A photo to put it all in context. I'd be nervous too if I had a bunch of people taking my picture and waiting for me to speak. There were flashbulbs going off every second.
Daphne Guinness seemed nervous as she walked to the podium alongside Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, to address the press at the preview of the eponymous exhibit celebrating her style. Who can blame her? People (myself included) jockeyed for position to get a closer look. Flashbulbs went off everywhere. The attention seemed to get the best of her at first and at one point I thought she’d ask everyone to stop taking pictures.
A close-up of the first picture. Notice the way she perches on the platform edge of her shoes.
Dr. Steele did a fabulous job of engaging Daphne in conversation about the exhibit, which seemed to put her at ease. Among the most interesting points:
Steel approached Guinness two years ago about an exhibit highlighting her amazing couture collection. Guinness was reluctant at first but Steele won her over by convincing her that the show would be an inspiration to FIT students. Dr. Steele also said she and Guinness were in complete agreement that “fashion is worthy of preservation and appreciation.” They both noted that when they began to put the show together, Alexander McQueen, the late British fashion designer and a close friend of Guinness, was still alive. There are over two dozen McQueen pieces included in the exhibit that have never before been on display.
Guinness, 43, said some of her inspirations included Diana Vreeland, Nancy Cunard, Josephine Baker, and the Duchess of Windsor.
When I asked her to talk about her evolution of style and if motherhood changed the way she dressed—she has three children, Stavros, 22, Alexis, 20, and Ines, 16—she said she didn’t dress the way she does now when her children were small. She also said she found she made style mistakes over the years, which she said, “helps to define you, you learn.” She finds she’s now influenced by the people she is around and the projects she is involved in.
She looked right at me as she answered my question. I found her articulate, intelligent, shy, and charming. She has big beautiful brown eyes, an English accent, and a way of making you feel as if you and she are the only people in the room.
Valerie Steele did a great job of engaging Daphne in conversation and putting her at ease. I also think Daphne realized she was among fans and friends, all lovers of fashion!
When a reporter asked her to describe her approach to collecting couture she said she knows a piece is for her when “it sparks something in you, you are intuitively drawn to it.”
She noted that in her youth she wasn’t interested in fashion per se, she was more attuned to artists, but she liked the idea of using fashion as a form of defense. She also said that growing up in London she knew she was an “anti-Sloane Ranger,” which drew a laugh from the crowd. She said that while those young women wanted to wear “the little sweater and the little skirt,” Guinness herself had other desires. “I wanted to wear studded leather,” she said.
The photo of Daphne just outside the exhibit.
When asked what she hoped people would take away from the exhibit she focused on young designers studying the clothes. “Designers love to see how the seams are done, how it’s constructed, how the stitching is done, it’s what they always want to know.”
In closing she remarked that she loved the idea of “chic as a kind of armor,” but stressed, “You can’t be anybody but yourself.”
Daphne Guinness is on view at The Museum at FIT through January 7, 2012.
The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue and 27th Street
New York NY 10001-5992
Hours: Tuesday-Friday: Noon-8PM
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and legal holidays
Admission is free