Sunday, December 11, 2011

F.I.T. to be Tied -- Part 1 of 2 - Daphne Guinness

Well, we are still catching up! Last week we exhorted you to see the Japan Society exhibition before it closed; this week we exhort you to see two exhibitions at the Fashion Institute of Technology before they close in January. One is the Daphne Guinness show in the Museum at FIT; the other is the Rose Hartman show in the Gladys Marcus Library on the fifth floor of the same building. Because of the breadth of our coverage of the two shows (both of which we saw TWICE), we are splitting our coverage into two postings. The first, on Daphne Guinness, will post on the regular Sunday night spot. The second, on photographer Rose Hartman, will post mid-week on Wednesday night, so be sure to come back for the double header!


There must have been a mix-up in the mail, because we never got our invitations to the opening of the Daphne Guinness exhibition at the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). Instead, we went the first time on a Saturday afternoon in November with a small group of friends: Christina Viera, MaryLou Campanella and Suzanne Golden.

Before we went into the exhibition itself, we were spotted in the lobby (we were rather hard to miss!) by Ellen Daniels and Isabel Cruz, who delighted in our outfits and asked to photograph us. We always say yes when asked, on condition that the askers use our cameras after they've used their own. We have these close-ups of our heads and shoes (below) because Ellen and Isabel, our stylists, insisted. As you can see from the pictures, these ladies know how to dress. Their designer of choice? Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons.

Who is Daphne Guinness? She has quite the pedigree! The Honorable Daphne Suzanne Diana Joan Guinness was born in 1967, the daughter of brewery heir Jonathan Guinness, Lord Moyne, and French beauty Suzanne Lisney. Her paternal grandmother was Diana Mitford, one of the legendary Mitford sisters. In 1987, at the age of nineteen, Daphne married Spyros Niarchos. After her divorce in 1999, Daphne resumed her maiden name, and over the past decade has emerged on the world’s stage an extraordinary fashion creature.

You may remember reading that on Fashion's Night Out in September, Daphne Guinness dressed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual gala in the window of Barney's. (photo by

So if we view that as the preview, you can imagine that the Daphne Guinness exhibition has to be the equivalent of a three-ring circus to rise to expectations. It is, and it does. Notice the daring reinforced heel-less shoes she's wearing in the photo below, proving they CAN be walked in. (Feathered dress with delicious fitted waist by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen; photo from

FIT's exhibition was designed to reveal how Guinness, who is not only a serious collector of couture but also a creative force in her own right, uses fashion to transform herself. According to designer Tom Ford, "She is one of the -- if not the -- most stylish women living." This photograph is the cover of the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. If you take a close look at Daphne's rings (oh, and everything else, too - can you see the fabulous waist cinching belt with contrastive stitching?), you know you're in for something special. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

What's really wonderful about Guinness, however, is the individuality and character shown in her choices. Like many wealthy women, Guinness can afford to buy whatever she wants. She could wear this year's style this year and next year's style next year. She could wear logos that would explicitly define her status, or swear by a single designer. And so look perfectly boring. Instead, Guinness builds her own look, patronizes less well known designers, occasionally designs her own clothes, and so looks like no one else.

There is an antechamber to whet the viewer's appetite. In this room are several intimate-sized videos, and vitrines showcasing some of Daphne's more outlandish shoes. The shoes below, by Alexander McQueen, are just one of several showcased pairs, each more dizzying than the next. (Cameras were strictly forbidden, so most of the photos you see here are from FIT, or from a few independent agencies, as noted.)

This dress, also by McQueen, was a technical wonder - a laser-printed silk confection.

In the main room, the exhibition was divided into Dandyism, Chic, Exoticism, Sparkle, Evening Chic, and Armor, for the types of clothes Guinness favors. On the walls, and suspended from the ceiling, were mysterious and dreamlike videos, one of which, Mnemosyne, promotes Guinness's new perfume (very discreetly). The video this still is taken from was shot in a once grand, apparently derelict building, that evoked scenes out of Bladerunner. One can't help but think that the Alexander McQueen show at the Metropolitan set a new standard for what a fashion exhibition should be, and that the designers of this exhibition had that standard in mind.

Guinness is blessed with a lithe figure, and the dandy/androgynous look is great for her. Not shown here are a pair of leggings in bold black and white vertical stripes. While most of the text labels show designer names, the leggings are from a London punk shop.

Two chic dresses by Gareth Pugh.

In the Exoticism section was this dragon-printed dress by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. The towering chopines were Jean's favorite of all of the show's amazing footwear. (Enthusiastic seconding from Valerie.)

Guinness notes that she has a predilection for anything shiny, which includes feathers and sequins. In one of the notes in the show, Valentino is quoted as saying he always knows where Daphne has been "because of the trails of feathers and beads".

Here, a McQueen jacket (note the eagle talons at the collar, simultaneously threatening and cradling the face) is worn over a Christian LaCroix dress.

In the game of "if you could take one piece away with you, which one would you take?", this slashed Gareth Pugh suit in the Armor section was one of several winners. We'd want the dress to cover a bit more leg at our age, and we'd be deathly afraid of snagging the hundreds of slashed bits on an errant piece of furniture, or door handle, but it is a dazzling tour de force of construction. (photo from Daily Truffle)

Some of Daphne Guiness' high-water shoes at FIT

And since great minds think alike, above we've added Joana Avillez's Friday posting from her own blog, My Name is Joana. That's Joana Avillez as in the artist and author of Life Dressing: The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas [the book about - ahem - nous!]. Click here to see some more of Joana’s recent work. All tongue-in-cheek, some of it fashion-related (and one hat-related, too).

The exhibition ends on January 7. So one day, while you're supposed to be doing your Christmas shopping - or after all the shopping's over - take some time off for yourself. As an extra added treat, all the exhibitions at FIT are free!


What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing in the first photo: a mustard Urban Outfitters turban, Issey Miyake black and yellow purse, Kyodan jacket, Kadem Sasson skirt from Rosebud, leopard Doc martens boots, vintage bakelite rings and bracelets. In the second photo: a black Amy Downs turban, Issey Miyake purse, Costume National jacket, Timbuktu harem pants, black and white Underground brothel creepers.

Valerie is wearing in the first photo: green felt shibori hat by Nafi de Luca; green felt coat by Tiiti Tolonen; can't remember which black pants!; combat shoes with spikes, by unnamed manufacturer. In the second photo: green felt hat by Nafi de Luca; Issey Miyake jacket in nylon honeycomb weave; Betsey Johnson pants; combat shoes with spikes, by unnamed manufacturer.


1 comment:

  1. The photo of the five of you induced a "SQUEE!" reaction to your collective awesomeness. I am lusting after Suzanne's plaid skirt and shoes! This post brings back memories of my fave pieces from the show (I also loved the Gareth Pugh silver outfit) including the crazy-chic shoes and the full-finger silver rings.