It will be frustrating for publisher Picador and their authors Ian Kelly and Vivienne Westwood that the five-star review of the memoir Vivienne Westwood by novelist Philip Hoare in the Telegraph is rendered unreliable by, pro rata, as many inaccuracies as contained in the book itself.
On the basis that phrases such as “fetishistically brilliant” amount to a thumbs-up, Hoare’s review arrives in the wake of the media coverage of my claim against the publisher and the authors over substantial plagiarisation of my book The Look in Vivienne Westwood.
Since I have publicly charged the book with being “sloppy”, this well-placed and positive review by a relatively well-known literary figure may be framed in the context of a push to restore credibility to the troubled project (as well as the plagiarisation and a huge amount of factual errors, the book is held to contain at least one serious libel and fails to provide proper credit for a number of photographers).
Hoare – who has post-punk associations, having worked in west London record shop Rough Trade and managed the indie group the Pale Fountains – bravely inserts himself into the piece with personal memories of Westwood’s design business with Malcolm McLaren in the 70s and 80s.
According to Hoare – and these are his additions to the errors already piled high by the 458-page tome – the shop assistants at 430 Kings Road in its incarnation as Sex included not only musician Midge Ure but also actress/performer Toyah Willcox.
Of course neither was employed there. Hoare has simply confused each person’s tangential relationships to the McLaren/Westwood coterie: it is well known that Ure was once approached as a possible singer for the Sex Pistols during their formative stage, while Willcox appeared in Derek Jarman’s punk move 1978 Jubilee (the subject of a salty attack printed onto a t-shirt by Westwood).
During the period Hoare is discussing, Ure had already hit the number one spot with Scottish teen-pop band Slik while Willcox was making her acting bones in Birmingham Old Rep. A simple check in one of the reliable published sources – of course I recommend The Look – would have put him right.
Against these howlers, we can attribute to Hoare’s fallacious memory shop manager Jordan’s “Kandinsky make-up” (it was avowedly based on the work of Mondrian and introduced in 1977 during the later Seditionaries phase) and the “scaffolding rails” in Sex (they were made of curved chrome and expertly-turned wooden gym bar racks courtesy of the trained wheelwright Vic Mead) and instead study Hoare’s claims to own a pair of bondage trousers bought at Nostalgia Of Mud, McLaren and Westwood’s store in St Christopher’s Place in London’s West End.
Bondage trousers were not sold at NoM, which opened in spring 1982. By this time McLaren and Westwood had strongly and publicly rejected these and other design works produced at the height of punk six years earlier.
In fact so vehement was their abandonment of the punk-era garments that Westwood licensed all the designs, include the patterns for the bondage trousers, to King’s Road store Boy, which was knocking them out in inferior copies by the hundred by spring 1982.
Hoare – who is a fan of Kelly’s work and has given glowing reviews to his books previously – compounds the mistakes in his review by quoting one of the plagiarised passages from my book: “Sex,” Westwood tells Kelly,”translated into fashion becomes fetish…the very embodiment of youth’s assumption to mortality.”
As pointed out here last week, and as my lawyers have communicated to Westwood, Kelly and Picador, this is one of 40 passages in Vivienne Westwood which bear close resemblance to text in my book, in this case from the introduction written by McLaren nearly a decade-and-a-half ago: “Sex translated into fashion becomes fetish, and fetishism is the very embodiment of youth. Youth has to behave irreverently – it has to take drugs because of its fundamental belief in its own immortality.”
Read Hoare’s review here.