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. This is Part 2 with Edwige Belmore’s interview. We pick up from Part 1, where she began to talk about her fashion/modelling experience in Tokyo, Japan. —-
Edwige: I was thinking… Tokyo? C’mon, when will I be able to go to Tokyo? When will I ever be able to go to Tokyo? I don’t even have that kind of money and doubt if I will ever have it. It was a great opportunity to make some money and my girlfriend at the time was a model and was going as well. She introduced me to the agency and they knew who Edwige”e” was. They were like Oh! Edwigee! YEA! We want Edwiggeee yea! Next thing you knew, it, I was throwing stuff away, packing my stuff. Got to the airport and I was flying Aeroflot. The Russian airline… Oh my god, it was in an air bus… A BUS. It was TINY! It felt like you have to put your arm out and go like this! (makes a gesture)
eepmon: Cross continental, on an air bus… Holy sh…
Edwige: Oh my god… and full of models and we were over six feet tall. And the seats were so close you could not sit normal. You were like this! Your knees were touching the seat on the front and your feet don’t touch the ground! The whole time! The stewardess was this massive woman in a grey frock with a mustachio, literally felt like some institution… jail or something
eepmon: Up in the air for 15 hours…
Edwige: Meanwhile we were originally thinking like “Yea! Russian airline, we are going to drink vodka it’s going to be great. It was impossible to get a drink there! She was coming with a big plastic jug of water… probably from the sink… I was thinking… this is amazing… really crazy. We could have taken Japan Airlines, but they were so expensive… even for the top models who got paid very well. Aeroflot was our only option… So I did that. I worked my six months. It was great.
eepmon: Wow, I wonder what Tokyo was like in ’80s?
Edwige: The fashion shows are done differently in Paris. There were no shows in New York at the time. The shows in Tokyo, each designer had the whole day for their show. That means we get there in the morning at 8am, then we get hair, makeup, in a robe… then we do one free run with our robe to see how the flow works. Then the second one, we do another one with the clothes. Lunch, and then three shows in the afternoon.
eepmon: One designer per day… whereas, today the turnover from one designer to the next is so quick.
Edwige: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. After the third show, we go to dress back and go to the reception and chat with people, drink, champagne. Relax, dinner, then have to go to the BIG party at the club.
eepmon: How was your experience in Japan aside from the fashion? Did you go to restaurants, walk around?.
Edwige: Yeah, of course, I had a really good Japanese friend. Really a crazy guy! That is what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to Shinjuku and see the dirty little bad stuff and he took me there and since my hair was short, I could have passed as a boy.
eepmon: Yeah, Shinjuku is still regarded as having that red light flavour. Kabucho district especially.
Edwige: Yup, but back then it was far more intense! Yeah, he also took me to the temple in Asakusa. It was beautiful. As you kept going up, you pass by all these sake vendors. You know, they all had different sake that I had no idea. They have the milk one and a very thick one that you feel you’re drinking rice soup, but it was like BANG. Of course, I had to try ALL OF THEM! Oh my god, I’ve never seen it like that, what does it taste like? I was super young, but getting super buzzed and he showed me all the traditional ways of praying.
eepmon: What was his name?
Edwige: His name was Katsuo. He was also a heroine addict just like all of us in Paris. A gay man, really tall. He was a little taller than me… and for Tokyo standards they considered him Superman in his circle of friends.
eepmon: As a tall person yourself, you must have noticed the clear height difference in Asia compared to the West.
Edwige: Yeah, I mean especially when you are walking down the street and you’re at the big cross roads where everyone starts walking together. And I’m literally looking at the sea of black hair with suits walking, half my height size. I got lost once, but they were so kind to me and helped me find my place. It was so beautiful. I did everything I could when I was there. I had amazing guides. I lived in Ropponggi and if you went further down there was still these little boutiques and there was this onsen called Azabu Juban Hot Sping. When you walk in, there is the lounge area with a little theatre stage and people actually do their theatre play for each other, but they were customers!
eepmon: Really? Theatre?
Edwige: Yea! They do a little song.
eepmon: Wow. I’ve never seen that when I was in Japan…
Edwige: I learned the sake drinking song with an old man. Completely candid and random. Just people who came out from the onsen, they’re not performers. This old man told me come over and me as the “gaijin” trying to get me on stage to sing a la la la la type American song. But I wanted to learn a Japanese song so I learned the Ã©Â»âÃ§âÂ°Ã§Â¯â¬ — Kuroda Bushi which is the Japanese sake drinking (folk) song.
eepmon: How does it go?
Edwige: Oh, I remember a little bit. (Edwige sings an excerpt from Kuroda Bushi)
eepmon: Ã§Â´Â Ã¦â¢Â´Ã£ââ°Ã£ÂâÃ£Ââ Ã£Ââ¢Ã£ÂâÃ£ÂâÃ¯Â¼Â (Excellent! Great!)
Edwige: And then there is the part in the song that goes “kuroda bushi” – you put the sword inside the person. haha It’s so funny I remember it.
eepmon: Oh man!
