Lord Kitchener of Khartoum would undoubtedly have turned in his grave if he knew he lent his name to a “with-it” London boutique at 293 Portobello Road in the late 1960s. He would have been even more horrified if he knew the boutique was selling the uniform of the British Army as the latest mod gear.
Two young men, John Paul and Ian Fisk (pictured) came up with the idea of selling vintage clothing to the “in-crowd” and opened I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet in 1965.
They began selling old fur coats which went like hot cakes to both boys and girls, and also had a good line in ancient paraffin heaters.
They then bought up a large stock of pre-1914 red military tunics which were snapped up by clamouring teenagers at 30/- a time.
Soon it was old combat jackets, policemen’s capes, pith helmets, sailor’s trousers, caps, boots, buttons – any old clothes they could lay their hands on.
The concept was perfectly timed for the ‘Swinging London’ heyday and by 1968 the boutique was selling over a hundred military jackets a week.
A cavalcade of pop stars including John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton frequented the shop and, at one point, Manfred Mann offered Ian Fisk £20 for the best jacket in the shop – fur, gold braid, the lot – but it was their finest possession and not for sale.
Paul and Fisk (later joined by Robert Orbach) subsequently opened other Lord Kitchener’s Valet shops in Carnaby Street and the surrounding Soho area, eventually expanding to sites in Piccadilly Circus and the King’s Road (where the shop was named I Was Lord Kitchener’s Thing).
In the summer of 1967, Fisk and Paul dissolved their partnership. Fisk took over ownership of the Portobello road premises which was renamed as the Injun Dog head-shop (subtitled “Once I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet”).
The last Kitchener’s outlet (Coventry Street) closed its doors in 1977.