The name Guinness is known widely in the U.S. for beer, not for high fashion. With a new exhibit on Daphne Guinness at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum, that may soon change. Daphne is an heiress to the Guinness brewery fortune, but she is also a member of the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, alongside such names as Princess Diana and Kate Moss. Her new exhibit displays selections from her large collection of haute couture fashion.
Daphne herself is an unusual figure – think Lady Gaga, who has said that she draws inspiration from Guinness’s style – in about twenty years. She favors dramatic jewels, bodysuits and sky-high shoes, risks in a world where many celebrities play it safe with stylists. Her black and platinum hair is usually swept into Cruella de Vil-esque up-do, and her fingers are sheathed in thick, metal rings.
Guinness’s unique style comes from her appreciation of fashion as a wearable art form, instead of the frivolous pastime it is often seen as. She once said, “We should not pollute the world with meaningless, unused things when we can make and support things of rare and precious beauty.” This exhibit truly exemplifies her words.
Before the exhibit’s main gallery, there is a smaller room, which displays some of Guinness’s dizzying platform shoes in glass cases. My favorite was a glittering red pair by Noritaka Tatehana, which reminded me of a fantastical version of ruby slippers.
This room also featured a short film, one of several playing in the exhibit. “The Phenomenology of the Body”, which was directed by Guinness, was an interesting look into the role of fashion and oppression throughout history, and into Guinness’s own artistic vision (you can watch it here).
The main gallery is divided into six parts: Dandyism, Armor, Chic, Evening Chic, Exoticism and Sparkle, each of which represent a facet of Guinness’s style. Upon entering the gallery, I was impressed at how many pieces were on display, each styled beautifully on a white mannequin. There were sequined jackets, a kimono, even a feathered cape, from names such as Chanel, Valentino, and Alexander McQueen, who was a close friend of Guinness’s before he committed suicide in 2010.
Still, this exhibit is not about label dropping. Pieces from the powerhouses of fashion are displayed beside those from lesser-known names, such as Gareth Pugh. Guinness has said she is not interested in “fashion as a status symbol.” Instead, she supports designers who design intricate and special clothing. Anyone, whatever their knowledge of fashion may be, could appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship in these pieces, and the sharp eye that collected them all.
The Daphne Guinness Exhibit will be on display thru January 7th, 2012. The Museum at FIT is open Tuesday thru Friday, noon to 8pm, and Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is always free.