Beautiful Vagabond: 10 Things You Need To Know About the Late Edwige Belmore

Edwige Belmore, “the queen of punk” has died at the age of 58 in Miami. A great many things can be said of Edwige Belmore and yet it seems that the complexity of her journey through life remains all too mysterious. What we do know is that she personally touched the lives of some of the greatest cultural influencers of the 20th century, from Helmut Newton to Andy Warhol. Indeed, her life was a long, beautiful rags to riches, to rags to riches, and back to rags again, tale of heartbreak and obscurity. Starting with her abandonment by her parents to her discovery by the world of high fashion and art, and to the end of her life, where she was the resident artist and landscaper at the Vagabond Hotel in Miami – her LinkedIn account lists “landscaping hobo” and “palm tree studies” as her duties. There is certainly no way to encapsulate all of the moments of her life in a meager list of 10, but I’ve attempted to all the same. You will have to do your own research to learn about her sojourn to Japan and the years that she spent in a Hindu ashram in India - and you'll find a great deal of information elsewhere about her years as tastemaker to the Starck Club - but for now, you’ll have to make do with these 10 things you should know about Edwige Belmore. 

1.   “Edwige Will Die, and Edwige Will Be Born”

Abandoned by her parents and raised in a convent in Paris, Edwige Belmore came into her formative years with an unstoppable determination to forge her own path. The year was 1976, Edwige was 19 years old, and she saw the Sex Pistols perform live for the very first time. Mind blown and loins aroused, she was changed completely. She told everyone that on November 6, 1979, “Edwige will die, and Edwige will be born.” Her friends assumed she was planning her suicide, and in many ways she was. She burned all of her clothes, and bought one outfit that was definitively hers. “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, dominatrix or something.”

2. Edwige is dubbed the “Queen of Punk”

Springing into the Parisian punk circuit like an androgynous bat out of hell, Edwige was approached by two girls in a club who asked if she would play drums in their band. Having never played a musical instrument, she accepted, and their band, L.U.V. (for Ladies United Violently, or Lipsticks Used Viciously) was born. As the punk movement started to gain recognition in the media, she was asked to do interviews for Vogue, Elle, Nouvel Observateur and the like. Within no time she became the leader of a movement and crowned the “Queen of Punk.”

3. A Foray into Modeling

Due to the perpetual stream of press, her notoriety begins to grow and Edwige is quickly shepherded into the inner circles of Haute Couture. Catching the eye of Helmut Newton at a party chez Paloma Picasso, she is followed by him incessantly throughout the night begging to take her picture. Having never modeled she finds herself making history with not only Helmut Newton, but the likes of Pierre et Gilles, Maripol, Andy Warhol, and many more.

4. Cover of Façade Magazine with Andy Warhol

As a symbol of counter-culture, establishment-fucking fracas, as well as muse to the fulcrums of the art and fashion worlds, Edwige was the perfect companion to Andy Warhol for the cover of Façade Magazine. It was an underground, paper magazine that sought intriguing binaries to juxtapose on their covers, and this one would go down in art publication history with the headline: Pope of Pop Meets the Queen of Punk.

5. Walks the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler

Edwige never called herself a model, and never wanted anybody else to, which is why asking her to model had to be approached delicately. “Jean-Paul Gaultier came to me and said, ‘You look amazing. Do you want to be in my show?’… he was like do you want to be in my SHOW which is whole different meaning.” Gaultier was curating looks from the street (a practice unheard of at the time), and putting street kids on the runway. Edwige and the rest drank champagne and got high throughout an entire runway show, and she still managed to finish the show in a pair of ridiculously high heels singing Sid Vicious’s version of “My Way.”

6. Ushered in by Andy Warhol, Edwige goes to NYC and is introduced to Studio 54

Having taken all of Paris by storm within the span of a single year, Warhol thought it was time to introduce Edwige to the elite influencers of New York – or rather, he took it upon himself to introduce New York to the Queen of Punk. Approaching the illustrious nightclub of all nightclubs, swaths of partiers parted like the red sea as she entered the club for her very first time, arm-in-arm with her regal rebel counterpart. She was suddenly just another member of the elite New York underground, with contemporaries such as Maripol, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

7. Edwige returns to Paris and becomes ambiance creator, aka “doorman” to Le Palace in Paris

Upon her return to Paris, Edwige was approached by ‘The Prince of the Night,’ Fabrice Emaer, and asked if she would work the door at his new nightclub, Le Palace. It was the Studio 54 of Paris, and who better to curate the cool crowd each night than the Queen herself? She was a 20-year-old Amazonian punk chick with 6 bodyguards facing hoards of anxious scenesters and claims that she would look them in the eyes and feel immediately whether or not they were right for that evening’s ambiance. She once refused the King of Sweden because “obviously, he must have been an asshole.” Oh yeah and she married her friend Jean Louis Jorge, a Dominican filmmaker 15 years her senior because in the age of free love it was the most punk thing to do – at least in her circles. Her wedding dress was a mock Chanel gown made from white terri cloth towels by a friend who worked for Chanel.

8. Music and Film

From 1978-1988 Edwige acted in 7 different short and feature-length films, her first of which was a role in Jean Marie Perier's 1978 film, "Sale rêveur" with Lea Massari and Jacques Dutronc. She also played herself in the 2011 feature film Des Jeunes Gens Mödernes or Kids of Today, as well as The Starck Club, a documentary about the famed Dallas nightclub to be released in 2016. In 1979, Claude Arto introduced Edwige to the exhilarating sounds of the synthesizer and they started their Parisian Cold Wave band (referred to as New Wave by the Anglophones), Mathémathiques Modernes. Throughout the 80s she traveled back and forth between Paris and New York singing and playing sax with her lesser-known band, Jungle Geisha.

9. Edwige becomes ‘Maitresse de Maison’ at Agnès B., New York

Edwige met Agnès back in 1976 when she opened her very first store in Paris. Years later when she would open the very first gallery/boutique in New York City, she asked Edwige to be the lady of the house. It was her job to fuse the worlds of fine art and fashion so that the crowd would flow seamlessly from one side to the other without any sense of awkwardness or separation. Agnès took an enormous photograph of Edwige (taken by Pierre et Gilles) that she had bought years prior and placed it behind the cash register – she placed a much smaller photo of herself below it to the right.

10. Edwige Takes on Photography

In the last years of her life, Edwige created a photographic series called The I Within Your Imagination, which she presented in a group show called 7 Deadly Sins, as well as on her personal tumblr page. The series comprised 500 photographs taken of the same mysterious object at various different angles with varying sources of light. The effect seems a perfect representation of who she was to the myriad worlds in which she interacted. Having absolutely no training as a model, actress, singer, musician, or any of her other assorted professions, she seamlessly assumed those roles without any hesitation or fear of failure – she just did and was everything that was asked of her.

Edwige never did finish the coffee table book that she and Maripol had hoped to publish, which would encompass photographs from the 75 artists and photographers who called her their muse. There are undoubtedly countless stunning photographs held in private collections that the world is missing out on, and we can only hope that these lost treasures will surface in the coming years. Text by Summer Bowie. Follow Autre on instagram to stay up to date: @AUTREMAGAZINE