02 November 2011

Daphne Guinness :Living ART


 The Myth
Sprung from water, the nymph Daphne as Greek myth tells it, was chased by Apollo and in order to escape his ardor pleads  for protection to her father. Daphne was never the same-

Daphne Guinness in Water by David LaChapelle

He saw her hair flung loose over her shoulders, and said, "If so charming, in disorder, what would it be if arranged?" He saw her eyes bright as stars; he saw her lips, and was not satisfied with only seeing them. He admired her hands and arms, naked to the shoulder, and whatever was hidden from view he imagined more beautiful still. 

He followed her; she fled, swifter than the wind, and delayed not a moment at his entreaties. "Stay," said he, "daughter of Peneus; I am not a foe. Do not fly me as a lamb flies the wolf, or a dove the hawk. It is for love I pursue you.

Daphne Guinness photographed by Markus Indrani

 The nymph continued her flight, and left his plea half uttered. And even as she fled she charmed him. The wind blew her garments, and her unbound hair streamed loose behind her. 

"Help me, Peneus! open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!" Scarcely had she spoken, when a stiffness seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be enclosed in a tender bark; her hair became leaves; her arms became branches; her foot stuck fast in the ground, as a root; her face became a tree-top, retaining nothing of its former self but its beauty, Apollo stood amazed. He touched the stem, and felt the flesh tremble under the new bark. He embraced the branches, and lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shrank from his lips.

I will wear you for my crown; I will decorate with you my harp and my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your leaf know no decay."


  “She’s the object of her own creativity.  
Her persona is her own masterpiece.”   
-John Richardson, art historian

My recent trip to the city included several stops at exhibitions- One not to be missed is at FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology.  An installation co-curated by Daphne Guinness & Valerie Steele, director & chief curator of The Museum, along with Fred Dennis, senior curator of Costume opens the Guinness vaults (her closets) to reveal something quite surprising-discipline- an approach to curating some 100 couture pieces from the Guinness wardrobe that clearly defines the wearer. The design of the exhibition by Ken Nintzel is inspired by Guinness’s own New York apartment.

 above the satorial scene at FIT is a hologram " Floating Daphne," sparkling in a silver jumpsuit

“Daphne is more than a clothes horse, and she is not just an accumulator, she is building a fashion collection, then she takes that to create her own persona. The first time I met her, I asked her if she would do an exhibition. I think she is one of the most fascinating fashion icons in the world today.” -Valerie Steele

 Her penchant for "set pieces" organizes the assemblages of the exhibit. DANDY, a personal favorite of mine, is Guinness's ode to the perfect gentleman.

Daphne Guinness photographed by Francesco Carozzini

"Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism...These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking .... Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind." Baudelaire


 "I love the color and the way it reflects. But it is also a protection." DG

c.1300, "mail, defensive covering worn in combat," also "means of protection," from O.Fr. armeure "weapons, armor" (12c.), from L. armatura "arms, equipment," from arma "arms, gear" (see arm (n.2))


taking fashion cues from Grandmother
Diana Mitford Moseley and Daphne Guinness

"guinness dross"

Ribbons are everywhere-on a sleeve, a collar, as sash across a jacket bodice, tied on the wrist, in the hair- it is as if they've sprung from the finely stitched seams of  Guinness's raiment.


"We should be flying the flag for individuality." DG

 photograph by Saga Sig

 "I'm a Magpie-I love anything that sparkles,"
and like most Magpies feathers are a part of it.

“Who is this woman, what form of rara avis bedecked in diamonds and plumes?”  Guy Trebay.

"What draws me to fashion is art...and certainly not fashion as status symbol." DG

It is arguable that Daphne Guinness is a performance artist. I have no doubt-her dedication to humanity's daily habit takes her on a visual journey that draws in an audience. Witness her performance in the windows of the Madison Avenue's Barneys-she dressed for the Met’s Costume Institute Gala dedicated to her friend Alexander McQueen.

 The entirety of the Guinness collection and the Guinness body in motion-begs the question Is Fashion Art? The question has been debated amongst  designers themselves through the years. Seeing fashion elevated in -and by museums has given credence to the notion and rightly so.

Guinness leaves no room for interpretation-here is a performance artist. This is her work- and though she may not actually be walking to work-her footprint is leaving its mark as ART.

 Daphne Guinness, written by Valerie Steele and Daphne Guinness is also a book dedicated to the fashion, muse and art. here
an indepth interview with Valerie Steele here
FIT the exhibit in detail here
more of the Menkes article here
little augury on Daphne Guinness here
read Bart Bohlert's wonderful article about the press preview day and the show with pictures here


  1. Fascinating. I didn't know her lineage.

  2. Gaye, you won't believe this but I think I have found a way to comment now. I get a prompt saying I don't have access to this page with a place to click here to re-type in my info. When it brought me back to the comment page it looks like it went through. I love all your posts and from now on will only comment on my most favs.

  3. Undoubtedly Daphne Guinness is one of the most beautiful and intoxicating and talented women of the 20th/21st centuries. Viewing her as a performance artist helps me to process the narcissism. Super post! Mary

  4. Edith Sitwell one day and Daphne Guinness the next. What a feast of sumptuousness you spread out before us (though my heart belongs to Edith).

  5. rare vintages always are intoxicating. she is a rare bird.
    what plumage.

  6. I am always so surprised by the images, words and resources I find here. I don't know how you do it. Curtis

  7. Donna, hooray! welcome back. She actually favors her gran, don't you think?

    Mary- I agree with that. She has made taken dressing to an ART, and I think she was kind and brilliant in securing Isabella Blow's wardrobe for posterity. I can not wait to see what she does with it.

  8. Rouge, both are English Eccentrics in their way. I would love to have done ES in some of DG's frocks? There are similarities!

    PVE- I hope you will see the exhibit.

    Curtis, thank you Sir! I enjoy the process and all the things are do, for the most part are rolling-start-process-return-add-subtract, and then maybe finish. pgt

  9. I much prefer her grandmother's looks, despite the sordid history.

    (Someone who loves Daphne should take her aside and gently explain that no matter how striking a woman's clothes, she just can't wear a polecat on her head.)

  10. Ancient, she did inherit the looks there is no denying that and has managed to dodge a similar history. I don't object to the hair and I suspect loved ones or not the hair would stay regardless of their pleas.

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  12. Brilliant post. I was in NY, at Barney's the day she was going to do her 'thing' in the window. I was actually standing beside her while she was waiting to start (there was a mass of people and police there as President Obama and his cavalcade was also passing by just then! She is a teeny, tiny little bird.



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