The Way I Work... Michèle Lamy
In our series where we look at the things, places and people that inspire a creative’s working life, journalist Marie-Claire Chappet spoke to the indefatigable multi-disciplinary artist about everything from her artistic inspirations to the best career advice she’s ever been given
How does one begin to describe Michèle Lamy? The septuagenarian creative has led myriad lives, each more fascinating than the last. In her native France, she was a defence lawyer in the ’60s and ’70s, before taking a turn as a cabaret dancer. She was a fashion mogul and restaurateur in LA and an icon in her own right, with her distinctive tattoos and unique style. Now, the multi-disciplinary artist, who splits her time between Paris and LA, is best known for her design work with her husband, Rick Owens, and her art, fashion, jewellery, and furniture.
The utterly unique renaissance woman sat down with Service95 over a cigarette and cup of tea to share her rituals, dreams, and love of creative chaos…
On working rituals… My thought has always been that I never wanted to be the sort of person who is waiting for holidays or waiting for their retirement. I make sure I enjoy my work. I mostly work and live between Los Angeles, Paris and Italy. In Paris, in our place on the fifth floor [of our building], there is a big bathroom [with] a hammam. I go there for my traditional start to the morning, followed by cigarettes and a cup of tea. That is where I get all my ideas. In LA, I live in a bungalow at Chateau Marmont, which opens onto the garden and pool. I get ideas there too because there is no one there in the morning. It is peaceful and looks fantastic. For breakfast, I always have oeuf à la coque.
On music to work to… I don’t like the quiet, but I will start the day with no music. When I start [working on] something, I like to listen to internet radio – usually a French one. For me, it has to be techno, with no words, and no artist or song that I am really into at that time as I need to concentrate.
On her artistic inspirations… I love Jean-Luc Godard and I am smoking so much right now because of him… because he [recently] died. Voices inspire me; Bob Dylan is so important in that way, [as is] the work of Langston Hughes. But what was truly music to me was the voice of Gilles Deleuze. There was seduction to the words when he would speak to me. It was like surfing.
On her work uniform… I obviously wear Rick Owens. But I don’t believe in ‘work’ clothes. I believe in gym clothes, I believe in boxing clothes, and I believe in the energy change in different clothes, but I like something you can wear all day to everything.
On her signature scent… At the moment that is my Rick Owens LAMYLAND perfume, which we have been developing for a while. But in general, I like perfumes that smell like the sun and camel piss. I do very well in the perfume souks in Dubai, which are gorgeous. I also love Sables by Annick Goutal. Smell is such an important thing. It’s very evocative and always reminds you of moments. My smell is all over my clothes. It’s how I can recognise which is my sweater and which is Rick’s sweater!
On her love of travel… I like being a nomad, like a Berber, which is why one of my favourite places is North Africa. But I also love London. I love being there. It is why I think I am cursed with my accent because I think in English but when I speak it sounds like theees! At the moment I am most excited about my travels to Japan. I am doing some work with artist Ryoji Ikeda, which is incredible, and I am in love with Japanese culture.
The best career advice she’s ever been given… I am very comfortable with what I am doing now, but other people would call it chaos. I guess the advice was just to follow my own path but make sure my spirit was good enough to see a blank page and say: what are we going to do here? I like the chaos. If I wasn’t doing this, [do] you think I could be a brain surgeon? No, I think I would just be a nomad in the desert; someone who tells stories about the sky.
Marie-Claire Chappet is a London-based arts and culture journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar