was getting a foothold, Acme’s owners John Krevine and Steph Raynor took the seemingly rash decision to close the shop completely, and open up the less retro, but more stylish Boy London instead. The move didn’t please everyone, including the resident DJ, who called Boy,
“The bastard child of Acme, created to capitalize on the tabloid punk, and although I opened and ran the joint it just weren’t my speed. I quit to manage the Slits and headed off on the White Riot tour with The Clash.”
And so in the interests of moving on, in the same way that the shop’s original Punk clientele had, and because they were now no longer competing, Westwood started to license her designs to Boy. In turn, Boy too became the next go-to fashion label of post punk, and although many of the original punks now had better things to do than hang around in a shop all day, Boy’s new direction started to attract its own “scene”.
“We’d try the clothes on in Acme Attractions, fluffy fake fur jumpers with plastic see-through breast panels, rubber tops and trousers. I wanted plastic dungarees, but they looked horrible. I got Mum to copy the clothes, tight black T-shirts with zips across the nipples. “I should open my own shop. This stuff takes five minutes to make” Mum didn’t understand the importance of an original”.
— Boy George
Ultimately for Punk, it wasn’t just a shop, it was a hang-out, and Acme’s legacy probably has very little to do with clothes. It was Don Letts who supplied Acme’s ever present soundtrack – something that infused its customers, and their own music, for years to come.