Posted on March 27 2013
Coupe de Foudre (“Love at First Sight” in French).
I met Michelle Elie two seasons ago in Paris during fashion month. She is everything that you would want in a friend and colleague. She has a positive glow, she is enthusiastic and wildly charming, thoughtful and generous and inspiringly unique. Please join me in getting to know her better.
I was born in Port au Prince, Haiti and moved to New York with my family when I was six-year-old. New York was my hometown until I moved to Köln, Germany. I completed all my studies in New York, became a model and moved abroad for a period of time. Prior to living in Germany, I lived in Paris and travelled all over Europe for a good five years. Afterwards, I moved back to the States, migrating to the warmer climate of Miami Beach where I met my husband of 10 years, Mike Meiré.
I currently live in Köln, Germany with my husband and three boys, Zec, York and Casey.
Please tell us about all of the fabulous things you do.
Well, I could write a book about all the things that I do. There are so many every day things that I find fabulous. I wake up which is a blessing and fabulous within itself. My day starts with getting all three boys ready for school. I love Music. I wish I had learned an instrument as a child. I know it’s not too late; I just have to find the time to learn one. I enjoy traveling and discovering new places ….I love great food. It is a passion of mine. I love cooking and celebrating with family, loved ones and friends. Cooking enriches my life. So I do it all the time. I dream of the day that I can open a beautiful restaurant or a private guest house with all beautiful things… from the food, to the decor, the location, the weather, and the linens. All beautiful…A place in the sun…
I enjoy fashion tremendously. I am always excited from season to season. I personally prefer the summer months, but I enjoy fashion more in the spring and the winter. I have been doing the fashion circle for the last two seasons, and I must admit that I find the whole process absolutely fabulous. Since I travel quite a bit, visiting a city and getting to know it in more in depth is fabulous, especially the people and its food.
Tell us about Prim, your wildly imaginative jewelry and accessory line.
Prim started about three years ago. I was already involved in fashion through modeling and styling which I did for a little while until I realized that I wanted to do something else like becoming a Chef. So I did that for a bit, until I became pregnant with our first born child, Zec. I played with the idea of doing a children, boys only collection, which I still believe, has strong potential.
The first Prim collection was strictly “Object Trouvé.” It was based on my travels and the things that I collected privately. Each piece had a personal experience for me. I felt that all the pieces were put together in a beautiful poetic way. I fell in love with the idea of Tony Duquette, ” More is More. ” I wanted to bring back the little bag for evening and large necklaces for the day.
I just saw the new campaign videos on your website. You should really warn people about the in-your-face gorgeousness that awaits (read gorgeous man dancing/modeling the items from the collection). Tell us about Makak, what does it mean?
MAKAK is the second collection inspired by Claude Lèvi Straus’ anthropological travel memoir, “Tristes Tropiques,” pre-colonial mythologies and my Haitian’s roots. It is a material fusion and a cultural one. Each piece is unique, handmade, contains silver, gold, wood, bone, leather and plastic; they are based on an unconscious part of early days of discovery in the West indies, of continents untouched by modern man. There are animal presence plays with our notions of what is delicate and what is strong, what is feminine and what is masculine.
Please tell us about your relationship with and work within the art world and how you incorporate your experience into your reviews for Garage Magazine?
I was always interested in art while I lived in New York. I regularly visited galleries and museums, but I became more involved once I met my Mike. One of his earliest and most significant influences has been the Bauhaus movement. At an early age he began collecting Joseph Beuys, and was inspired by Marcel Duchamp and later on Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquait. We met in Miami Beach while I was modeling and he was my client for a job. I was very fascinated by him because he had a different approach to Art that I wasn’t accustomed to from my studies. He gave me a book on Bauhaus as gift which, at the time, I found weird. It wasn’t until later on that I realized what he had given me was an opening to a different way of seeing Art and Design.
It was at this time that he introduced me to the Art world. He had by then started collecting the Young British Artist from the 90’s. We are interested in Art and Design because we live with them.
Garage Magazine, of which my husband is the Art Director, gives me an insider’s point-of-view of the great artists and content they will feature. It is pretty a free direction. All the team at Garage is great and very creative. I only do a very little part. I go to the shows, and later on, I try to present fashion in a more art-oriented content. After all, I think that they both influence one each other, it’s just depends on your perspective on fashion. Since I love both, I try to present this connection.
