Rick Owens first met his wife, Michele Lamy, more than twenty years ago when he was employed as a pattern maker in the design company she owned and ran in Los Angeles. In 2008, in a definitive New Yorker profile, he described her as “a mesmerising sphinx. I’m so fascinated by someone who acts completely on instinct and feelings, where I’m so pragmatic and sensible and kind of, compared to her, boring and conservative.” Such things are relative, clearly.
In 2003, and by that point heading up the successful Rick Owens label, the pair migrated to a five-storey mansion in the Seventh Arrondissement of Paris where they now live and work. “It was kind of like, wow, I never expected this to happen, but here we are, this demands something special,” Owens once said of the move.
The “something special” in question took the form first of a series of life-size waxworks, originally conceived by Owens and created by Madame Tussauds (“when he reaches a level of stature, a man has his portrait commissioned to go over the fireplace”), and the introduction of fine furniture to his oeuvre. This is exhibited and sold on a commission-only basis and fills the couple’s living space also. Owens comes up with the initial designs, while Lamy is responsible for their execution, liaising with the many specialists involved.
“It’s kind of like asking a fascist and a gypsy to organise a war together,” says the designer, deadpan. “She’s just so generous and so flexible with deadlines and I’m not. She likes the complexity and eccentricity of working with artisans and I don’t always have the patience for that. The furniture is customised, esoteric, involves rare materials. She loves that.”
Here meanwhile, in this intimate film portrait by Danielle Levitt, is how Owens sums up his aesthetic: “I like classicism. I like historic reference. I like if there is something new with something almost ancient.”
Text by Susannah Frankel
Film and Portraits by Danielle Levitt