CULTURE

Michèle Lamy, No Sesso, and Sterling Ruby Unite in a New Exhibition

Michèle Lamy wearing black
Photo by John Phillips via Getty Images

Several years ago, when planning a takeover of Selfridges in London, Rick Owens posed a question to his life partner, Michèle Lamy: Could the exhibition component feature a toilet? Those familiar with Lamy, the spritely 77-year-old boxer, rapper, and fashion and furniture designer, won’t be surprised by her response: “Why not?” After all, Lamy recently told W, “We build everything in our house, sinks and all.”

Had Owens been more directly involved in Lamy’s latest foray, it would soon find a home in Los Angeles. She’s among the 40-plus artists and designers to contribute to “Sized: An Exhibition of Works for the Home and Life,” which opens on June 15 in Los Angeles. It’s the latest unexpected art staging from the artist and creative director Alexander May, who’s been considering the future of art fair environments and ways that people collect for their homes. So, with a purposefully vague prompt of simply “design,” May presented a range of creatives—Lykke Li, Jordan Wolfson, and Luka Sabbat among them—with a 15,000-square-foot storage facility formerly used by Paramount Studios for a site-specific show.

The concept immediately appealed to Lamy, who has as much of a presence in L.A. as she does in Paris. The 77-year-old ran two restaurants in the city for years and still drops by regularly to hang and collaborate with pals like Kim Kardashian. She’s also been making furniture alongside Owens for well over a decade. Like Donald Judd, she believes that humans need only be in three straightforward positions: standing upright, sitting down, or lying flat. “That half-couchy position is not our forte,” Lamy said.

Gallic Chair (2007) by Michèle Lamy for Owenscorp.

Courtesy of Owenscorp

The furniture that Owens designs and Lamy produces for their company Owenscorp allows those positions to be assumed with a statement. Pieces are typically made of “biblical” materials like basalt and marble, and can easily weigh more than a ton. Spartan and solid, they resemble sculptures more than furniture. But Lamy insists that, say, the “Gallic” chair that she’s contributing to “Sized,” is also practical. “Even if it looks like a throne, it is the most comfortable chair you can sit on. All the angles to support you are just right.” (Sterling Ruby, who is also showing at “Sized,” seems to agree; the artist, designer, and Raf Simons collaborator owns two.)

Owens has long compared the furniture he makes with Lamy to couture. (“I’m using rare materials and artisans with specialized skills to create unique, one-of-a-kind objects,” he told W in 2016, when he had an exhibition at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art produced and installed by Lamy.) Pierre Davis and Autumn Randolph, who have also shown at MoCA, feel the same way about their creations for No Sesso, the inclusive, community-focused label they run out of Los Angeles. (The name translates to “no sex” or “no gender” in Italian.)

No Sesso designs are undoubtedly wearable garments. But the pieces are also so meticulously conceptualized and detailed that they look equally at home on a wall or pillar as on a runway or rack. In fact, that’s how Davis first started showing them, displaying patchwork leather jackets at galleries and art spaces while studying fashion at the Art Institute of Seattle. It’s not rare for Davis and Randolph to spend six months on a single custom piece, which can ultimately become more akin to soft sculpture. The delicate silk chiffon puffer they’ll show in “Sized,” for example, is too delicate to wear more than occasionally, unless with the intention of seeing it wear down over time.

No matter their identity, Davis and Randolph hope that wearers of No Sesso are able to navigate and occupy space comfortably. Which is why they decided to rework another of Randolph’s concepts derived from No Sesso’s fall 2020 collection: the beloved asymmetrical “one titty dress.” “We’ve made it convertible so you can wear it the way we wanted it to on the runway, or you can not have your boobs exposed,” Davis said with a laugh. “Just as a one-shoulder moment.”

Courtesy of No Sesso