Mother, wife, designer and editor, how do you maintain your wonderfully positive spirit and energy?
Wow! Being a Mom is a challenge within itself. For instance, my oldest son is entering puberty. It is what it is, but not easy on the mind. I think my energy has a lot to do with being in a creative process. We are a creative family. My husband influences me so much. He has been working in the creative world since he was sixteen, creating his own magazine, and he has a lot of great experience so I think that rubs off a lot in our house.
My positive spirit comes from my mother. She was an amazing and wonderfully spiritual woman. I see a lot of me in her way of dealing with life.
You’ve lived all over the world, please name the cities/countries and give us a memorable anecdote about each one.
Well, again and again, New York City…. There are a lot of New York stories. I think I would need another couple pages to cover all of them. They all have been beautiful….
What has it been like being a Haitian-American woman living in these cities?
Honestly, I do not feel a difference. I think there is a positive side because you can see things from different vantage points, Haitian-American living in Germany. Can you imagine the possibilities for every day life? Great!
Which is your Favorite City?
That is pretty easy…. New York City of course, I love it for everything it has to offer, the good and the bad…you name and it and it’s out there! It is full of energy. I always need to go home to recharge my batteries. I grew up in New York so I have a special attachment to this incredible place. It is a city full of ideas, creativity, opportunity, culture and full of life itself. I think New York stands alone. Since I have been living in Europe, I really enjoy the access to different cities in Europe. London would be my second choice after New York for living in a big city…then again, why not back home.
Favorite place to shop there:
New York is definitely a city that I love to shop for everything. I normally go with a weekend bag and come back with two or three extra suitcases. It has all you need and think of finding. Paris is my second city for shopping, of course. The Comme des Garçons boutique is a must. Then there is Köln, which is a smaller city, but somehow great fashion pieces are found here. There is a shop called HEIMAT that has a great selection of designers. I always find tons of fabulous collections every season.
I tend to navigate towards wherever there is a great Flea market.
My favorite ritual every weekend is to go to the Flea Market. I do not book a ticket without having a weekend to visit the Flea Market. I shop pretty much all over. I love shopping… Who doesn’t?
Favorite international Restaurants:
New York: Indochine
Paris: Sourire de Saigon
London: Cecconi’s, Ivy, The Wolseley
Milan: La Risacca, Giacomo
Köln: L’Imprimerie Köln
Berlin: Borchardt Berlin and Grill Roya
Basel: Chez Donati
Describe your style.
I think I gravitate towards the avant-garde, edgy, progressive, eclectic side with a little poetry, but then again I can really wear anything that feels beautiful.
You have an incredible collection of Comme Des Garçons, what attracted you to Rei Kawakubo? Who else do you collect? What do you look for when you shop vintage? Tell us about the things that attract your eye.
Rei Kawakubo touched a part of me about almost 20 years ago. It was the time she made a collection called “Dress Meets Body Meets Dress,” Spring/Summer 1996. Around that time, I spent most of my time in Soho in New York. I loved the galleries, artists and cool underground creative New Yorkers. I also love the cast-iron architecture; the massive lofts and the old cobble stone streets and the emptiness of it at the time.
It was in 1996 that I noticed the old Comme des Garçons shop on Wooster Street, which is now the Barneys Co-Op store. At the time, there were very few designer shops like Comme des Garçons or Yoshi.
When I look back, I think it was then that I found my style or what I love in fashion. It was the complete deformed look done by Rei Kawakubo. I remembered staring at the window of the Soho shop for a long time contemplating walking in or not. I managed to muster up the courage to go in. At the time, I could not understand why in the world, would Ms. Rei Kawakubo decide to deforme us while the world was busy shaping us into more sexy, more skinny, more power woman, more fit and obsessed with youth and beauty… just more, more, more of everything, but then again it was the 90’s, the decade of the Yuppies. Out of nowhere, with her fragile and endless creative mind, Rei Kawakubo goes against the grain… It was then that I converted into the mindset and the world of Rei Kawakubo. She touched a cord in me that was so different. Fashion, “There was more to fashion than just being beautiful.” The idea that fashion is beyond a look on fabric of what is wearable…and it could also be “Ugly” in an intelligent way. It could be architectural, emotional, poetic and musical…. So I went in… the dice had fallen. She, Rei Kawakubo, would become a mentor in fashion for me. I follow her with a passion. There have been many collections that have disappointed me as well, where I will only walk away with an accessory. This relationship is quite like a real life relationships, there are moments of disagreement or disappointment. Like life itself, sometimes you are in love and other times you fall out of love. The fall 2012 collection was another “Coupe de Foudre,” I fell in love all over again. I collected as much as I could within my budget, but I’m still hunting for more pieces; especially the felt two-tone bright blue and pink superimposed two-dresses-in-one piece…. Brilliant!
I also wear a lot of Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière, Junya Watanbee, Victor and Rolf, Rodarte, Haider Ackermann, Jill Sander by Raf Simons and Jill Sander old and now new collection, Helmut Lang when he designed the collection, Martin Margiela, Yoshi Yamamoto, Prada, Bernard Whilhelm. I love colors especially pop colors but always done by a designer that I love, like Jill Sander Spring Summer 2009. I found that 2009 and 2010 was when fashion started getting interesting again. We were leaving the “Less is More” moment but entering the beginning of total creativity in fashion…. more structure and architectural shapes, fabric development, shoes were higher and more playful…. finally… stimulation!
Style rules or caution to the wind?
Style is quite personal. I really do not have any rule for anyone else beside me. I am pretty much a fearless experimenter. I like things with an attitude, thought and creativity. I am obsessed with the impossibilities. I like to feel free, forward with an avant-garde touch. I feel that an outfit should not wear you but that you should wear the outfit. I have a few things that I will not wear myself, for example, a short skirt or very short shorts with heels with high heels. I do not like to expose my body because I believe that your body is your temple, your private self and that it should be cherished. I do not like “Vulgar.” At the same time, I do not reject, being in a bikini or a bathing suit… at the beach or by the pool. Fashion should always feel fun and free.
What do you do to get your day started?
My day starts with the alarm clock at 6:45am to wake up the children and prepare breakfast and lunch boxes for school. Once they are out the door, I prepare a coffee and start cleaning my kitchen, which always seems to take so long… I definitely put on my favorite jazz singer while picking up after the children and organizing the house and my work before 2pm.
If I am lucky and very disciplined, I can work at least two to three hours on my collection. After 3pm, the day ends because the children are home from school and it is “mommy” time. After bedtime, which is normally around 9PM I check email and plan the next day. By 10 pm, my husband comes home and we will have a nice dinner and mostly likely discuss his work or my mine. My husband is a very big part of my creativity. He is my mentor.
Favorite Breakfast/ spot or routine:
Breakfast is really simple, a coffee and slice of bread or a bowl granola with fresh yogurt. Lunch is a little better. I normally go out to my local Japanese restaurant Momotoro or a Thai place in the area. There’s a brilliant little Balinese restaurant down the block from us.
What’s your beauty routine?
My skin is pretty simple. I have used Kheil’s cleanser for as long as I can remember and my moisturizer is a mix from my dermatologist that I order from the pharmacy. I have been using the same products for years. I normally have to bring everything in a large suitcase from New York.
Nails and other personal grooming?
I hardly wear nail polish because I work at home all the time. But, right now I am in the mood for silver mail color. I keep searching for the right shade of silver.
Hair!!!! As a black woman, how do you maintain your sleek locks in Cologne???
Hair is always an issue for a black girl, especially living in Germany. I have my hairdresser in New York and in Paris. Whenever I travel to both places, I book in advance. I recently discovered the Brazilian near my home. I visit her once a week for a good wash, blow and flat iron. I usually keep it simple, always up in a ponytail. I recently became more relaxed so I let my hair loose. I am actually feeling for a radical change like a graphic bob.
What do you do before you go to bed?
Besides my beauty ritual, I usually mediate in bed. It is the only time that I have for myself before being woken up abruptly by our alarm clock during the weekdays. I like to go to bed or finish the day with something “pleasant:” and hopefully creating the next day to come.
A special thanks to Michelle for taking time out of her hectic schedule and sharing a little part of her world with us.