Edwige Belmore is regarded as the Queen of Paris Punk. She has done it all. From a fierce rebel punk to walking the runways under Jean-Paul Gaultier and photo shoots with Andy Warhol, Edwige is the embodiment of a time when art was at its daring peak. Edwige's interview is in two parts. Even in two parts, there wasn't enough time to go through all of her background. Perhaps I'll do a part three and four in the future. My interview with her focuses on her 20's in the years of '76, '77 and a bit of the early '80s. I met with Edwige in East Village, NYC for a two hour conversation. ----
Photo (above): Salvatore Caputo
eepmon: A bit about your background for the readers. Edwige Belmore...
Edwige Belmore: ... from Paris, France
eepmon: and if anyone "Googled" you right now they will immediately see that you were regarded as the Queen of Punk in the '70s and '80s in Paris and New York.
Edwige: ... and mostly in the late '70s when Punk arrived in '77.
eepmon: Can you tell more about the scene during that time. How was it?
Edwige: It was quite interesting. I mean, nothing was really happening before that... There was scene in New York like the Glam Rock, New York Dolls, Roxy Music, Brian Eno which strangely enough I was completely into when I was 15 years old during high-school. Truth be told I wasn't so into music back then. I grew up convent so I never listen to music when I was a kid. I never even had a turn table you know. So in '77, the Punk Rock exploded in England from '76 - '77 in the rest of Europe. I remember in '76 it was the first time I went to see the Sex Pistols in Paris. No one at the time had SEEN anything like that! NEVER! It was the first MIND BLOWING new thing. Sadly enough today, no one is actually bringing a brand new thing into the scene. We have groups that are educated, heady, blah blah blah you know?...But at the same time, thank god we are in the Computer/Internet age to expand creations to all regions of the world.
eepmon: Interesting times we are living in because of the tools, specifically technological tools we are given to us to create.
Edwige: Though there are a lot great bands now, unfortunately today we have bands that say "We do Punk Rock" and they do exactly that because they are like Punk Rockers exactly 30 years ago. "Ok dude! We been there, done that! Throw up on the stage. Cool! Your pants are ripped. Great! You got it all!" 30 years ago you know? It's funny, a lot of losers back then wanted to do Punk Rock because they don't actually don't know what to do and that was a very easy way out for them at the time. Some didn't even know how to play bass at all. But that was the style of the times, it was them of then. It was a social movement as well. Fighting the system, the establishment.
Myself I was going through my own personal pain. Because of my separation of my parents. Being completely alone in this world. They gave me $20 to have a life. They moved into the country side and I stayed in Paris. I was completely abandoned. I was going through personal stuff at the time. By the end of '76 I had an identity crisis, I didn't want to be that Edwige I had been until then. That little girl that grew up in the convent and parents who were completely ignorant, racist...I did not belong with them. So I had to find away to cut off from this...It's like an apple branch growing off an orange tree. I had to sever this.
It was November 6 of 1976, I decided that in exactly a month from then that on December 6th, "Edwige Will Die, and Edwige Will Be Born" but all my friends didn't understand what I meant so they thought that on December 6th I was going to commit suicide. I was 19 years old. The day before December 6th, I went out and bought one pair of pants, one shirt and a pair of shoes and a little tie and an super cool old vintage leather jacket that was given to me by a friend. And on that day, I took all my clothes that I brought with me before and put it in the fireplace and burned everything. And to top it off I wanted to shave my head to completely start fresh. But the barbers back then, nobody wanted to shave my head! It was 1976...A young girl of 19 years of age, there was no way they wanted to do it. But maybe in '77 because the Punk style started to come in... Finally I got someone to do it and I had completely this amazon look - Riding pants, high heels, white shirt with a skinny tie, with a big old beaten leather jacket that's so cool, shaved head...I was some kind of alien, amazon, dominitrix or something.
Photo: Philippe Morillon
eepmon: Were there photos of it?
Edwige: Yes, Helmut Newton took pictures of me at the period. But of course Helmut never ever gives his prints and I actually never saw it. I know it was in exhibition because my friends in Australia told me, "Oh my god, this is crazy, there's that picture of you, the first one you took with Helmut!". I was topless sitting like this with my arms crossed supporting my breast and in that apartment...it was completely dilapidated. It was old royalty, old bourgeois... like in Cuba, paint is peeling with that sort of background. Standing tall with my arms crossed, standing strong. I had still had a baby face looking strong! Actually, the people I was living with were all connected with artist and I became a kind of mascot with the group. My hair started to grow and made it into a crew cut and bleached it blond. Annie Lennox had the same haircut a few years later than I had at that time. That is when everything started to blow up in my life '77 onwards. From then, BANG! All of sudden I'm going to so many parties. Punk is happening. I ended up at Paloma Picasso's party dressed in the same outfit again. Yves Saint Laurent, Loulou de La Falaise and Andy Warhol, they were all there.
eepmon: This was in New York or Paris at that time?
