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The Look and Vivienne Westwood: A question of attribution

Oct 15th, 2014
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//Vivienne Westwood quoted on p85 of her new book written with Ian Kelly and published by Picador this month. This is also spoken in Westwood’s accent by the actress Paula Wilcox in the audiobook which has been published here and in the US//

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//Westwood’s former partner Malcolm McLaren said this to me during a 1999 interview. Subsequently I quoted him on page 22 of my book The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion, first published in 2001, second edition 2006//

Jenni Murray: You’ve said ‘clothes were politics long before fashion’. What did you mean by that?

Vivienne Westwood: I have no idea.

Jenni Murray: Was it something you said to Ian (Kelly) and now you’ve forgotten?

Vivienne Westwood: No…is that what it says in the book?

Jenni Murray: Yes

Vivienne Westwood: Well then, he might have got a misquote from somewhere.

Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, October 14, 2014

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I respect Dame Vivienne Westwood’s achievements; she has been a significant figure in shaping our collective visual identity.

As someone who is driven to investigate and interpret visual culture, that is important to me. I dedicated a chapter and sections to Westwood’s contribution to fashion with and without Malcolm McLaren in the 2001 and 2006 editions of The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion.

But she is ill-served by the sloppy new book Vivienne Westwood, recently published by Picador and written by actor/author Ian Kelly.

This is not just because it is riddled with shameful inaccuracies and poor attention to detail: “Jimmy” Hendrix, Mary “Shelly”, Pete “Townsend”, Scott “Crowley” (Crolla), Eric “Emmerson”, Jeremy “Healey” (Healy); “the first Paris show, the Buffaloes collection in 1981…we had done the Pirates, the Savages and this was the Buffalo collection” (Pirate was the first show in 1981); “McLaren was just 56 when he died” (he was 64); “on November 6 1976 Vivienne attended the first concert by the Sex Pistols” (performed precisely a year earlier); the Soho gay bar frequented by punks was “Louisa’s” (correct spelling: Louise’s); Quentin Crisp was living at NYC’s Chelsea Hotel when she and McLaren stayed there in August 1973 (Crisp first visited in 1978 and lived there from 1980); etc.

The book contains several outright claims without base. As we know, John Lydon has picked up on the notion floated that Westwood came up with the concept and the title of the Sex Pistols’ clarion call Anarchy In The UK, while there is a suggestion that she named The Who back in 1964, and even that her first husband managed that group. Sections of the book insinuate that such Sex and Seditionaries designs as Cowboys, Cambridge Rapist, Smoking Boy, Destroy, Cash From Chaos and You’re Gonna Wake Up were solely created by Westwood (I imagine The Clash manager Bernie Rhodes – who came up with YGWU but is not mentioned – will have something to say about that).

Then there is the fact that the book credits to the Vivienne Westwood Collection many images which belong to others, such as the exterior shots of 430 King’s Road taken by Bob Gruen (p137) and Sukita Matayoshi (p122), portraits of VW and others by Alain Dister (p167), David Dagley/Rex Features (p159) and David Parkinson (pp115, 142); the architectural sketch for Worlds End by David Connor (p238); the Worlds End catwalk photography by Robyn Beeche (pp37, 254); etc.

Meantime, as reported in British fortnightly Private Eye, the book presents a serious libel by maligning a former employee of Westwood’s on the basis that he is dead. Apparently he is not, and nor is the married individual asserted to have been his boyfriend.

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//McLaren’s words from his introduction to The Look are compacted into an indirect quote attributed to Westwood herself on p161 of Vivienne Westwood//

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//The original text from McLaren’s introduction, p10, The Look//

My objection, and one which I am pursuing, is that the author helped himself freely to content from The Look, which is on reading lists for University Of The Arts London fashion courses (I am currently preparing the third edition).

In a couple of instances, astonishingly, words written and spoken by McLaren for that book are attributed in direct and indirect quotes to Westwood. There are eight passages alone from McLaren’s introduction to The Look.

