A mixed blog of fashion goodies
Have an idea for the Hint Blog? Email us.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Punk Plot Thickens

Haidee Findlay-Levin puts her detective hat back on...

In the first week of July, about three months after I posted a blog on this website concerning the selling of fake Seditionaries clothing, originally made by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, I got a note from the editor saying that the suspected con artist, Simon Easton, had at last responded to his attempts to get his side of the story prior to publication. Naturally, Mr. Easton was none too pleased with what I had uncovered, and put out his own statement in an attempt to discredit me, my writing, my academic credentials, my knowledge of fashion history and what had gone down in general. But what I wrote was a story told to me by Malcolm McLaren himself. No one likes the messenger, however, and I had clearly touched a nerve.

We wanted to post the response from Mr. Easton, but we also wanted to get a response from Malcolm (or Damien Hirst, who also claims he was a victim of the con), confirming the facts of the story that I had been told. I decided to send Malcolm the response and to keep him informed. Away on a project, he responded a couple of weeks later, furious and eager to justify and confirm the story, absolutely.

In the interim, I learned that eBay had removed Mr. Easton’s listings and warned customers against any further transactions with him. I also received email exchanges between Malcolm and Damien regarding the matter, in addition to a series of emails between Malcolm and Rizzoli. It seems that Mr. Easton, who had self-published a book on Seditionaries that carried a foreword by Malcolm, had apparently pitched the book to the reputable book publisher, which was about to republish it, or a form of it, and possibly had an exhibition in the works as well. Malcolm was furious that Mr. Easton, whom he says misled him into writing the foreword for a book that he now believed was 80% fake, was further using his name to establish himself as an authority and important collector of original Seditionaries. Malcolm was also surprised that Rizzoli, along with himself, Damien, a slew of vintage dealers, and even auction houses and museums, had apparently been duped by Mr. Easton, whom Malcolm feels is not only discrediting the provenance of the original work, but also profiting from it.

Malcolm contacted Damien to discuss the matter further. He recalled being shown at least three garbage bags of clothes that Damien bought directly from Mr. Easton, as well as from Sotheby’s—all fake, according to Malcolm. He was first alarmed by the sheer quantity of it. How could so much of the stuff still exist, considering these were originally 50's and 60's clothes found in thrift stores and then personally customized by Malcolm and Vivienne out of their bathroom and kitchen with rudimentary and experimental techniques involving stamps, bleach, ink and potato cuts borrowed from their child. These pieces were never part of a large-scale operation, nor were they couture gowns to be preserved for eternity; they were clothes made and worn by punks, most likely to the bitter end.

This was reiterated to me again last weekend by Malcolm himself. Mr. Easton claims that this was not the case, and that many more clothes were made after Malcolm separated from Vivienne, and sold for many years at Boy London, a store on Carnaby Street. While this is certainly true, and I remember them well, these clothes were distinctly different from the originals and they all carried the Boy London label rather than the Seditionaries label. To Malcolm, not only were the labels cause for alarm, but the fabrics, thread and ink were noticeably different from those used in the 70s. Then there was Malcolm’s impression that the questionable pieces seemed to be by the hand of more than one person.

In Mr. Easton’s press release, he claims that he is not being sued by Damien Hirst, but that he is suing the artist. Yet in the email exchange between Malcolm and Damien, it's clear that although Damien had set out to sue Mr. Easton, he was advised to drop the case by his lawyers, concerned that they in fact had no case without Vivienne’s testimony. By withdrawing, under British law, Damien is under an automatic gag order and won't be able to bring the case to court again. Malcolm, on the other hand, is determined to retain the provenance of a legacy created by himself and Vivienne Westwood, as well as stop anyone who attempts to rewrite their history.

Over the last few days, I have seen and spoken to Malcolm several times and he is taking the matter very seriously. He has left no stone unturned in putting an end to Mr. Easton’s operation. He has contacted various members of the press, notifying them of the alleged scam. He says he has also contacted the Met (which has had dealings with Mr. Easton in the past, verified in a New York Times article prior to the Anglomania show), the V&A (which Malcolm believes owns several fakes) and other institutions and auction houses. Further, he has recently found several people who say they were approached by Mr. Easton to help make alleged fakes, one of whom agreed to be involved, one who did not, but who still has the relevant correspondence.

Only yesterday Malcolm received a call from Christie's requesting that he come in, at their expense, to verify the 80 or so pieces that are about go on the block in an upcoming auction. It was their feeling that as a result of the frenzy to separate the authentic from the inauthentic that original pieces could become among the most important and valuable examples of wearable art to date.

So what started off in my first blog as a colorful yet disturbing story of intrigue has had quite the snowball effect. By the end of the week, I'm sure all the gray areas will be fleshed out as more people come forward. I imagine I won’t be the only person absorbed with this scandal, nor the only one writing about it. To date, counterfeits and appropriations have become part of a huge crime syndicate, some say even larger than the drug trade. Ironically, there is a degree of anarchy here: new punks defacing original punk artifacts, allegedly conning the public and public institutions in the process. You heard it here first.

Simon Easton's response, criticizing me, my article and all the information therein...

