About Michèle Lamy
Parisian entrepreneur Michèle Lamy has been a lawyer, a stripper, a fashion designer, a restaurateur and a jewelry designer, all in one lifetime. With an impressive span of achievements, she shows absolutely no sign of stopping, even at age 74. On a daily basis she applies a line made of black vegetable dye to her forehead and stains her fingers with the dye as well, all as a complement to her gold-plated teeth. A fashion muse who’s been described as a “gothic priestess wearing crocs,” her appearance is unusual, but she’s maintained her elite status by infusing her varied projects with intellectual depth. She flits between parties populated by celebrities like A$AP Rocky, Courtney Love, and Carine Roitfeld but also designs art installations and jewelry and consults for multiple fashion lines.
While there’s paradoxically a great deal of information available about her, Michèle Lamy’s origins are still somewhat mysterious and many of her timelines are difficult to pin down. It’s generally undisputed that she was born to an Algerian family in a mountainous region of eastern France and she shared herself that she was born in 1944. Her involvement with fashion started early, since her grandfather made accessories (possibly eyeglasses?) for the designer Paul Poiret. Lamy recalls feeling different from a young age: people in the rural area where she grew up, would often mistake her and her family as Indian. “When I was a little girl, with my sister and my dad at the Riviera, people would speak to us in English because of our dark skin and our very long hair. Our father looked almost like a Gandhi type, with no hair.” In response she began to experiment with her appearance at an early age, using henna on her hair and her hands.
When she got older she attended boarding school and at the age of 17 (or 18), she took a trip to North Africa, where she fell in love with Amazigh culture and took note of the practice of tattooing faces. Despite her grandfather’s involvement in the fashion industry, Lamy initially went to law school, where she took classes with Gilles Deleuze. Some of the dates are unclear, but it can be gathered that she went to law school in Paris and spent about 5 years practicing law as a defense attorney before finding she had philosophical disagreements with the French legal system. She left criminal law to become cabaret dancer.
Lamy moved to New York City and spent a year living in the Chelsea Hotel, making jewelry and observing the punk scene. Looking for a new direction, she spoke with her brother and he suggested Los Angeles. He’d visited and he described it to her as being like “New York City and the Riviera.” In 1979, she moved to Los Angeles. “I came just to see how it looked and I stayed. I felt at home when I arrived.” Lamy explains that this is where she embraced gold-plated teeth, “I found this artist that was a New Age type who convinced me.” Lamy’s offered the confounding information that this was a “New Age dentist” and that these were initially intended to be fillings.
Lamy established a $10 million fashion business, and set up a retail store called Traction Avenue. She also set up two restaurants/nightclubs, Les Deux Cafés in Los Angeles and Café des Artistes in New York City, which were frequented by both the west coast and east coast elite. In the 90s, she and the performance artist turned filmmaker Richard Newton met and married. They then had a daughter whom they named Scarlett Rouge. She met her now-husband Rick Owens when she was looking for a patternmaker for her fashion line Lamy. They established themselves among the Los Angeles social set: Lamy loved to stay out all night, while her notoriously fastidious husband retired early.
Michèle and Rick moved to Paris in 2002 to reopen the furrier house Revillon and to premier Rick Owens’ own line (for which Lamy serves as a creative consultant). She also works with designers Gareth Pugh and Ahmed Abdelrahman on their labels as well, produces furniture for Rick Owens’ line, and designs jewelry with Loree Rodkin. Not constraining herself to design, she also makes music with her and her daughter’s band LAVASCAR and appears in music videos and short films. Following her work output is an essential part of understanding Michèle Lamy, but her intellectual pursuits extend beyond what’s neatly categorized as work or personal.
She decorates her and her husband’s living space with furniture she’s designed for the Rick Owens line, made out of marble, plywood, and camel hair as well as Vodou masks and other artifacts she’s collected over the years. A longtime hobbyist, she incorporated her love of boxing into a recent exhibit she designed for Selfridges. Even going out dancing can be viewed through an artistic lens for her, “I think of it as art and I merge with the art, dancing with Rick.”
In interviews, she’s casually philosophical in her commentary on most topics, offering about fashion: “Beauty should be about personal storytelling.” About staying mentally well: “For me, meditation is meeting new people.” About religion: “Belief is a way to express a memory of your genes.” About death: ”We’re such a small part of history. I’m very pragmatic on this. It’s too bad but perhaps it’s just the end. We have to do the best with what we have, even if times are horrible.” Any takeaways for readers? “You have to be part of your neighbourhood. You have to question everything and be determined to get stuff done.”