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//Introductory quote for Chapter 6 of Westwood’s book is – by coincidence? – based on the same quote I used to introduce my book in 2006//

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//The introductory quote I selected in the 2006 edition of The Look, beneath the dedication to my late brother David//

These and many other excerpts – close to 40 I warrant – bear too close a resemblance to text in The Look to let pass.

My book is credited with 10 references in the chapter ‘Notes’ section at the back of the book. Of these:

• 2 are not my work and not in The Look;

• 6 are given the wrong page numbers in The Look – if the reader were to look them up they would arrive at entirely different subject matters or, in a couple of cases, full-page illustrations of fashion businesses which have nothing to do with Westwood;

• 1 (the quote on p85 at the top of this post) is negated by the attribution to Westwood in the text. The impression given that these are words uttered by Westwood to Kelly – as opposed to me by McLaren in the bar of the London School Of Economics in the autumn of 1999 (I have the notes in my archive) -  is reinforced by the fact that it, along with all the other passages based on my material, is voiced in Westwood’s accent by actress Paula Wilcox in the audiobook published in the UK and US.

It is troubling that this leaves just 1 correct attribution out of the 10 which name me and the other 29 which do not. Yet even this sole example is problematic: confusingly, this note references the second edition of The Look  – the substantially different first edition is cited in the Vivienne Westwood bibliography.

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//From p87 of Vivienne Westwood: Condensed version of quote I obtained during a 2000 interview with the late Tommy Roberts and featured in The Look. Judging by the tense used, the authors and publisher appear unaware that Roberts died in 2012//

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//Roberts’ quote as it originally appeared on p24 of The Look//

I am also named among those whose work has been helpful to Kelly. No kidding. Such acknowledgment I am advised does not justify the substantial (and the legal definition relies on qualitative rather than quantitative factors) borrowing.

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/P84, Vivienne Westwood. “Used to reminisce” is introduce to disguise the fact this was taken from The Look//

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//From p20, The Look. I am advised that lifting third-party quotes is not a defence in itself, since my inclusion would have reflected the knowledge and understanding I applied in the first place//

As Private Eye reports, I’m not pleased. Nobody likes to have the product of their skill and labour appropriated, apparently quite casually. Another reason is professional. Like the kid with the pin and the inflatable cricket team, Kelly has let the side down.

I have published memoirs with such outspoken characters as Boy George and Goldie. They, and Westwood, are entitled to say what they want, particularly during the process of building books; it is the author’s job to protect them by steering and refining the material all the while ensuring the story remains a) well-told and b) free from potential claims of libel, plagiarisation, etc. In not doing so, the author has undermined the verity of the entire enterprise.

Of course, the publisher takes the primary role in all this, and I would hope that Picador – part of the worldwide Macmillan Group – asks of itself the relevant questions about how, to use one media lawyer’s professional opinion of the Westwood book, such “a dog’s breakfast” has been allowed to hit the shelves.

Whatever, the fact is that this opportunity to present a cracking tale of a fascinating individual (as delivered in Jane Mulvagh’s 1999 Westwood biography An Unfashionable Life) has been scuppered by several factors, including an over-reliance on “misquotes from somewhere”.

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Photography books: Punk Rockers! by Alain Dister

Oct 9th, 2014
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//Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, Paris, November 1973. (c) Alain Dister//

A photograph of Vivienne Westwood – credited to the fashion designer’s archive in the new Westwood book with Ian Kelly – put me in mind of an image I have in one of my many books in storage.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on the particular tome. Then bingo! Bought eight years ago on publication, the France-only publication Punk Rockers! is a compendium of the photography of the late Alain Dister from the early 70s to the mid-00s.

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//Johnny Thunders, David JoHansen, Sylvain Sylvain, Paris, November 1973. (c) Alain Dister//

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//Left: Westwood and McLaren. Right: Seditionaries frontage 1978. (c) Alain Dister//

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//Book jacket photo of unidentified female punk rocker taken in Seattle, 1996. (c) Alain Dister//

Among the photographs Dister discusses in the brief foreword is one of Westwood with Malcolm McLaren when they journeyed to Paris to witness a gig by the New York Dolls at the Olympia Theatre in November 1973. This is clearly one of a sequence taken by Dister and featured in Westwood’s book.

