Wednesday, October 26, was the “Day of the Judges”, a day awaited with great anxiety by the candidates in the final stretch of the FTA Prize competition. Among the small crowd of designers and directors of the world’s most famous and celebrated fashion houses, there was a unique whirlwind of stylish, well-groomed, impeccable poise. She could not be missed.
A dark silhouette mounted on platforms, black Bedouin scarf tied in her hair, a tanned face with shining eyes of incredible blue circled with black, a vertical black line drawn down the middle of her forehead, rows of gold teeth which directed the glance towards the mouth, fingers which ceaselessly touched her face – tattoos, black nails, fingers charged with enormous rings dialoguing with imposing bracelets which seemed to devour her arms… and a riot of black fabrics imposing their volumes on a small body: Michèle Lamy.
An assistant named Rick Owens
She attracts glances, fascinates, challenges. We ask her the basic question, about her general impression of the candidates’ work. We find ourselves having a coffee together, far from the rush, a few minutes before the deliberations. She is relaxed, visibly happy to be in Doha, a thousand miles from her usual haunts, which nevertheless cross time zones. She likes to talk about the 1970s, how she went from law school to post-modern philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s classes, from a job as a criminal attorney in charge of imprisoned sex offenders to stripping, and then following her instinct and the wind, a book or a song, “without knowing why”, leaving Paris for New York and L. A. where she discovered “New York on the Riviera” and was fined USD 75 for showing up topless at the beach.
L.A. is her natural environment, where she opened two successful cafés and launched her fashion label, Lamy, with a certain Rick Owens as her assistant. A free woman above all, a Lilith seduced by androgyny, gifted with an irresistible creative force who explains to you without your asking that her rings are gifts from friends and that her tattoos and the line of kohl she draws on her forehead every morning reconnect her with a previous life in Berber country that she unlocked during a trip to North Africa as a teenager.
Singing naked in tribute to Etel Adnan
Muse and wife of Rick Owens, the creator nicknamed “The Lord of Darkness”, Michèle Lamy pours herself into all forms of art. She produced a line of furniture and objects for Rick Owens, created jewelry for Loree Rodkin, formed a band with her daughter, Scarlett Rouge, played in a video clip of FKA Twigs with a deep-sea fish lantern on her head, sings, creates installations, videos, practices boxing and opened up a training club in London, moors a boat with Rick Owens in Venice at the 2016 Biennale of Contemporary Art, all while organizing parties where everyone wants to be seen. To us, she confides, perhaps as a preview, that she has plans to sing, “in the buff”, poems by the Lebanese artist Etel Adnan – whom she regrets not having known very well, although she was her neighbor in L.A..
“She’s got it all”
A tiny woman as big as the world who finally, after taking us on an express tour of her life and work, and with less than a minute to go before she heads to the judges’ room where a life changing moment in the candidates’ lives will be played out, reveals that she’s been dazzled by the creations the nominees have presented and speaks of her difficulty in expressing her feelings in front of the diversity on display. “These are real people, people who have something to say”, she comments, “I saw their authenticity, they are not there to win, but to show what they have in them. I am completely fascinated by the young Yemeni Kazna Asker (who would go on to win the Debut Talent Prize? a love at first sight, this mix of Yemen and England, where she grew up,” she says.
“For years I’ve been asking myself: What are we fighting for? And this young woman’s work is an answer. That’s what she means by mixing sportswear and urban clothing with the traditional weavings of her country where she gives work and income to local communities. She’s got it all”, adds Michèle Lamy. “I also liked the accessories of Youssra Nichane who revives the North African tradition by modernizing it, it is so beautiful. And also the creations of the Lebanese (Alexandra Hakim for Jewelry, and Rym Beydoun for Ready-to-Wear). You feel like they are in the basement of a destroyed building, under a rain of bombs, stitching sequins and embroidering bows,” she says.
“In the end, I saw a generation of fighters, proud of their cultures, I saw a future for inclusivity and the abolition of borders,” she says before unhurriedly dancing her way to the stairs where, maybe for once, her former life as an attorney and her present life as a magnificent creator where about to meet.