In an interview featured in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine, Michèle Lamy talks about her untamed jewellery line, use of sustainable diamonds, and her gleaming gold smile
Michèle Lamy is sitting on her terrace at the Owenscorp headquarters in Paris, eating from a cheeseboard prepared by the cook. Much has been written of Lamy’s ethereal qualities, her raspy voice and witchy air, just as there are several books that feature the famed residence and office she has created with her husband, Rick Owens, in the city’s 7th arrondissement. Lamy, however, is not the eddy of cigarette smoke I’d anticipated. Wearing a small black dress and pointed mules, her skin taut and shiny as a nut, she has the toned body and practical air of someone used to making things. Their office – the fabled dark lair – seems bright and open, with the terrace facing the French Ministry of Defence and two cats enthusiastically attacking some leathery cushions. Owens emerges looking long and tall in platform shoes to say hello in between having his picture taken, while Lamy sits with her cheese, cigarettes and team. I’ve come to talk to her about her jewellery line, Hunrod, and ask about the sustainable diamonds she’s now using. She lights up and fixes her eyes on me. “The diamonds,” she mutters, pulling on her cigarette, “they’re not going to save the world. It’s not the electric car. But it’s a story.”
The story of Hunrod is the story of Lamy: it speaks to her appetite for collaboration and creation. A decade ago Lamy was experimenting with jewellery, partly inspired by a shop on Paris’s rue de Bourgogne that displayed artists’ jewels. “This woman, Christiane Billet, showed bronze bracelets among other things, and I fell in love and bought some pieces,” she says. Billet is known for her work with Christian Lacroix on costume jewellery and the fabulously tactile designs of her own that make metal look like flowing fabric. Lamy’s experiments caught the eye of her friend Loree Rodkin, the haute jeweller and best friend to Cher. “I saw Loree’s eyes on this piece,” she says – Lamy’s first work was inspired by the Berber bracelets she has collected for years. And so their collaboration began, at Rodkin’s large atelier in LA, Hunrod being a portmanteau of their names – Lamy is called Hun by her husband and friends, as in Attila, not the British term of endearment. In 2015, the designers created the first collection, its pieces somehow both delicate and roughly hewn, as though Lamy had sunk her ink-tipped fingers straight into the molten gold. Hunrod avoids gothic dramatics in favour of something more untamed, with Lamy welding thick bands of gold together. The result is almost like she has taken the inherited rings that other grandmothers (Lamy herself is grandmother to two-year-old Nicée, courtesy of her daughter, the artist Scarlett Rouge) stack on their fingers and transformed them into a single, wondrous new object. All of Hunrod looks slightly dug up, the gold not so much burnished to a high shine than allowed to glow gently, as though it has just emerged from a long-forgotten tomb. You can find the line at the Rick Owens stores and Dover Street Market London, and now it’s also shown by Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which has been taking it around the world.
Lamy, more than most, has a physical relationship with jewellery. Some of her teeth, famously, feature gold and precious stones, and when we meet she has just had a big ruby embedded in one of her top incisors. “It all started in LA, the teeth,” she says. This was when she and Owens called the city their home and she fed and watered many of the great and good at her restaurants Les Deux Cafés and Café des Artistes in the 1990s and early 2000s. The reason for her foray into body adornment, however, wasn’t a love affair with West Coast aesthetics but something more prosaic. “I learnt I had to change the mercury in my back fillings,” she laughs. “So I found this ‘new age’, as I call him, dentist with a ponytail, and this guy was using a pendulum to see what alloy I should have for my teeth. It was so expensive, I didn’t want to have nothing to show for it.” Thus, instead of an invisible filling, Lamy had her first gold tooth implanted, then the second, and then the diamonds, as a record of her expensive dentistry. “These little diamonds, for the light. To your soul – or your intestine, I don’t know. Maybe both.” It’s not a grill, Lamy explains. She sleeps with her gold teeth in.
Since the first Hunrod collection, she has wanted to do something influenced by the Chinese zodiac, “but because Loree is an ox, she told me no”, Lamy laughs. Eventually Lamy persuaded her, as you imagine she can any reluctant collaborator. And in part it was because Lamy had discovered diamonds. Or, at least, Dover Street Market had put her in touch with the Diamond Foundry, which cultivates diamonds in its San Francisco laboratory. “Leo DiCaprio is an investor,” Lamy says. “They’re not blood diamonds.” Thus we have a collection of five zodiac rings with the pair’s favourite signs, including Lamy’s, the monkey, as well as a tiger, snake, rat and pig. The animals, elaborately studded with the aforementioned diamonds, cling to the stacked golden bands of the rings, sparkling new additions to the menagerie on Lamy’s inky hands.
Not that Lamy insists upon diamonds or gold. “I’m very degenerate about this. I prefer bronze,” she says. In fact, she doesn’t particularly like talking about jewellery at all: “It’s not a thing by itself. It’s an accessory to a person – my jewellery is part of me.” Lamy says she likes rings because she can look down whenever she likes and see her work. Along with her gleaming smile, her adorned hands seem to draw the attention of like-minded collaborators. Recently Lamy has been in LA, unearthing friends from her restaurateur era. “I talk with somebody, then something is created somewhere. I love that.” This is Lamy’s not-so-secret power, whether through Hunrod, her performances or the hulking alabaster furniture she oversees the making of for Owenscorp. Lamy brings people together, then something, somewhere, is made. “The more I see the character of people, their sign makes sense,” she decides, putting out her cigarette. “With the zodiac, if I wasn’t a monkey, or maybe a dragon, I wouldn’t talk about it.” What is it about the monkey that she sees in herself? “A monkey always finds a branch,” she replies.