As Dister writes, McLaren was “habillé en Teddy Boy années 50″. In photographs taken at the French capital’s Belle Epoque brasserie La Coupole – where we were happily ensconced with the Dolls’ confrère Marc Zermati only last year – the American proto-punk group is shown in all their glory, with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain resplendent in a zippered wool/mohair Let It Rock creation.

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//London 1978. (c) Alain Dister//

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//Fans at Sex Pistols reunion concert, Finsbury Park, north London, 1996. (c) Alain Dister//

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//Left: Berlin 1998. Right: Seattle, 1996//

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//Left: Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, 2002. Right: Sheena, Tokyo 2002//

Punk Rockers! is a valuable document; Dister cast his unstinting eye as punk mutated from London and New York in the 70s to blossom in such cities as Berlin in the 80s, Seattle in the 90s and Tokyo in the 00s.

Former Melody Maker journalist Chris Charlesworth provides a fascinating snapshot of the Dolls at their debauched peak in Paris here.

Buy copies of Punk Rockers! here.

Dister died in 2008; here is his website.

Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly is reviewed here.

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Malcolm McLaren exhibition: The roots of Savages + his copy of Mable Morrow’s folk art book Indian Rawhide

Jul 30th, 2014
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//Malcolm McLaren’s copy of Mable Morrow’s Indian Rawhide: An American Folk Art, published by Oklahoma University Press as part of the Civilization Of American Indian series in 1975//

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//Annotated page showing design for a parfleche (painted hide) of the Dakota//

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//Savages dress in thick jersey and cotton with overprinted lettering. Design: Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood for Worlds End, 1982. Private collection//

Among the most revealing exhibits at the Malcolm McLaren show Let It Rock is the cultural iconoclast’s copy of a folk art book which proved a rich source of reference when he came to design the Savages collection with Vivienne Westwood in 1982.

McLaren’s consistent approach to creative activity always began with deep research (from the first publicly recognised manifestation, the Teddy Boy outlet Let It Rock, to his final film artworks Shallow 1-21 and Paris: City Of The XXIst Century).

And in the early 80s, McLaren’s copy of Mable Morrow’s Indian Rawhide, published by Oklahoma University Press in 1975, proved inspirational for this lifelong fan of Native American Indian culture.

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//Assiniboin parfleche design collected on the Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana//

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//Savages soft jersey top with contrasting armpit inserts and neck yolk. Designed by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood for Worlds End, 1982. Private collection.//

McLaren’s recasting of this folk art in the sphere of fashion aligns his work in the 70s and 80s with the post-modern practice of appropriation which infused all spheres of artistic endeavour at the time, from literature to film and fine art. It is arguable that he and Westwood were the first and the greatest to incorporate the approach in clothing design.

When Savages debuted in October 1982 at Olympia’s Pillar Hall in west London, the repurposing of Native American tribal prints across a range of fabrics and garments – some overprinted with block capital slogans such as “Breaker” and “Girly” – and meshing with contemporary urban black culture and streetwear proved groundbreaking in fashion terms, as can be seen in this film commissioned for the event by McLaren:

 

Indian Rawhide and the clothing featured in this post are among the many rare and unique exhibits in Let It Rock: The Look Of Music The Sound Of Fashion, which is at the Crystal Hall in Copenhagen’s Bella Center from August 3-6.

Read more here.

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The ART SCHOOL and the CULTURE SHED

Jun 18th, 2014

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John Beck and Matthew Cornford’s intelligent and measured book The Art School And The Culture Shed may be a slim volume but it packs a hell of a punch in locating the ravages wreaked on our cultural life over the past 20 years by privatisation, the failings of local councils and town planners and the depredations of property developers.