FIRST EDITION Publishing
Press Release – March 2008
Haidee Findlay-Levin article in “Hint Mag”

An ill informed, factually incorrect and badly written article has appeared under the by-line of Haidee Findlay-Levin on Hint Mag, an internet based fashion-gossip website.

The author of the article refers to ‘SEX & Seditionaries’ the book and has obviously mixed it up with a Japanese book produced by Jun Takahashi which is also referred to in the article. Findlay-Levin describes the cover artwork of ‘SEX & Seditionaries’ as featuring a series of pornographic playing cards. However, this is in fact the cover artwork of the Japanese book. A simple visit to a reputable book shop, by Ms Findlay-Levin, to inspect a copy of ‘SEX & Seditionaries’ would have provided her with a better understanding of the subject and the artwork of the book she purports to criticise in her misguided article.

Regardless of Malcom McLaren’s alleged comments about the ‘SEX & Seditionaries’ book it should be noted that McLaren only agreed to write the introduction to this book after he had viewed over 100 images that were to be included within it. Only once he’d seen the books contents and artwork did he happily agree to write for it.

Ms Findlay-Levin’s article states: “After all, there weren’t many of these clothes made in the first place”. Again this shows her total lack of knowledge on the subject and the way Westwood & McLaren operated in that period. Punk, as a fashion movement, as opposed to the music, lasted from around 1975 to 1980. In addition Westwood and McLaren still produced Seditionaries clothing to order after their shop closed down in 1979, and for a year or so these clothes were also sold through BOY on the King’s Road with a ‘Seditionaries’ label attached. To include the above quote is not only misleading, it is mischievous. After all even McLaren acknowledges he doesn’t know how many of the clothes were produced, and for much of the period he was touring in the USA with the Sex Pistols. Westwood and McLaren were living very separate lives for most of the period.

Again, Ms Findlay-Levin’s scurrilous suggestion: “that the fingerprints of someone young” (the author is 45, indeed went to Central St Martins to get his degree, and has not been back for nearly twenty five years) “and perhaps not one person” is inflammatory. To suggest that someone (anyone) can, at will, enter St Martins and order a few T-shirts from the students shows no understanding of academic life – perhaps this is what Ms Findlay-Levin’s past and suspect journalistic piece are sadly lacking!

Finally, on the article, Ms Findlay-Levin states that calls to the author of ‘SEX & Seditionaries’ have not be returned. I have spoken to the author and he assures me that he has never heard of or ever been approached by Ms Findlay-Levin.

I can comment, with some authority, on the claims made by Ms Findlay-Levin in her article about Damien Hirst. I took Mr Hirst to law, NOT the other way around. This can be substantiated by simply referring to the official UK Court records. Further, I am happy, on request, to supply my solicitor’s contact details to collaborate these facts.

No further comment will be entered into with regard to this article.



Email from Malcolm McLaren to myself following Mr. Easton's response...

Dear Haidee,

This is my response to your recently posted blog about Simon Easton and the Damien Hirst affair. I have subsequently investigated this myself as I personally feel so upset as to what has happened. I am presently writing a new letter to ... those in the media that I know...

I would like very much for you to post my responses so far which I am forwarding you.

Talk to you tonight. Best regards, Malcolm



Statement from Mr. Easton regarding his removal from eBay...

Dear Customers,

I turned on my computer this morning to discover that eBay had suspended my trading account and end all my listings. All they bothered to send me is a standard email which does not clarify what it is that I did wrong so I'm confused.

I fail to understand why nobody at that company bothered to email me first or even pick up the phone - obviously is easier to react like Nazi.

What angers me most is that I have discovered that they have contacted everyone I have sold to in the past and told them not to pay for goods as 'its possible I may not complete the transaction' - obviously I am now a thief! All of you that I have traded with know full well I do my best to offer a good service and I really do not appreciate being treated by a faceless hostile business like I'm an axe murderer.

I'd like to tell eBay to stick their company where the sun don't shine, but obviously trading on eBay is the easiest way to do business with people all round the World.

I shall do my best to get myself 'un-supended' or I may just open another account.

I am very sorry if eBay has alarmed you in any way with their overreaction and immature behaviour...

best wishes,
Simon
www.PunkPistol.com



Letter from Malcolm McLaren to Rizzoli...

From: Office of Malcolm McLaren
Date: July 26, 2008 6:03:01 PM EDT
To: RIZZOLI USA
Subject: IMPORTANT FROM MALCOLM MCLAREN/ Fwd: Simon easton

It has come to my notice that you are intending to publish a book by Mr. Simon A Easton on the Sex and Seditionaries clothing that I designed with Vivienne Westwood back in the 70s. If you go ahead, I insist first of all that you withdraw my name and my essay from such a book. Mr. Easton does not have the right to use this essay beyond the self-published limited edition already released in the UK. I request a confirmation in writing from you regarding this. If I do not hear back from you by close of next Tuesday, July 29, I shall have no alternative but to gain legal advice and then decide on what action to take against both Rizzoli and Simon Easton.

