“I’m excited to be here, but I just need to breathe a little,” Michèle Lamy tells me, as we sit down onto the steps in the middle of a boxing gym to talk about her latest venture. She’s (of course) dressed in full Rick Owens, flawlessly put-together with a pair of giant platform heels and a de-constructed shearling jacket with moulded shoulders, an instantly recognisable design element from his AW19 collection. She’s got her fingers painted in signature black, glistening against the chunky rings covering every finger on her hands. And on the forehead, two prosthetics that look like nipples pierced with rings. It all feels somewhat surreal – and not only because I’ve never stepped into a boxing gym. This is Michèle Lamy I’m sat next to – she’s a genius, trailblazer, icon who I’ve observed for years, with Xtina’s Dirrty on blast in the background. We’re at BXR London, a high-end boxing location which is first of its kind in the capital, where Lamy is introducing the next chapter of Lamyland.
After launching it last year at Selfridges, Lamy decided to continue the project by collaborating with nine different artists on nine punching bags, all currently on auction with Sotheby’s with proceeds from the sale going to London Community Boxing, a charity founded on a firm belief in the power of sport as a vehicle for personal development and social cohesion. When I describe them as punching bags, I use the term loosely. They are artworks using the medium of the punch bag to present the unique perspective of each of the artists – Campana Brothers transformed it by covering it with wicker weave, while Atelier Van Lieshout made a giant sausage out of nylon, pur-foam and styrofoam that actually smells like smoked meat. Continuing the meat theme, Scarlett Rouge painted hers into bacon, while Studio Job covered theirs into trompe l’oeil brick effect.
Why punching bags? Well, it’s safe to say boxing is one of Lamy’s greatest passions, third only perhaps to art and fashion. She is an encyclopedia of knowledge on a love she discovered quite accidentally. While living in L.A. in the 1990s, the famous Wild Card boxing gym was just a three-minute walk away from her house. “Instead of just pushing weights, I wanted to do a story. I always like to be in a story where there are people that aren’t from the same background, in a way,” she remembers. And so she went, tried and absolutely loved it, fascinated by the community and their incredible commitment to the activity. “They were buying newspaper, throwing the whole paper and just keeping the sports section, and then threw all the sports away and kept just one page which had something about boxing.” Michèle Lamy adores passion and is inspired by dedication of others in every form – while explaining her love of the sport, she romantically lauds about the sweat attracting her to the boxing ring. As inspirations from those early days, she namechecks legendary boxer James Toney who she met at Wild Card, along with undefeated two-time world champion Lucia Rijker who was one of the first females to emerge as a superstar in the sport and has worked with the prestigious coach Freddie Roach. “She showed that women can do it too,” Lamy says.
This project is titled under the What Are You Fighting For campaign, which is all about using the metaphorical sense of the sport in every aspect of life. “In boxing, you have to stand for what you believe. It’s also a dance, but what is really important to me is that you look somebody in the eyes and you dare to confront someone,” Lamy says. She also recognises its significance in creating a safe, active space for troubled youth – that’s why she decided to give all the revenue from the auction sales of the artwork to London Community Boxing.
So, where does Lamyland go next? “It’s always something to do with people, and be in a group. In fact, the name Lamyland was given by Rick to describe all the things I was doing,” she says. As a supportive, core community of creatives that Lamy has surrounded herself with, it’s truly a dreamland of creativity. While she’s most often described as Owens’ muse, Lamy is so much more. She is a mastermind who is responsible for forward-thinking ideas and a spiritual mother figure to generations of misfits. Yes, her style is incredible, complex and inspirational, but there’s incredible depth in everything she does. As we say our goodbyes just before the star-studded launch party for What Are You Fighting For kicks off, she smiles at me, her golden grill shining bright in the harsh gym lights. “I need people. As soon as they are here, I’m happy.”
by Dino Bonacic
The auction for ‘What Are You Fighting For’ punching bags curated by Michèle Lamy’s Lamyland is open online until tonight.