White Rabbit (Butter Lane off King Street West)
White Rabbit Boutique was located on Butter Lane off King Street West and was owned by Gary Tilson Chowne (sadly no longer with us) and managed by myself and my lovely wife "see pictures" during the early seventies.
A lot of the stock was made by Crazy Face which was owned by Gary's close friend Joe Moss 'he of Smith's fame'.
We had a lot of celebrities of the day as customers including some unlikely members of the Coronation Street such as Len Fairclough!
George Best used to pop in from his shop round the corner 'great bloke' and we had the legendary first Stolen from Ivors and the equally legendary Village Barbers as neighbours.
Bob & Tina Lee - 9/5/12
Many thanks for the pictures of the White Rabbit, I remember it well and they really took me back. Lurking somewhere in the dark recesses of a wardrobe I still have a pair of powder blue loons with a 30” flare which I bought there and have kept for old times sake. Sadly I no longer have the 28” waist to fit them even if I were crazy enough to try!
At that time (very early ‘70s) I worked at the top end of Deansgate in a shop called Royce Menswear, anyone remember that? Or a couple of others also at the top end of Deansgate; one called Man Style and the other’s name escapes me. Happy times with some great people (Charlie Quick, Pete Vosper, Cyril Fox, Alan Power, Ian (Crowther, I think?).
Just a couple of memories of the days at Royce …. An anti-Vietnam War rally just outside on Deansgate which turned into a very tidy little riot. We did our bit to fan the flames by playing Country Joe and the Fish ‘Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die’ at full volume through the external speakers right up to the point at which the Police made it plain what would happen to us if we did not immediately desist! Or the time we thought it would be a good idea to redecorate the shop by painting every internal surface matt black (cool or what!) that, and the fact that the lighting came exclusively from a few coloured spots must have made for some surprising discoveries when the bags were opened at home!
Whenever I think of those days at Royce I remember a fog of cigarette smoke so thick you could part it like curtains, Jimmy Hendrix loud enough to make your ears bleed and cans of Mac Fisheries’ (the supermarket on the other side of the street) own brand brown ale – not very sophisticated but a lot of fun for a teenager in his first job in the rag trade. Once again, thanks for the pictures – love to see any others you have and I only wish I had taken some at the time. All the best
Ric Ford - 20/5/12
White Rabbit was set up in November 1971 by four of us - Gary, myself, Bebe Harris and Maggie. It was named after the Jefferson Airplane song, which was constantly playing in the shop. The original idea was to establish a commune, funded by designing, making, and selling clothes. The commune project soon faded in a cloud of smoke, but the shop White Rabbit flourished.
My first job was cutting the material for the jackets and skirts that the girls designed. I was so bad at it that our sewing lady was reduced to tears - she couldn't make out which piece of material was which and how to sew them together - so I got fired from the job and was sent to serve in the shop. I was much better at that and ran the shop for about a year. I loved it, especially attending to all the gorgeous girls who came there, trying on all the clothes. The downside was the gangs of youths who always seemed to come in when I was on my own in the shop. Scary it was.
My favorite memory was one busy Saturday afternoon the shop was packed with people, when some guy grabbed an armful of clothes, said "I think I'll take these" and ran out of the door. So I ran after him and chased him halfway up Deansgate caught him up and jumped on him. We rolled all over the pavement and he dropped the clothes and carried on running so I picked them all up and went back to the shop to receive a standing ovation from everybody in the shop. On Saturdays after a football match we would close early and put up the shutters - there was no messing with United supporters.
In 1973 Gary and myself loaded samples of the clothes into the boot of his white Jaguar and we drove over to Copenhagen with thoughts of starting up something in Denmark. However to the detriment of the clothing industry we ended up partying there for ten days straight and crawling back with a monumental hangover. We didn't get the samples out once. Gary went straight back working as a DJ in the clubs around Denmark. He was an excellent DJ, but told me when I visited him there that the job involved taking any girls home at the end of the nite's work, and his dream was to spend just one night sleeping alone. I don't think his dream ever came true.
We sold the shop, and I since lost contact with Bebe and Maggie. Gary lived many years in Portugal and tragically died a few years ago. I returned to the University in Manchester, finished my doctorate and emigrated to Israel where I still live - today I'm a professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University down in Beer Sheva in the southern desert. I still come back often to England to visit my grandchildren and make the nostalgic pilgrimage down Deansgate to Butter Lane to check out if it all really happened, it wasn't just a wild dream. Would love to make contact with anybody who remembers me from those heady days.
Sol - 29/5/12
I remember buying my first pair of split knee loon pants from white rabbit.they were brown and salmon pink .my god. I was chased through Rusholme by a bunch of neanderthals for having the temerity to have long hair and those trousers. How times change but I wouldnt swap my teenage years for any other era.
Love to all.
Malc Hancock - 3/6/12
rHi Sol we remember you very well and was disappointed you didnt mention Bob and Tina. We were long term friends of Gary's in fact at one point I did sewing for you and Bob ran the shop.