I enclose a letter for your information that I have written to Damien Hirst (the artist) today. It is a shocking indictment of the malpractices of Mr. Simon A Easton and indeed the contents of this book you intend to publish bear that out. John McWhinnie, a book dealer I know that you are aware of, recently told me how Rizzoli were informed by Simon Easton that he won a lawsuit against Damien Hirst. This is entirely untrue.

I would find it remarkable that a publisher of such repute as Rizzoli would publish such a book after knowing all the real and genuine facts. It is your moral duty to inform the public, not misinform.

If you wish to contact me further, don't hesitate to call me as I am in NY until August 1



And finally, emails between Malcolm McLaren and Damien Hirst...

Hi Damien,

I am in New York presently. That little fraud, Simon Easton has raised his ugly head again. I am shocked and confused by the allegations that have come to me via John McWhinnie, a rare book dealer who has been asked to give a party for and on behalf of Simon Easton and his book to be soon published by Rizzoli. A book, I understand and have seen, that contains much of the clothing sold to you. Clothing we both know that pretends to be work and designs by yours truly in partnership with Vivienne Westwood at the time. I am simply furious about this. But I would like to know, did he sue you? Did he win? Was it a question that he demanded these fake clothes back and in turn, you demanded your money back? And is that what he is saying by the fact that he won a lawsuit against you? Can you throw more light on this? I want to take this up with Rizzoli but I need the facts. Bless you. Hope you are well wherever you are.

Best,
Malcolm


Dear Damien

We will certainly not stop until this man is thoroughly exposed as nothing less than a crook. I am at present sending out to all the press that I know to pick up the story.

It is extraordinary to think that a gagging order has been placed on you whilst this rogue has been allowed to continue to ply his trade and rob people of thousands. Not just collectors, but museums, auction houses, shops, and deceive even major and reputable art publishing houses. If that is how the UK justice system works, let's blow it up.

Yes, I think your legal team are an absolute disgrace and you should fire every single one of them. I have never ever thought any English lawyer is worth tuppence. They are cavalier, and never do their job properly.

But we will pick up the fight! That, you can rest assured. You should though, whatever the legal courts say, talk off the record to Tracy Emin asap. and get the message to Vivienne, because it is a thorough disgrace. Don't let these bastards in the UK justice system grind you down. They never did it to me. And I don't believe they should ever do it to someone like yourself.

Best as ever,
Malcolm


Malcolm, yeah I feel really really bad about it, unfortunately my legal team handled it in the wrong way and fucked it up for me, he didn't sue me at all, but your email pretty much spells out what's been going on, I will send you all the clothes if you like, and ill get my office to send you the names and contact addresses of steve at relic and the woman who helps with sothebys, also murry who works with vivian knows simon easton as he used to share a flat with him and he has stuff to say about him. Its a shocking story this business and the balls of the guy coming to you to write something, mental, I hope you work it out man, I'm sorry i can't help you more as my case collapsed as I said and I'm bound by a court agreement to leave it alone but good luck.


HI Damien,
I just received a note from the writer on the Hint blog and Easton's press release. He is obviously used to writing this garbage defending his wares. The style is clear. First and foremost, I was not happy to write for the book because of the jpegs he sent me but because of the other writers who were contributing like Jon Savage, Ted Polhemus. He did send some jpegs of the clothes but they could hardly be used as serious reference as they were tiny images with artwork graphics all over them. I didn't give it much thought at the time and only when I looked at the book, did I realize the truth.

Furthermore, he is trying to create a murky situation between 1979 when Seditionaries closed down and another rather sleazy store on the King's Road called Boy who were for a while trying to copy the clothes and use the label, Seditionaries. That, to the best of my knowledge, and I was still living in London and working with Vivienne for the next 4 years is entirely untrue. However, Vivienne did do things sometimes without my knowledge. But the important point to understand is that clothes made by McLaren/Westwood for their shops ended in 1979. He is trying to pretend that is not true, giving him some loophole in pretense that these clothes may be part of thousands sold through Boy. One thing is clear, the clothes sold to you were clothes made yesterday.

Now we have also discovered that he was an art student at St. Martin's. so we are getting closer to how these clothes were made. But what is really worrisome for me is, the final statement that he took you to law. What does he mean? He certainly doesn't say he won. That is for sure. Which is contrary of course to what he told Rizzoli. Can you let me know more about this fact?

I would much appreciate it.

Best,
Malcolm


Malcolm, I've asked my office to send you everything on monday, I took him to court and when I realised that even with your help I wouldn't be able to prove that the clothes were fake I reached an out of court agreement with him which is legally binding that I could never accuse him again of producing fakes and could never say that the clothes I bought from him were fake. I will send you all the clothes and whatever else you want, one of the guys who recognisaed some of the clothes as being made by him was an old punk called debdon, I paid his taxi fare to come in and see me, and he openly copies the clothes and sells em on camden market as copies, another guy came down from sheffield and he's called murray fenton he makes seditionaries copies too and has some originals and is a big fan and he had a story that punkpistol comissioned him to make copies that he then sold as real, ill get my office to give you everything we've got on monday baby.

Labels: , , , , , ,