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//Left: Moseley School Of Art, closed 1975. Right: The site of Sidcup School Of Art, occupied since 2010 by a Morrisons and a car park//

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I Knew Jim Knew: Jim Walrod knows a thing or two…

May 27th, 2014
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//Jacket photograph Terry Richardson with shots from Walrod’s Instagram feed//

Design authority Jim Walrod wears a deep and wide-ranging understanding of his subject – specifically that pertaining to modernism in furniture, interiors, product design and architecture  – lightly.

This is refreshing in a field populated by bloodless experts and humourless know-alls. The founder of important 90s/00s store Form & Function, Walrod -  described as “the ultimate design raconteur” by André Balazs and “the furniture pimp” by the Beastie Boys – is above all an enthusiast.

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The Clash: Rare sketches by Derek Boshier in the Flowers Gallery archive

May 14th, 2014
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//Sketch for songbook cover, 13 x 9″. Derek Boshier 1979 courtesy Flowers Gallery//

While interrogating materials for Rethink/Re-Entry – the monograph of artist Derek Boshier I am editing – I’ve come across many delights, including these sketches in the Flowers Gallery archive for one of the most visually striking documents of the post-punk era, CLASH 2nd Songbook.

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The Face, May 1992: Love Sees No Colour

Apr 29th, 2014
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//Cover: Boy George with Mica + Jade, styling David Mignon, photography Thomas Krygier//

From time to time I’m going to be turning over information and images here as I go through the process of writing my book Legacy: The story of The Face.

Today I spent an enjoyable and enlightening few hours interviewing former editor Richard Benson; during our conversation it became clear that one of the turning points in the history of this significant magazine occurred with the spring 1992 publication of the issue headed Love Sees No Colour.

This coincided with the High Court judgment against the magazine in the unfortunate libel case brought by actor/singer Jason Donovan on the grounds that he had been branded a liar and a hypocrite as a result of the inference that he was gay.

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//The Face May 1992, pp6-7: Nick Logan’s editorial on the right//

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//PP58-59: Left, montage by Keith Piper/Right, Kate Moss by Enrique Badalescu, styling Camille Nickerson + Lucy Ewing//

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//PP38-39: Seen, Gilbert & George, 1989//

The theme of tolerance had been hatched by Benson’s predecessor Sheryl Garratt long before the dispute reached, in publisher Nick Logan’s words, “its unhappy conclusion”.

In terms of the magazine’s narrative, the issue affirmed The Face’s position as the lightning rod of the progress of popular culture in the inclusive 90s.

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//PP76-77: Left, George O’Dowd in his Absolutely Queer T-shirt – “Homophobes are fine. I just don’t want them near my children.”/Right, Rebel MC in Michiko Koshino T-shirt, Ezra Oban + Dominique Kelly in Katharine Hamnett Protect + Survive vests. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

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//PP82-83: Left (top), Apachi Indian in One World shirt by Paul Smith, (below) Banderas in Love Sees No Colour shirts by Joe Casely-Hayford,/Right, Des’Ree in No To Negrophobia T-shirt by Trevor Norris. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

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//PP84-85: Left, (top left) Paul Reid in Face Love outfit by Dirk Bikkembergs, (top right) Charlotte Champion + Gabriella Stonebridge in Jean Colonna and Martin Margiela, (below) Colin “Sweet C” McMillan in Love Sees No Colour T-shirt by Gio Goi and Turn Your Nose Up At Racism by Bella Freud/Right, Michael Clark in Nazi Shithead outfit by Leigh Bowery. Photos: Kate Garner + Thomas Krygier//

Designed by Boris Bencic and Lee Swillingham, the issue tipped the hat to those figures who had played a part in the 80s story – Boy George, Paul Smith, Leigh Bowery – and also hit the mark with the generation setting the pace for the new decade, whether it be Joe Bloggs, Kate Moss or Martin Margiela.

Produced in an all-hands-to-the-pump atmosphere, with Logan and Garratt in daily court attendance and the all-too-real prospect of forced closure as a result of the huge legal bills resulting from the Donovan case, The Face May 1992 is a cracking issue, one which stands up as a consummate example of journalistic excellence achieved under duress.