I remember you living with Gary, Bebe and Maggie and at the time I think you where designing a chair for M S sufferers. We lived in Didsbury at the time. Bob has put some pics of the shop with him and Bebe, one of me and him looking awful outside the shop. We walk down there quite often. HAPPY DAYS. This site is so good we watch it all the time.
Tina - 14/11/12
Hi Tina, Hi Bob - so sorry I didn't mention you. I recall whiling away happy days in the shop with you, Bob amid the frangipani incense, rock&roll, and clothes.
Yes I did design a chair for disabled MS sufferers. The design got ripped off and manufactured by a Swiss company and has turned into a major multinational industry: http://levousa.com/
Luckily I learned my lesson and was more careful afterwards. I carried on designing equipment for disabled with paralyzed limbs, set up a company in Israel and sold the company a few years ago:http://www.bioness.com/Home.php
So since then I've moved out to the country up in the Carmel Hills near the sea and enjoying life more than ever. Loved coming back to visit Manchester, but last year my daughter and grandchildren moved down south so I didn't get up there for a while. So keep Manchester groovin and hope to get together some day - All my love - Sol
Sol - 23/12/12
I heard Gary had died, when visiting Mike and Norah in Chorlton. We were mates from 1967(Mike was a schoolmate in Middlesbrough & we met up at Owens Park. I live in Newcastle - retired social worker. I married Barbara my girlfriend at Uni & we are grandparents, etc.
Sol, you bought a leather Wehrmacht motorcycle coat from me for £10 ... remember? I always freaked out on that as u were of the Yiddish persuasion! I could use it now, got 3 motorbikes in my garage.
Many great albeit dope-fuelled memories of hippie South Manchester. I am a loyal Steve Winwood fan after all these years ... there was nothing as good as Traffic! I'd be interested to hear from you guys. Peace!
Also.......Sad Cafe! Barbara and I lived next door to Jan Gamble in Monaco Drive, Northenden, in the early/mid 70s, lovely lady, with links to that local "Supergroup".
Steve Schumm - 10/1/13
I'm sorry to hear that Gary has died, we were close friends in those days. The pictures have brought back a lot of memories for me. I had forgotten just how wonderfully flamboyant you were. I have warm memories of those day and of you, Tina and Bebe.
Best wishes to you, Joe
Joe Moss - 12/3/13
Hi Joe, Hi Tina, Hi Bob, Good to hear you're all still around alive and kicking (hopefully). Steve - I can't seem to remember you, but your SS leather coat I owned until only a few years ago although I didn't wear it for about 40 years. It was a bit shocking to hang out in a German SS coat, me being Jewish, I totally freaked my mother out the first time I wore it home. It was very good for riding on the back of my friends motorbike when we used to go rock climbing in the Peaks.
Joe, I remember your cutter at the factory in Stockport turning up late one night pissed out of his head with the first ever pair of 2-tone jeans which he'd made in a drunken stupor. Sold thousands of pairs of those until the big manufacturers ripped off the design. Do you still have your factory and the denim mill? I've still got a pair of "originals" - not your Crazy Face 2-tones, but an even rarer White Rabbit pair of brushed denim jeans that button all the way up the front of both legs: retro-erotic jeans. Keep in touch - we must have a reunion some day.
Sol - 24/3/13
Hi Bob, Tina, Joe and Sol. Great photos. Happy times, lovin the hair. My dad often talked about you all and the good times.
Niki Tilson-Chowne xx - 31/3/13
Hello Sol, Niki, Tina and Bob,
Sol, I don't have a factory or shops now, I've worked in music since the 1980s. Bill Wade was my cutter then, I still have occasional contact with him, the silly splits were fun as were most things in those days. My work still puts me in Manchester center and so many of the old haunts have gone. Butter Lane is not too different to how it was 40 years ago, last time I looked The White Rabbit premises were an Indian Restaurant.
Bob, didn't we meet on a train a few years ago ?
Niki, I knew you as a baby and as a young girl, It has always been a source of sorrow to me that Gary and I lost contact in later years, we had some good times and were friends first and then business partners for a good few years.
Joe Moss - 28/4/13
Hi Sol, Joe and Niki,
Oh Niki I remember you so well. Ii used to pick you up from school in Bramhall then later in Marple take you back to ours for tea then mum and dad picked you up from ours, what a lovely little girl. So sorry to hear about your dad we had some good times with him and your mum, (how is she).
We knew your dad long before that as mentioned before with Joe and Sol at the White Rabbit Boutique, they where great times we loved that shop, saw quite a lot of George Best as he was just around the corner.
We really must all have a meet up before its too late, oh that sounds morbid, but anyway anyone else interested in White Rabbit days let us know. Bebe, Maggie, Andy Linda anyone. Andy and Linda made belts and bags. Last we heard Andy had a restaurant in Manchester. Isn't this a great site.
Tina Lee - 23/5/13
- Gary outside Ivors Gary outside Ivors
- Louis, Joe Moss Louis, Joe Moss
- Bob in his famous yellow suit Bob in his famous yellow suit
- White Rabbit White Rabbit
- White Rabbit White Rabbit
- Manager and manageress Manager and manageress
- White Rabbit White Rabbit