Russian Harper’s Bazaar (English Translation)
When this past May Daphne Guinness appeared in a glass case at Barneys New York so that she could change clothes in front of the admiring public to get ready for the Costume Institute Gala, it was expected that this performance would at least expose a little bit of her mysterious nature. However, after she had changed from a smock by Alexander McQueen to a dress of the same brand made of birds feathers and never glanced to those who watched through a window of the glass case, she actually added some intrigue to her image. The exhibition with a laconic name ‘Daphne Guinness’, which is open until the beginning of January at the Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology and shows hundreds of dresses from her personal wardrobe, strikes the imagination, but it doesn’t get us any closer in understanding her [cultural] phenomenon. Eccentric aristocrat, intellectual and an icon of style, passionate about fashion, balancing on the edge of art – that is, I guess, all, that is directly related to her. But what else do we know about Daphne, except for the fact that she wears huge 20cm heels, dresses haute couture, in provocative diamonds and consistently dyes locks of her platinum hair in black. Daphne Susanna Diana Guinness is a heiress of the Guinness Family in which there have been British, Irish, and French aristocrats, who were involved in politics, banking and, of course, in brewing. She grew up in manors in Ireland, England, and in a house in Spanish Cadaqués where a diaspora of bohemian British lived, and were friends with Dali and Man Ray.
In the mid-1980s Daphne moved to New York. She did not spend very long in the world of “Fabrics” and “Studio 54”, and in 1987, at the age of 19, she got married to Spyros Niarchos, the son of Greek shipowner-billionaire, and while married she gave birth to three children. In 1999 after adding 20 millions pounds from divorce compensation to her fortune, Daphne freed herself from the golden cage of a closed private life. She was buying the most unusual outfits – by Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix, Chanel, Valentino, Philip Treacy, Givenchy, Azzedine Alaia, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh – and was unconstrained appearing in society wearing them. While her image was getting more and more interesting, she turned from a collector haute couture into one of its muses-inspirations. “Talent is natural. It doesn’t matter where you develop it – in an educational institution or in the school of life. I am a stylist, it runs in my blood” she mentioned once. Her radical transformations and personal view on fashion started to influence the professionals. Valentino wittily called her not a muse, but a “bee, flying from one designer to another and generously pollinating each of them”. She calls her peculiar appearances in public – “a constantly evolving art-project”: “The creative process is more interesting for me than its public evaluation. Actually, the possibility of confrontation with the world has always attracted me. In this sense I am an artist”. Ironically, but whatever Guinness does – whether it is a clothing line with Dover Street Market, or perfume made with Comme des Garçons, a runway show for Tom Ford, designing a line of make-up for M.A.C. or a role in the art-house film “The Murder of Jean Sebert”, it doesn’t explain the question: how does she manage to distend the limits of artistic standards without stepping on the territory of pop-culture? Perhaps, the fact is that the essence of Daphne is not just in the experiments of haute couture. Only books shelves can compete in the richness with the wardrobes in her New York and London houses. In her youth she studied Shakespeare, took drawing and singing classes: “My inspiration depends on what I read, what lectures and exhibitions I visit. It’s important to have balance between material and spiritual aspects”. For example, she says the following about her attachment to a black-and-white gamut: “ I love books and newspapers – maybe that’s why it seems to me that everything looks better in black and white?” What is more, in everything what Guinness does, there is no commercial interest. The heiress of Guinness empire, she can afford the luxury of self-actualization without any shadow of marketing. That’s why Lady Gaga who adopted a lot from Guinness, will always be, partially, needing to please the masses, while Daphne will remain rara avis, the bird of a rare genre.
Translation by: Lena