"I was too early.

I was always too early." You join us as jewellery designer, photographer, Polaroid queen, muse, film maker, fashion icon and New York face Maripol is discussing her own timing. The badness of it to be precise. "Some people have the luck to be on time. I was too advanced."

It's an arguable position, you might feel. This is a woman who has worked with Madonna and Marc Jacobs in her time after all. Madonna wouldn't have looked like Madonna in the early days if it hadn't been for Maripol's input. It was the French stylist who stuck her in a wedding dress for the cover of the Like A Virgin album.

Then again she remains a name on the edge of familiarity. "I get complimented these days that I never sold out," she tells me in a French accent that's been undiluted by more than three decades of life in New York. "'She's still stayed the same. She's still underground.' Hah! I don't think it's a compliment."

We are not in New York at the moment. Today is Friday and we're in Dundee. Maripol is in town because she has an exhibition opening at the DCA. She has been showing me around. Here's the rubber jewellery she used to design and has since reinvented for Marc Jacobs. Bobby pins, necklaces that look like a chain of paper clips, a neon orange choker which she separates to show me the tassels. "There's a little bit of S&M in that one. I call it the whip."

Then there are the clothes made in collaboration with French company Each Other. Dresses covered in Maripol self-portraits and party invitations. Avant-popster FKA Twigs has been seen wearing them. Maripol is wearing one herself today, a shirt covered in her own images.

And then there are the faces: some familiar, some very familiar and some who you may never have seen before. But all of them part of the New York demi-monde at the end of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s when Maripol's star was on the rise and she was mixing with artists, fashionistas and pop stars on the dance floor of Studio 54 and the Mudd Club.

Look around and you'll see Madonna, Grace Jones, Debbie Harry, Jerry Hall, Andy Warhol, of course, Jean-Michel Basquiat and many, many more. All caught in a woozy, dreamy Polaroid square. We are standing in front of a wall of them. How does it feel, I ask Maripol, to gaze into your past? "I don't really have nostalgia, but I love to see my friends. Like the poet Rene Ricard. He just passed away last year. And we had so many people dying of Aids. So I would not remember their faces so well. This is kind of the iPhone of the period. Instant." The selfies of the period, you might say. "That one I want to claim."

Maripol grew up a Catholic French girl in the city of Fez in Morocco within earshot of the muezzin and walking distance of the Jewish and the Muslim sectors of the city. Her father was a soldier, her mother "religious".

"My mum was pissed when I'd wear a cross on my ears. I would say, 'Mum, what's the difference from wearing it round my neck?' But she kind of knew it was a little punky statement right there. It was rebellion."

At 19, Maripol moved to New York with her Italian-speaking Swiss photographer boyfriend Edo Bertoglio. It was 1977. New York was a wreck. "The city was bankrupt. It was a bit dangerous. You should have seen 42nd Street. It was really in the hands of junkies and whores and transvestites. That was the beginning of cocaine as well. The beginning of disco. The music got accelerated because the producers took a lot of coke in the studios. And then you had to dance faster." She didn't succumb to drugs herself. "I did try but they made me so sick."

She got her start as a stylist through the French magazine Oui - what used to be called a "men's magazine". The job was "a beautiful girl" on top of a "kid horse". "I dressed her as a cowgirl. I made a really flimsy outfit and you could see the tits in a really small vest."

She then started collaborating with a Los Angeles photographer styling magazine covers ("We did Hall and Oates's first cover") and working with iconoclastic French graphic designer and photographer Jean Paul Goude (the man who was responsible for Grace Jones's image). She turns up in his book Jungle Fever. "I'm with Grace. We're dressed as two whores on 42nd Street."

But it was when she was spotted by the Italian fashion brand Fiorucci that things took off. They liked her self-made jewellery, ordered hundreds for their New York store and then gave her her own space in the shop and started sending her around the world.

That led to her work with Madonna and, at a later point, Cher, who was a huge fan of her jewellery. But at her height she went bankrupt as companies in the Far East started copying her style. "I was completely screwed. It's very hard to copyright this kind of thing."

After her business failed she had a kid, made films, carried on being Maripol. She's making a film now, about what she calls her "existential crisis" and the fact that she might finally leave New York. "It's not the same. I'm looking for a new beginning."

Not another business. Now in her late 50s, she says she hasn't the energy for that. But she's not out of ideas. "I went to Marks and Spencer this morning just for basics. Love it. If I was a consultant for them I would launch a little crazy line like Top Shop did with Kate Moss."

Are you listening Marc Bolland?

The Maripol exhibition continues at the DCA until June 21.

Maripol on Debbie Harry: "She's so beautiful. She's never changed and she's also a super-nice person. I can pick up the phone and call her. That's how accessible she is."

Maripol on Grace Jones: "I love her. Yes, she is difficult. But what is difficult? She is a diva! Divas are difficult because they are demanding. So for clients it is difficult."

Maripol on Madonna: "Sometimes I refuse to answer questions about her just because I say, 'She has a lot of publicity and I don't.' I did a lot of things [other than styling Like A Virgin]. On the other hand, I don't get credit from her crew, which is weird. When stars become really big I think they want to make believe everything comes from themselves. But I'm not mad about it."

Maripol on Maripol: "Nothing was ever separated: the music, the life, the films, the writing, the poetry, the fashion, the art. We lived on hero sandwiches. I was very skinny. It was great."