Legacy: The story of The Face is published by Thames & Hudson in autumn 2015.

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Q: What does the Sun Ra perfume Prophetika smell like? A: The Future!

Apr 18th, 2014

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//Prophetika: Based on an ancient formula with hints of Cairo, Chicago…and Casseopia//


One day I’ll write a post justifying my view that Kicks #6 is the hands-down greatest music magazine of all time, but for now it’s worth recording that the folks behind Kicks  – namely Miriam Linna and Billy Miller – continue to, er, kick out the wildest music and related stuff via their Norton Records and Kicks Books imprints.

To coincide with the publication of the first volume of the trilogy Prophetika – which gathers together a trove of unpublished poetry and prose by the intergalactic visionary Sun Ra – Kicks Books (“The publisher, the parfumier”) has announced a fragrance of the same name which draws on an ancient formula “invoking a mirage of memories and mysteries and inciting a call to action”. Apparently there are hints of Cairo, Chicago…and Casseopia.

The perfume comes in a deluxe 0.5 oz Italian glass bottle in a presentation box and is just $13 – buy your’s here.

FB friend Joss Hutton nailed it with his response to the question as to what Prophetika smells like: “The Future”. Of course.

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There’s a shindig to launch the book and niff at NYC’s St Mark’s Church next Friday. Details here.

Visit Kicks Books here and Norton Records here.

Sun Ra in performance with his Arkestra and in interview in Helsinki 1971:

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Kate Moross: Make Your Own Luck

Apr 16th, 2014

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The industrious British designer/illustrator Kate Moross is celebrating the publication of her book Make Your Own Luck with a London exhibition surveying the impressive body of work she has assembled to date.

I recommend the book highly, and not just because Moross gracefully thanked me for what little input I may have had. Also, as a fellow dog-lover, it’s great to see that Moross’s beloved Shiba Inus Tako and Ebi are given prominence on the flyleaf.

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All The Way From Louisville: Leee Black Childers

Apr 7th, 2014

The last time I saw photographer/manager Leee Black Childers – who has died aged aged 69 – was fleetingly, a year or so ago at the crowded launch of his book and exhibition at London’s The Vinyl Factory.

The first time I saw Childers was at The Speakeasy at a March 1977 concert by his charges The Heartbreakers. The poster for that gig, featuring his London rooftop portrait of the band, hangs behind me as I type.

That night and for the rest of his London stay over the next couple of years this Southern gent could be spotted at such haunts as The Ship in Wardour Street, his presence notable for lacquered pompadour, authentic sharkskin suits and slick black winklepickers, his reputation bolstered by the knowledge that Ian Hunter had dedicated Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis to Childers – who, in fact, was raised near Louisville, KY – and that he created the apocalyptic collage on the inner gatefold of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs LP (which now appears spookily prescient of the devastation of 9/11).

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//The inner gatefold of my well-worn copy of Diamond Dogs showing Childers’ apocalyptic photographic collage//

Childers appeared awfully frail at the Vinyl Factory launch, so news that he had been rushed to LA’s Cedar Sinai hospital during another bout of book promotion a few weeks back was worrying but not unexpected.

In conversation in 2009 Childers revealed a promotional plan for his book then in preparation: he wanted it to be published after his death so that he could be utterly honest about his extraordinary life and set of acquaintances. The promotion would consist of a series of pre-recorded chat show appearances, all ready for broadcast as soon as he expired. He wondered whether the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman would be up for it.

Well, it wasn’t to be. The book came out and though unwell he appeared to be enjoying being back in the spotlight.

I am told Childers’ archiving was ramshackle and can find no website dedicated to his photographic work. This is shame because no one was embedded in and simultaneously chronicling the demi-monde of glitter, glam and punk, of Warhol’s Manhattan, Iggy’s LA and McLaren’s London, in the manner of this charismatic soul.

Sayonara Leee.

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