Edwige: This was still in Paris. I came to New York a the end of '77. The whole Queen of Punk "coronation" happened in Paris. I looked the way I looked and Helmut kept on following me everywhere during Pablo Picasso's party and he kept saying, "I have to take your picture! I have to take your picture!". I knew who he was and Helmut was quite a controversial and provocative photographer at the time. Today nobody gives a shit but then they were the movers and shakers. And then I was taken to a different direction. All of a sudden I was the Punk of the salon with the rich and famous people.
eepmon: I remember you mentioning being the madame of the house representing the Punk movement.
Edwige: Well no not yet. I was really shy. It was my entry to this world and I needed to be strong. I was only 20 years old coming from a convent from really boring, ignorant, racist parents. I wasn't all over the place yet but because the way I made myself look I need to be strong. Things moved very quickly. I was in a club and these two girls approached me and said, "Wow you look great! Want to be part of our band?". I said "OK!". I never played anything at all and they put me on the drums and away I went! We were a mythical band. We were called L.U.V. it mean Ladies United Violently or Lipsticks Used Viciously. We were FIERCE looking. They were punked out but really sexy. At the same time the newspaper and media were all going, "What is Punk? What is Punk? What is Punk? What is going on? What is this movement? What is this new thing?" And for some reason I was asked by Vogue, Elle, Nouvel Observateur magazines to do interviews. I don't know why but one interview led to another. They thought "Oh! She must be the leader of this movement." From there, there were two guys at the time who were doing a new magazine...kinda of a paper magazine of the '80s. It was completely underground. Really cool.
eepmon: What was the name of it?
Photo: Pierre et Gilles
Edwige: Alain Benoist and Jean-Luc Maitre were nice people and approached me. They said to me, "We are doing a whole series of magazines where the cover and the back are connected by two people. We would like you and Andy Warhol on the same cover. We are thinking the headline: Pope of Pop meets the Queen of Punk." Façade made it that happen because they saw the perfect fit. I think it is because I knew the two groups 1) The young people in the sorted little bar, and 2) the upper elite class which continues to this very day.
eepmon: So that was the photo of you and Andy Warhol where you were kissing him on the cheek.
Edwige: Pierre Commoy was the photographer who took the photo of Andy and I. The front cover was Andy. I was on the back. He had a lipstick mark on his cheek with my photo as a button pin on his blazer. Inside there is picture of me kissing him.
eepmon: Crazy. It must of been fireworks going crazy. Quite a response no?
Edwige: Yea but pretty much everyone of Façade was quite amazing. Every cover was amazing. One other cover was with my best friend, Djemila Khelfa who is an Algerian women, super sexy, super gorgeous, super BAM! in your face. She wore these really slick black vinyl tights with high heels, big leather jackets, lips like this big with red on it, curly black hair. SHE WAS FIERCE. But at the same time super feminine like a James Bond girl. Interestingly I think I might have been the only one which the photo was taken together. Façade is doing a huge re-edition of all the 13 magazines.
eepmon: Which one were you in?
Edwige: I don't remember... Hmm I don't know. Façade's website on Facebook or their official site will have that information. But the re-issue is going in to this box and there is going to also be issue 14 of today. So in the issue 14, there is one theme called The Kiss. It is related to the kiss I gave to Andy Warhol. To write about that...what the kiss means to me. That's going to be part of this special re-issue box set. It's going to be truly an art piece. They are re-creating the whole vibe. They had a huge retrospective a few years ago in Paris, they used my picture with Andy Warhol for the cover and invitation, posters and in the windows of the gallery in Paris. It was GIGANTIC! I was on the three windows...Huge arch windows. They flew me there and the experience was amazing.
eepmon: Incredible. The history in the making indeed. So the theme of the article is multidisciplinary and that is exactly why, that since you have done so many things, fashion...
Edwige: Yes, actually '77 was the explosion of fashion. People like Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, exploded in Paris that came out with fashion styles that never existed. Especially Jean-Paul, he inspired himself from the street. Today, it is the street that has to be dressed like how a magazine says. Back then it was not like this, Jean-Paul Gaultier was creating stuff by looking at the people in the street. It was the contrary, he was the one with an interpretation. You know, it is like a real artist does. When Picasso looks at a woman and puts it on a canvas, it might not look exactly like the women could be like, a whole coloured face. But you know it make sense, it was 30 years ago things needed to explode back then.
eepmon: There needed to be a shake...
