Exhibition Review: Daphne Guinness

By Fiona Tedds

‘I don’t do event dressing, because every day is an event.’ Daphne Guinness.

Daphne Guinness. Dress and collar, Gareth Pugh. Harper's Bazaar, March 2011. Photograph: David Bailey

 In a world where the art of getting dressed is often overlooked, it is thrilling to know that so long as people like Daphne Guinness exist, it will never be forgotten. Working with Valerie Steele, Ms Guinness has curated a spectacular exhibition at the FIT museum, displaying over a hundred extraordinary garments from her own collection. With a love of fashion and a passion to explore it as an art form, Daphne Guinness is that rare bird; a woman whose personal style is fearless, delightful and exquisite.

The exhibition is inhabited by an eerie sensation and presided over by Ms Guinness herself in the form of a holographic image, which is suspended in the air like a mercurial angel. The dramatic garments are divided into six sections and besides being viewed head-on, they can also be seen from other angles through a fine gauze, like ghosts at a cocktail party. Mirrors are everywhere, further adding to this dysmorphic sense of unease.

Dress by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. Photograph by the Museum at FIT.

It is probably for her more extreme and disturbing outfits that Daphne Guinness is known and the influences of the late fashion editor Isabella Blow and the designer Alexander McQueen, who also committed suicide, are very much evident. The sequin and bugle-beaded catsuits by McQueen both beg to be stroked whilst suggesting the serpent-like qualities of the wearer. The black feather cape that surrounds one and the gossamer cocoon that encases another further lend to the idea of Daphne Guinness as an otherworldly creature.

Jacket by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. Photograph by the Museum at FIT

A Gareth Pugh black leather pant-suit covered in metal nails – so perfect for a date with a fakir – is part of an section entitled ‘Armour’ and it would seem that whilst Ms Guinness demands our attention with her elaborate clothing, she also sets herself apart, protected by metallic surfaces, jewels and leather. The dizzying height of her shoes literally put her on another plane and this is all part of her allure as a style icon; she both hides and reveals, maintaining a sense of mystery whilst communicating a strong sense of self.

Boots by Alexander McQueen. Photograph by the Museum at FIT

Red suede shoes by Nina Ricci. Photograph by the Museum at FIT

Not all the outfits on display are so paradoxical. The dazzling cut of jackets and suits by Karl Lagerfeld and Azzedine Alaia  are breath-taking and the engineering involved in a pair of cream silk bias-cut pants by Rick Owens is inspired. But it is the combination of all these elements that truly give a sense of Daphne Guinness – part elegant masochist, part educator and patron of the art of fashion.

Daphne Guinness
The Museum at FIT 27th street @ 7th ave
September 16, 2011 – January 07, 2012

 

 

 

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