With diamond-decked teeth, fingers stained black, Paris-based Michèle Lamy is truly one of fashion’s most revered eccentrics. Entrepreneur, collaborator, producer, wife and business partner to Rick Owens, she has given life to one of the industry’s most celebrated labels alongside countless collaborations and a Gareth Pugh partnership – all while prevailing as a gothic fashion legend in her own right.
Her teenage years in Paris informed her identity. In the late 60s, during the height of the Parisian students’ unrest, when Michèle was moonlighting as a stripper and working as a defence attorney simultaneously, she found her clan. “At 18 I didn’t look so different from now,” she pauses. “I was hanging out with transvestites like my friend Hélène Hazera but also being inspired by Marlene Dietrich and Jean-Luc Godard, and movies like Pierrot le Fou. They pushed me to do my own thing.”
Lamy is the perfect partner for Owens’s erudite humour. His nickname for her is Hun, as in Atilla. She was born in Jura, France, and refers to her family as mountain folk. She’s very vague about her background. During the 60s and 70s she worked as a defence lawyer, while studying with the postmodern philosopher Gilles Deleuze. She then worked as a cabaret dancer and toured France before moving to America in 1979.
At the 2016 Venice Biennale, Lamy transformed an old container ship into a floating saloon. The same year, she recorded songs with her good friend, rapper A$AP Rocky. Rocky said about Lamy, “Hardly anyone knows how important you have been behind the scenes for my career. You did not just design my album covers, you took me to art fairs and showed me the art world.”
In 2017, Lamy and Rick Owens were featured in Lou Stoppard’s book about fashion’s most important and iconic duos, titled Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration. In the book, Owens said that Lamy was more his “mate” than “muse.” And, “I don’t think anyone would ever think of Michèle as a passive muse. I think that’s why she sparks people’s interest—because she doesn’t fit the typical role of a muse.”
Lamy has practiced boxing for 35 years. In 2018, she set up her own boxing gym “Lamyland” in Selfridges, London. The space previously was home to A$AP Rocky’s AWGE Bodega. It is now reinvented every few months. In October 2018, Lamy curated a performance series featuring a tour of “Outsider Art Fair Paris” by British performance artist David Hoyle.
In January 2019, Lamy held an installation art “Genius You” in collaboration with Dutch photographer Paul Kooiker, taking place all around Selfridges, London. From May to November 2019, her boxing installation: “What Are We Fighting For?”, had been shown in Venice Biennale.
Lamy said about her approach to fashion and design, “I like to really be with a lot of people and exchange ideas and the best way to be is to do something together, so I’m easily seduced… And when it’s the idea or I want to lead a bunch of people somewhere and do something together, I think that’s generous.”
Photo: Manuel Pallhuber