Edwige: yea the '50s and the '60s... The '50s especially were a little stiff in fashion. Great and I love it and fantastic people like... Dior, CoCo Chanel but the '60s got a little more daring. Especially the British. In the '70s to the end of '77s there wasn't really anything going on. And Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and some others started a new vision of fashion. Jean-Paul used the Punk Rock look and created something new with it whereas Thierry Mugler went on a more science fiction, spacey feel. Jean-Paul was really street. He wanted to be inspired by the street... it's like you buy a jacket at a thrift shop, chop chop chop you recut, you resew it, you redo it, you reshape it and then you send it back to the street and it's like a million dollars and completely different. So... not many people could do that. He could.
eepmon: It's kind of like you are giving back to the street.
eepmon: It must have been quite a time...
Edwige: It was amazing. I mean I am very, very blessed and grateful to be born in that time...
eepmon: ...You were indeed! You were in the smack-dab of when freaking shit was happening.
Edwige: Yep exactly. The music, the fashion...the movies that really exploded. Things were way more daring for that time in the '70s...
eepmon: ... and you were in the middle of it all. You were in all directions. What I feel is that they would look up to you, because of the unique position you held, and your multidisciplinary connection to those worlds.
Photo: Fritz Kok
Edwige: I guess I had some magnetism. Jean-Paul Gaultier came to me and said, "You look amazing. Do you want to be in my show?". I was never a model, I don't want to be a model...! But of course he didn't approach me like that, he was like do you want to be in my SHOW which is whole different meaning. I was approached by Helmut Newton not as a model but as a personality. So when people ask me if I modelled, I say no, I never ever belonged to any agency except for when I went to Japan. People come to me and ask me to be in their shows. In '79 and early '80s the whole Japanese wave arrived. Yohji Yamamoto, Kansai Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo of COMME des GARÇONS. It was austere, black and white... except for Kansai Yamamto who was COMPLETELY crazy with all these gold and red and this and that and crazy colours. He had a crazy spark of madness!
eepmon: So did you meet them in Japan at the time?
Edwige: No that was before. It was still at the end of the '70s. I went to Japan in '82. I met them in Paris and that was the first time that the Japanese shows were coming to Paris. They had some Japanese models like Saiyoko, and this other Japanese girl who was super tall. GORGEOUS! I did a show with Yohji Yamamto, COMME des GARÇONS and one with Kansai Yamamoto. Fashion kept going on and on and kept getting daring. First show with Jean-Paul was daring but not as exposed. The second show was the big one and that was the first time I was doing it. It was crazy at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris... Everyone was taking drugs and drinking champaign like crazy because we were like all street kids! We needed to calm our nerves before we get on that thing because we were not models. That's cause that is what Jean-Paul wanted. He wanted to see us walk how we walk on the street...more like our own swag. He never wanted to do 'that walk' like how the girls do it today or whatever. No! He wanted people from the street. Get the fashion from the street, re-create it showing it and giving it back. I was pretty drunk... very high (everyone was) but it worked out fine! At the end of the show though I was doing the finale. I'm wearing high heels, black stockings with a big tuxedo jacket with marabou feather. I was so gone and I was suppose to sing "My Way" Sid Vicious version. I got on the runway and a little close to the edge... I was so tipsy and the music started... and SOME GOD put be back on my balance because literally I had one foot that went outside the runway and right back onto it... and could have fallen! But everything went well, finalized the show but everyone was like AHHHHHH! I was like walking on a tight rope!
You know...it was the punk era, even if we fell in the hole we didn't care!
Same thing when we went to some parties. We would crash at this advertising group... very bourgeois and horrible... but we were able to slip in. And when we got in, the man would open the door and we'd just cause a rucus. We jumped on to the punch and the drinks and took over the place. Of course we always had those blood gel capsules.... and I remember they were having a "PUNK" party those bourgeois. And what they did for "PUNK" they were wearing tacky 70 suites, beige jacket... they would attach this cigarette butt with a safety pin to their lapel. That was the "PUNK" touch.
eepmon: and you were like, "Give me a f--n break"
Edwige: I was like "F--K YOU!" So I'm swallowing my blood gel pill drinking a lot beer and punch and making sure it's going to be epic. Then I went to this very pretty pale blue bathroom and I puked all over the bathtub. All blood into the bath tub as if someone had been killed. It was hysterical! We were 20 years old! It was nothing harmful. It wasn't like puking on the Louis XV chair. Some other punks would do but I always have a respect for art, design.
Anyway, the advertising group were really uptight.
eepmon: because usually they would follow where the buzz was...
