They are two of our greatest iconoclasts – Malcolm McLaren, the punk impresario who brought the world the Sex Pistols and bondage trousers, and Damien Hirst, the son of a mechanic, who has become the most famous figure on the British art scene.
The two men have, however, been locked in a bizarre war of words for the past year with a man called Simon Easton over what they claim is counterfeit punk clothing. The row is set to reach a head with the publication of Mr Easton's book which, strangely, has an introduction by McLaren.
It all started when Hirst, also a collector of contemporary art, bought bagfuls of punk clothing from Mr Easton's Punk Pistol website for around £80,000. Hirst believed the clothes, said to include the famous God Save the Queen T-shirt, were originals from the 1975-79 period when McLaren and his then partner, Vivienne Westwood, handmade them for sale in their King's Road shop, Sex, which later became Seditionaries.
McLaren is said to have taken one look at Hirst's collection and condemned them as forgeries. McLaren told the New York Daily News: "I felt terrible, but they were fakes. Seeing these clothes, I said, 'Wow, they've gone to great lengths to manufacture the labels and distress the fabrics.' But clearly they were not the fabrics we used 35 years ago, and the stitching was totally different. And there were bags and bags, big black bags of them.
"We simply didn't make that many. I mean, we literally made these clothes on my kitchen floor. They were each unique."
Mr Easton denies the garments are fakes. He points out that the Sex and Seditionaries clothes were sold by mail order after 1979 and through the Boy shop on London's King's Road.
Now McLaren is attempting to stop a New York publishing firm from printing Mr Easton's book of images based on Sex and Seditionaries clothing, which he claims contains the items sold to Hirst. Bizarrely, McLaren has written an introduction to the book, called Sex and Seditionaries, which is already published as a limited edition in the UK and is for sale on Amazon for £300.
In a letter to the offices of the US publisher Rizzoli, dated 26 July, McLaren writes: "If you go ahead, I insist first of all that you withdraw my name and my essay from the book. Mr Easton does not have the right to use this essay beyond the self-published limited edition. If I do not hear back from close of Tuesday next I shall have no alternative but to gain legal advice."
In an email to Hirst, McLaren explained that he didn't look at the digital images of the clothes used in the book as they were "tiny, with artwork graphics all over them".
He added: "I didn't give it much thought at the time and only when I looked at the book did I realise the truth."
Mr Easton claimed earlier that McLaren had agreed to write for the book "after he had viewed 100 images that were to be included within it. Only once he'd seen the book's content and artwork did he happily agree to write for it."
Rizzoli, Mr Easton and McLaren were unavailable for further comment yesterday.Reuse content