Russ Diamond shares his memories of one of the Los Angeles design community’s most influential figures.
By Kelly Phillip Badal
Within our tightly-knit Southern California design industry, the name “Rocky” only refers to one person: Rocky La Fleur. A longtime partner at Kneedler Fauchère and one of the Pacific Design Center’s most beloved personalities, Rocky passed away at age 72 from pancreatic cancer in mid-March--and he leaves behind thousands of people he connected, mentored, influenced and uplifted.
Rocky’s life revolved around the friends, associates, students and like-minded creatives he met in L.A.’s design community. He helped expand Kneedler Fauchère’s once strictly residential customer base to include major members of the hospitality sector, including Wynn Resorts, the MGM Las Vegas resort and Four Seasons, among others. He inspired and uplifted hundreds of up-and-coming design students at UCLA Extension, where he offered a guest lecture every semester—even taking interested students to Paris during Design Week. He presided over Déco Off’s coveted annual “American in Paris” party, which he started with his close friend and confidant, Kneedler Fauchère president Gina DeWitt. And he earned the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award by the Los Angeles chapter of ASID in 2018. His Instagram handle, fittingly, is—and remains—“designicon.”
Snyder Diamond and Rocky’s relationship started when Kneedler Fauchère was the original distributor of Sherle Wagner products for bath in Los Angeles, and grew from there. SD’s president Russ Diamond forged an even closer relationship with Rocky over the past ten years, serving with him on the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA)’s board, collaborating with him on various design events and outreach, and even spending time with him in Paris.
“I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to Paris for Maison d’Object and Déco Off, where Rocky served as the proverbial Master of Ceremonies for the West Coast design community,” recalls Russ. “Rocky lived up to his nickname, ‘The Mayor of Paris.’ For those Maison d’Object trips and beyond, he was a patriarch figure of sorts, always helping to organize events and bring people together.”
“Unifying people was in his nature, he was just a very giving and loving man with his time, input and knowledge,” Russ adds. “From the first night’s welcoming get-together or his very popular ‘American in Paris’ party—always the hardest ticket to get—to spending time with him at the famous Paris flea market, those memories bring a smile to my face.”
In a letter to the design community at large, Gina DeWitt and the Kneedler Fauchère team also honor Rocky’s skill at gathering people together. “Rocky had a magical way of connecting with people from all walks of life, young and old,” the letter reads. “There was no one who could light up a room quite like Rocky.” Kneedler Fauchère is working on establishing a scholarship fund in honor of Rocky that directly supports the design students he was committed to—his final wish. “His investment in bringing up new generations of design talent was something he cared deeply about and was really inspiring,” says Russ. “He was a mentor’s mentor for the world design community--insightful, observant, and yes, opinionated!”
Rocky’s big piece of advice for “emerging professionals”—as he called the student designers he taught and mentored—is simply, “show up.” As detailed in this 2017 interview with ASID UCLA Extension, he says of the design industry, “it’s always been and always will be about relationships. Go where designers go and see what designers see and speak up and introduce yourself. I show up, and give back.”
That’s something we can all keep in mind as our world slowly opens up again, and we can finally greet one another in person, share our memories together and make new ones. Thank you, Rocky, for always showing up.