Edwige: I remember it… I have stuff like that just stay in me, you know? I mean, I don’t remember what I did last weekend. Friday, Saturday, I don’t even remember how many hours I worked at the store. I can’t do it to save my life. I don’t even know if I was there! As of like… 1982 in Tokyo, the kuroda bushi song I’m like, yeah, NO PROBLEM! haha
eepmon: Well, these certainly are very memorable experiences.
Edwige: Yes, these get into your skin. I mean, as you can see I can remember exact dates! Like, oh yeah, it was December 6, 1976 when I shaved my head like most people don’t remember shit at all.
eepmon: Certainly they were pivotal moments in your life. Your history. It’s not a day-in-day-out thing.
Edwige: Those are big impacts in my life. It’s really my history. So that’s how I arrived in NY. When we finished our contract, we went back to America through Hawaii and Los Angeles, and she had an apartment in NY, so we went there. It’s a road, it’s a journey, one thing after the other and I’m now hanging out with everybody.
eepmon: And you came at another amazing time. In the New York scene where things exploded there too. So tell me, what is your connection with agnÃÂ¨s b.? How did that come about?
Edwige: Well, AgnÃÂ¨s actually open her first store in ’75 in Paris. In ’76 I moved in two blocks away from her boutique with my boyfriend at the time, who was 16 years older than me. He was the coolest, coolest fucking cat in town. He was very glam. I mean, he knew Roxy Music, Brian Eno and he wore like leopard suits, platform shoes, but the really glam rock thing. Awesome. He was the first man in Paris to have a loft. Anyway, we were two blocks from AgnÃÂ¨s and in that neighbourhood was like the East Village of the time. She was really respected, very cool, different style but very honest and pure. Nice cottons, classy cuts.
eepmon: And she was working in there.
Edwige: Yeah, she was working in there and young artists would hang out. She was there with her two sons who were drawing all over the walls and stuff. I met her then, but after that our paths just split. I met her a few times through the years and now two years ago when she was opening this gallery boutique on Howard Street, she really needed me to be there to represent her. Because, first of all, it is the first gallery/boutique in New York City and people don’t really know to be in a place like that. Then you have the sales people that cannot exactly be part of the gallery/book side of it because their role is to generate sales.
eepmon: …Someone who was very multidisciplinary. That knows these two worlds.
Edwige: Exactly, so that was Edwige who has known artists, photographers, through the years and I knew her before so I know her personality, style and her integrity and I respect her tremendously. And she made this special position for me: Maitresse de Maison (The lady of the house). I’m not a manager, a sales person, a curator, I’m just the lady of the house.
eepmon: I love that. I remember when I first met you, I knew there was something special about you. So I asked, who are you? And you replied, I am the Madame of the House. I was totally impressed.
Edwige: I know! Which is a little bit difficult to say to the corporate head offices. They are like, “What do you mean? What does she do?” I mean, that was difficult at the beginning when I started there. People didn’t have a clue why I was there. I was told by a person that it must be pretty cool to be paid doing nothing.
Edwige: Yeah, one person said that.
Edwige: Oui. I was like, I’m not doing nothing, I’ve been something for my whole entire life. This is right now, I am here to do and bring all the essence all of that right here.
eepmon: It is that missing magic… how should I say, that lost quality, that lost value that brings life to the space.
Edwige: Yeah, and especially in the situation as two different spaces really…
eepmon: … as a gallery and retail. Because I believe that AgnÃÂ¨s sees that you are the perfect fit because your whole life was exposed to so many dimensions and channels.
Edwige: Yeah, and maybe it’s because she knows who I am through the years because I’ve been talked about. Actually when we first open in April 2011. The first exhibition was part of her personal collection. She owned the first Pierre et Gilles photo which is me. The one with the crew cut and the blood on the shoulder. She owns that and she bought that a long time ago. That picture when you face the cash register there, right between the two dressing rooms, my picture was right there. HUGE! and she would put her picture underneath to the right. That was fucking awesome. That was showing and symbolic that this is Edwige okay? This is her place. She told everybody, this is Edwige’s house. She comes whenever she wants.
eepmon: When I was in Japan, agnÃÂ¨s b. boutiques are everywhere. The brand is very popular over there in Asia.
Edwige: I know! In Tokyo, and in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, they have the chocolate and pastry boutique agnÃÂ¨s b. The flower boutique agnÃÂ¨s b. …
eepmon: … and The Voyage Boutique agnÃÂ¨s b. When I was in Tokyo, there was a big freaking thick book that commemorates the history of agnÃÂ¨s b.
eepmon: I should have picked one up. But I did take a photo and I should send it over to you.
Edwige. Cool. And that’s funny you know the picture of me, the grey picture from Des Jeunes Gens Modernes? They did a T-shirt with just me.
eepmon: Edwige! You should do your own T-shirt!
Edwige: Yeah…with my face on it?
Edwige: Yeah, but it’s always other people’s photography. That is why I am putting together a coffee table book of just me.
eepmon: Yes. I remember you telling me that.
