BY GEORGINA GAMBETTA
For years, silently and unassumingly, Mick Jagger would walk into Greg Ohanian’s shop, Wilde Ones. He’d pick up a straw hat, place £50 on the counter and walk out.
Greg became curious about the strange purchasing habits of the famous Rolling Stone. And he did finally find out – by asking Jagger’s driver.
The frontman would apparently take each hat to a different gig and throw them into the crowd. Unintentionally, Greg’s straw hats were being scattered around the world.
This sort of thing has been happening since Greg opened Wilde Ones, in The King’s Road, Chelsea, in 1991.
The fashion thoroughfare has been transformed in that time, but Greg has kept a “spot of insanity” with his unique store.
Greg said: “It started with a seed, and that seed was a hat.”
The California-raised trader was intrigued by London’s music, fashion and dark underground clubs.
He said: “We were New Romantics and New Wavers on the wrong side of The Pond.”
He studied fashion in the capital in the 1980s and noticed the newest trend was Turkish-born fashion designer, Rifat Ozbek’s ethnic line. But it was missing a hat.
A friend visited Israel and Greg asked him to bring him back a skull cap. When Gregg wore his yarmulke clubbing people went crazy for it”.
He realised he had found a niche in the market. Greg embellished the hat with a feathery ostrich fringe to give it his own touch of flare to the piece – today he calls it his sea anemone – and started fly-pitching outside Camden Tube station.
Before he knew it, Libertys, Harvey Nicholls, Harrods, and Browns were buying his stock.
Greg and his team had a stall at one of London’s epicentres of fashion, Bluebird Garage’s Fashion Market, in 1991.
During this period they introduced other things they loved; crystals, incense and tie dye clothes. He was blazing a trail and had a foundation to create his shop in the Kings Rood.
Today, Greg still sources his products from the same people. The ethos for Wilde Ones is ‘getting back to the earth.’ The store only sells authentic indigenous, handmade and home-made products.
Gregg said: “We are not Amazon. We make people detailed, one-of-a-kind things. Shopping here is all about the experience.” Every year when Greg visits his family back home, he makes it into a road trip.
He visits all of the Native American villages nearby to source interesting artwork and unique pieces. He has had other brushes with famous shoppers.
Last year drilling work was going on outside the shop and Greg noticed two men standing outside – he thought they looked ‘dodgy.’
Later, he found them in the store holding a basket full of rings.
Greg asked: “Are you gentlemen having a drilling time?” Looking confused the men answered: “No, we’re in a band so are half-deaf.”
Greg asked “what band?” “ACDC. We’re performing at the O2,” was the response.
People that used to come in as kids, now come in with their own children, even grandchildren.
Wilde Ones describes itself as a “ramshackled emporium.” Whenever Greg asks his customers if he should clean-up and modernise they say: “No, we love it all dusty and ramshackled.” The same cannot be said for the rest of King’s Road, which in the last 20 years has become gentrified.
Chain stores have taken over and independents pushed out.
Greg joked: “In that sense, we are the last of the Mohicans.” Last year they converted their backyard into a Crystal Garden to maximise the space for their clients.
As for the future, Greg said: “Hopefully we can continue as we are and be supported by our customers, regardless of the obstacles outside.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.