Edwige: and at the same time they were not really daring. I know that. With my bleach blond crew cut, Pierre et Gilles were doing campaign for lingerie and they really wanted me as one of the models as I have such a close relationship with them doing photographs in the '70s and '80s. I tried them on, Pierre took some snap shots but the advertising executives were like... I could actually hear them in the other room, "She is beautiful but we can't show that!". Because it was too daring. This was in '79. They were not daring to do stuff... they just wanted to sell their shit. And you know obviously people who looked like me would not be buying that kind of stuff. Advertising means that you need to go to the people who will buy your stuff.
eepmon: The mass majority. And I think this still exists today. The advertising mentality still requires that they gotta sell their stuff and therefore needs to maintain a certain status quo to please the majority.
Edwige: Another time though, I did a six page make up portrait for Marie Clair. Pierre et Gilles were the photographers and they insisted that Edwige would be in it. There was no other way. I have these in my archives. There was three shots for the Fall. Two make up style and one natural style. It was beautiful. It was like a centre fold.
Photo: Edo Bertoglio
I return back to Paris. I was married at the time... Another punk thing that we did. Personally I decided... that to actually get married at the time was more controversial than "Free Love". We wanted to deconstruct the establishment, to actually to get in their sector kinda like the trojan horse. Once you get in there, go BAP BAP BAP! I married my friend Jean Louis Jorge, Dominican Filmmaker. 15 years older than me and a friend from Chanel made me a mock Chanel suit out of terri cloth, white towels.
Drugs was a very very huge part of that era. At that time in Paris it was mostly heroine and making people uninhibited.
Fabrice Emaer, regarded as "The Prince of the night", owner of Le Palace, the Parisian version of Studio 54 he asked me to represent the Le Palace at the door. I was 20 years old, I was in my little tuxedo, bleach blond crew cut, big red lips, six body guards and I was the person who decides who comes in and who doesn't. This was when I was 20/21 years old with this kind of power. That was a huge responsibility. Fabrice told me, "Just imagine if this was your house. You take it upon yourself to decide, do you want this guy in my house?" So I had to choose who can come in or not.
eepmon: Fabrice Emaer trusted your intuition.
Edwige: Absolutely. Olivier Zahm is a very famous art director, Purple Magazine - he called me up 7-6 years ago and said, I'm doing an interview on Le Palace. He sent me 50 huge questions...It was crazy. Took me a whole week to write it. I sent it back and he got back to me and said "My god this is crazy and amazing because you remember so well, so candid, so true about it... wow I'm really glad that I called you." When the magazine came out, the title of the article was EDWIGE of Le Palace.
eepmon: Yes! He reversed it!
Edwige: It was suppose to be LE PALACE with Edwige. But I did share so much about my first hand experience there. This was back in '78. You know we just barely scratched the surface about what I've done... we are still in Paris.
eepmon: Incredible. All this in a span of three years...
Edwige: But then I started to come to New York. I made more frequent trips staying with Maripol. Through Maripol and I met the whole New York scene. In 1979, Claude Arto the other half of Mathématiques Modernes and showed me this style with synthesizers. We called this the Cold Wave in Paris and the New Wave as well... well more for New York.
Photo: Pierre et Gilles
eepmon: Yes and it can still be heard on YouTube! It's awesome. So you discovered you liked to sing and you just went for it!
Edwige: Well I didn't really know how to sing yet... so you mean you can listen to it, it's super simple.
eepmon: But what I love about it... like what you were saying like the time on the catwalk, you want to see real people how they do it. There is nothing to pretend. It's really about you just doing it! When I listen to it I purely feel that raw and realness in your work.
Edwige: and you know I'm more of talker as well so it was easier for me to write the lyrics and follow the melody but I've never been trained for music so I didn't know to actually bring a melody myself. It was perfect for me the Cold Wave because we were all about DAN DA DA DA DANG DA DA DA DA DANG! hahaha
eepmon: I'd say you are certainly a self-learner.
eepmon: Yea! Multidisciplinary but you are so able to take something and put that Edwige mark on it. These days if people were presented the same situation that you were exposed to, they would just freak out and give up. They don't know how to handle it. But you, you're just YEA! Just do it! Boom boom!
Edwige: Yea and I started to go to NY more often back and forth but still doing shows in Paris. Finally in December of '81. We had no money, like we were like drug addicts, I was proposed by a Japanese model agency to come to Tokyo for 6 months. They would pay for my flight, apartment.
Photo: Laurence Sudre
eepmon's note: To be continued. Due to the extensive nature of this interview, I decided to split Edwige's interview into two parts. Part two will be available on Friday, August 24th.
A track from Mathématiques Modernes - Disco Rough