On August 6 I am taking part in a discussion about Punk visual style and culture with fashion historian Amber Butchart and Jordan Mooney, the sales assistant superstar at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shops at 430 King’s Road in the 70s who became a fashion inspiration and role model in her own right.
Toyah Willcox and Midge Ure worked in Sex… Nostalgia Of Mud sold bondage trousers… Philip Hoare’s compromised review littered with as many howlers as contained in the Vivienne Westwood book
It will be frustrating for publisher Picador and their authors Ian Kelly and Vivienne Westwood that novelist Philip Hoare’s national paper five-star review of memoir Vivienne Westwood is rendered unreliable by, pro rata, as many inaccuracies as contained in the book itself.
Holed by these gaffes, the review – in the Sunday Telegraph’s Seven magazine published October 26 – is capsized by Hoare’s failure to declare a significant interest.
In Kelly’s acknowledgements, Hoare’s name appears first on the list of those who extended to the author “accommodation, guidance, encouragement and friendship on this project”.
On the basis that phrases such as “fetishistically brilliant” justify a thumbs-up, Hoare’s review arrived 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 major-league sloppiness, this 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 the 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 blunders 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 1978 punk movie 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 before transferring to the National Theatre. 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 generously attribute to memory failings Hoare’s depiction of 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 ownership of 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 publicly rejected these and other designs 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 has prior in giving glowing reviews to Kelly’s previous books – 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.
One of the choice selections to be screened as part of this month’s post-punk film season This Is Now is Solitude, the 1981 John Maybury short featuring David Holah, then a fashion student, soon to launch the era-defining label Bodymap with Stevie Stewart.
Put together by British Film Institute curator William Fowler, This Is Now is on at London’s South Bank and explores the early 80s explosion in DIY creativity in this field among UK art students, clubbers, New Romantics and members of the post-punk scene, all of whom embraced inexpensive domestic technology such as VHS and Super 8 to make often bold and uncompromising statements.
I can’t wait to see documentarist Toby Amies’ envoi to his extraordinary friend Drako Oho Zarhazar.
Over the last year or so when we have bumped into each other socially, Amies has shown me snippets on his phone. Each tasty morsel has increased my hunger for this portrait of the late Brighton dweller Amies describes as “muse for Dali, actor for Jarman, dancer at Les Folies Bergère, outsider interior decorator, hero and legend”.
I’m quoted in today’s article in UK Sunday newspaper The Observer about the factual failings surrounding the punk clothing collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Costume Institute.
Here is a selection of images from the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990. In pursuit of this slippery-to-define movement, curators Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt have settled on the defining principles of quotation and bricolage (assemblage from diverse elements).
As a result they have mixed and matched disciplines, categories and scale in their line-up of 250 exhibits, ranging from a reconstruction of Hans Hollein’s 1980 Venice Biennale facade The Presence Of The Past to graphics for record sleeves by Barney Bubbles, Neville Brody and Peter Saville.
NAME: Nicholas Abrahams
Nick Abrahams’ work includes promos for Stereolab, Add (N) To X and sigur rós. More recently he collaborated with Jeremy Deller on the fascinating exposition of fan’s desires, The Posters Came From The Walls.
Among Abrahams’ current projects is Jayne County biopic Man Enough To Be A Woman. Judging from the rushes shown last year, this will be a doozy.
Abrahams cuts quite a dash in any company; as I say below, I admire his ability to combine the edgy with the traditional without pretension.
Here he answers the Blokes Of Britain questionnaire, covering ground from Tiny Tim to gold teeth by way of Cordings, Trickers, Viv Stanshall and William Burroughs. Oh, and not to forget Edward Gorey’s fur coats, Joseph Beuys’ felt suits and Nick’s own creation: The Denton Welch safety bib.
How would you describe your sartorial style?
My girlfriend says I look like a straight bear (IE: a chubby gay man with beard).