Edwige: Just me… as the muse of 75 different photographers and artists. It will be like … How did Andy Warhol see me? How did Helmut Newton see me? He saw me with shaved head, boobs showing and horse riding pants. Black and White. How did Pierre et Gilles see me? How did Helmut’s wife see me? I’m talking about people who saw me as a muse. This is what my coffee table is about.
eepmon: Excellent. Have you started on it yet?
Edwige: I’m working on it with Maripol now, since she did one and plus I have a lot of writing to do. So we’re trying to put things together.
eepmon: I am looking very forward to it.
Edwige; I have a Francesco Clement painting. He doesn’t know where I put it… it was so long ago, 30 years ago… It’s not lost, of course, but somewhere in the storage place. I don’t know where, unless someone bought it. Which is amazing because that was in the ’80s here in NY. He did portraits of all of us that belonged in the scene – Maripol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wendy Whitelaw, who is a gorgeous make up artist. When Clement finished the portrait, Wendy said “Hmmm… Something’s wrong…” Literally in front of Clement. And she took her makeup case and she redid her makeup on the Clement painting. She redid the lips with the colour of her own lipsticks, eyeliner. It was genius! Me? I’m like with my eyes half closed and completely blue.
Edwige: Yeah, ’cause probably I was nodding out or on drugs. Blue, blue blue blue!
eepmon: So what is going on right now?
Edwige: Yeah, so besides the coffee table book I’m doing with Maripol which is HUGE. So much material. I also work on making the feather necklaces.
eepmon: (I have one by-the-way guys!)
Edwige: Yeah, I made a special one especially for you.
eepmon: I love it! Thank you very much.
Edwige: I have a partner, Sara Lundgren, who came up with the concept first. Right away when she showed me, we took up and started making them. We are working on a collection page for caratime.com. They represent a whole bunch of jewelry makers. Pretty high quality. Big names. Vintage Chanel, vintage Hermes. It’s kinda like an online mall catering to the very high end market. So we will have a page and we are currently taking photos of our collection of six necklaces exclusive for the web. Some background about Caratime. Basically it’s two women who started this. One lives in New York/Paris the other lives in London. The actual real show room is in London and they are very well connected to the press. We have plans to send a collection to London as well.
eepmon: Is this going to be in August 2012?
Edwige: Well, August is going to be in a couple of weeks…
eepmon: Time flies.
Edwige: Yeah, it won’t be ready in August, but keep an eye out for it!
eepmon: There is a group show that you are going to be involved with.
Edwige: Yes, the group show theme is The 7 Deadly Sins as of… you would write them for death of the people of the future. That is the theme of the group show. Imagine you are writing the Bible, now you are writing the ‘new’ 7 Deadly Sins’ so artists have to envision what this would be like in their eyes.
eepmon: In this case you are planning to use your photography pieces. Please tell me about them.
Edwige: It’s my close up photography work. It is actually the same object and I have about 500 photos of it. But every single photo is different. I put the object at different lights and shades resulting the picture to constantly change. It’s completely random as if it has a mind of its own. All of a sudden it becomes iridescent and I don’t even know where it comes from!
eepmon: Yes and I remember the hues that you were able to achieve… very vibrant!
Edwige: Yeah! It just does it by itself everyday. If I put it over here it becomes a yellowish gold and turn it around and put it over there it turns like BRGGGGGGGGG!!! the same shape, but blue and then turn it again it becomes a whole different thing. Some pictures look like inside of the body… you know fleshy and bloody kind of things. It is so strange and I have no idea how it could have turned out the way it did. It’s really like my eyes and what I see and what is given to me. I perceive stuff and feel stuff.
eepmon: Your photography work is a reflection of your inner self.
Edwige: Yeah… and that is why I call this piece: The ‘I’ Within because I do everything with my iPhone!
eepmon: You have already chosen pieces for the 7 Deadly Sins show. Have you thought of how you are going to execute this?
Edwige: I want to print them on transparencies because I’m going to present them as light boxes. I’m going to build them to ensure that the colour of the light boxes can fully accentuate the work. It’s going to go up like a totem pole where the very top is a piece that represents “You Shall Not Kill!”.
eepmon: It sounds like a very vertical structure. Feels like you’re walking into a sanctuary, isn’t it?
Edwige: Yes, and that is one thing I felt because I want to GO UP!… not just walk around a flat surface on a horizon.
eepmon: Man… We covered a lot of ground here…
Edwige: … And we missed all the ’80s and ’90s.
eepmon: Oh, man!
Edwige: Yea we covered the end of the ’70s and beginning of the ’80s.
eepmon: How about we call this part 1 and 2?
Edwige: Yeah. It’s the beginning and a bit of now. Because I have another photography project, tattoo project and other stuff.
eepmon: That’s right and I think this is excellent because if we can spin this into a little series…
Edwige: … That would be awesome. I’d love that.
eepmon: …This can be part 1 and 2. Because there is a lot of stuff! I don’t want to…
Edwige: I mean, you have edit all that..
eepmon: We are almost at 2 hours…
eepmon: I have to look over this and see how to make it compelling without leaving out the details. Well it’s an absolute honour and pleasure to have this interview with you, Edwige. Thank you so much and see you when I return to NY from my game launch.
Edwige: Thank you!
The day Edwige and I traded art for art.