Viva Che!

Dave Shimeld’s 70s Kensington store Che Guevara has been too often overshadowed by it’s more prominent neighbour Biba in London fashion histories, even though it had luxurious decor to match and drew on such design talents as Ossie Clark and Antony Price.

As detailed in Chapter 14 of THE LOOK, Antony created Che Guevara’s deeply deco silver and black interior at 23 Kensington High Street with his design partner Jane Whiteside, working to a commission from Shimeld and backers Ronnie Stirling and Geoff Cooper.


//Michelle Comber wears Che Guevara 1975//

Along with Price, Whiteside, Clark and Stirling Cooper, the store showcased young designers such as Erica Budd and Wendy Dagworthy.

So it was a delight to be contacted recently by Che Guevara’s assistant manager Michelle Comber, who recalls how Che was dead centre of London’s fashion scene at that time, with Biba down the road and Mr Freedom and Lee Bender’s Bus Stop around the corner. 

    
//Antony Price for Che Guevara, Nova, March 1972. Photos: Jeanloup Sieff// 

“We had fabulous times and all hung out together,” says Michelle, who started out running the store’s Mary Quant concession. “Everyone knew each other in the High Street, trading discounts and gossip. We’d go to the bars in Kensington and also up west posing in our outfits and Biba make up. Sometimes a few of us would take the train to Paris after work on Saturday and Monday would be our day off to recover. Everything was spur of the moment; there’d be bands, models and actresses snapping up the clothes, especially from the designer section upstairs.”

Among the regular customers were Angie BowieTwiggy and the singer Lorna Luft, who bought clothes for her sister Liza Minnelli.  

 
//Michelle with friends Carmel and Maria// 

“Boyfriends and husbands would sit by the indoor fountain and listen to glam rock bellowing out from the speakers in every corner,” says Michelle, who modelled for a photo-shoot at Biba’s Rainbow Room and has supplied THE LOOK with images from that session and photo-booth snaps with her friends Carmel and Maria, who respectively ran Che’s French Connection and Strawberry Studio concessions. 

 

“I wish I had more photos from those days,” says Michelle.  “No-one thought to carry a camera around, especially because they were like house bricks back then!” 

The Wolfmen said,

January 13, 2009 @ 11:08 am

Someone should do sounds from ‘Che’ comp’ cd

Rollergirl said,

January 13, 2009 @ 11:30 am

Oh I used to go to Che Guevara in the 80s! Had no idea it had such an illustrious history. Look at Kensington High Street now…Sad innit!

Debs Williams said,

February 24, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

Fascinating post.

Dave “Che” Shimeld is my father, and I have hazy memories of hanging out at Che Guevara with him in the early 70s when I was a very little girl. I remember Jane Whiteside very well (a lovely lady, lots of fun), and in fact my father is still in touch with her, all these years later.

Dad didn’t mention being interviewed for The Look – I guess I’m going to have to buy it now, aren’t I? ;)

mick O' Keeffe said,

December 27, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

I remember wearing a black jacket made by Antony Price in Naples back in 1969. Suddenly there was a mob chasing me and throwing stones.
It might have been me of course.

rockpopfashion said,

December 28, 2009 @ 8:56 am

Great to hear from you Mick. I have passed your contact details along to Antony.
What was the jacket like to provoke such a reaction?
Don’t suppose you have any pix do you?
Love to post about you here.

Bobby Fox said,

January 11, 2010 @ 12:45 am

Hello Debs – I worked at Che’s around ’75, in the French Connection concession, and remember your dad well. I caught up with him years later in the wine bar in South Ken. Please say hi and send him best regards although he may not remember me…It was a long time ago and a lot of staff came and went over the years, but I have happy memories of it.

Mick O'Keeffe said,

June 20, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

I do have some pix of me in that Antony Price black jacket from
69 / 70. I’ll get them onto a thingie and send them to you.
By the way I lied about the mob and the stones. It was a fairly
uneventful visit to Naples that time. I ate a lot of good food, got
drunk every lunch and dinner time. A dude did try to sell me a couple of guns.

casey synge said,

August 2, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

Hi I am a very old friend of Jane Whiteside (we were fellow students at the RCA in the 1960s) and I would be pleased to get in touch with her again. I note that Debs Williams says her Dad Dave ‘Che” Shimeld is still in touch with her. I would be grateful if you could pass my e-mail address on.
best Casey Synge

federico price bruno said,

March 12, 2012 @ 4:08 am

my uncle ust of been quite cool

chris m said,

February 28, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

my brother use to have a stall in ken market that i pretty much ran for him as he was never there always owed people money, i remember dave well at partys and wine bars in chelsea and a club called thursdays on ken high st, and the rainbow room biba. dave had an old fiat banger he swaned around in then (low profile) do you remember john lloyd from the kings road, amazing days were are they now, kids today have no idea.

Angie cooper said,

April 7, 2013 @ 12:15 am

I’m Angie Cooper ( I was Mrs Cooper…… Stirling Cooper) reading the comments brings back soooooo many nice memories. How many Ossie Clark dresses did I get from Dave at “Che” & sooooo many made to measure Anthony Price dresses I had. I worked in Kensington market the first day it opened. Before Stirling Cooper was named, it was called “Make Beleive Dreams ” ( named by Jane Whiteside) who was Stirling Coopers very first designer. They really were good days.

rockpopfashion said,

April 22, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Hi Angie

Great to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the post. Managed to get a reference to Make Believe Dreams into my book The Look. Did you keep your Ossies + Antonys?

jbm said,

October 21, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

hi
dave was my boss when he opened corks
i spent all my time there haveing fun
so he fired me !
normal !
and he remains today the last person who ever
paid me a salary
thanks dave
you changed my life for ever
james b montague
retired monte carlo

Cathy said,

May 13, 2017 @ 9:02 pm

Hi, just seen these old posts. I used to work in Chef Guevara from 1975 -1978 on the Bilbo Bootmakers shoe concession in the basement. Some very famous celebrities visited and celebrity girlfriends worked there….
Including a girlfriend of Thin Lizzie, member of Police and Queen and Japan….amazing clothes, amazing personalities and Ken Todd became new owner ……. what memories!

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