Iconic status is not created, it is earned. Even in our digital age of instant gratification. This is especially true in the world of arts and fashion. Few people now can match the reverence and influence of the Hon. Daphne Guinness. A living couture legend, this modern day Renaissance woman has finally opened her extraordinary life and wardrobe to the general public. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Guinness in light of her eponymous fashion exhibit at Museum at the FIT. We talked about childhood memories, shared advice on dealing with fears, discussed Russian literature and the challenges of being a co-curator and the muse.
In our conversation, Guinness admits that "the idea of putting oneself on view" was at times overwhelming as the preparations for the exhibition were underway. "It's personal, as if you are being stripped," said Guinness. Yet, it is also plain to see that she enjoys sharing her impossible-to-find, one-of-a-kind haute couture collection: "Not to be able to share with people... is selfish". In the spirit of DEPESHA magazine's highly curated content, I bring to you the highlights from our exclusive tête-à-tête.
Is there one moment in your childhood that particularly stands out?
I was quite a tomboy; I was always falling out of trees. Perhaps this is how my fascination with armor began. I had to be tough in the environment I grew up, with so many brothers and sisters.
How do you deal with fear?
Just to know that's its fear. It doesn't mean that you don't feel fear, because everyone does. I've done things to get over my fear of flying. I jumped with a parachute off the cliff. It worked. I am not frightened anymore. Fear is a very funny mental thing. You just try to get over it. I've stopped watching TV a long time ago and I don't read about things that instill fear. I rather read things that are more nourishing, instead of those that make you more anxious.
You have to concentrate on the positive things in life.
Featuring intimate footage of Daphne Guinness at her Fifth Avenue apartment, this short film follows the eccentric fashion patron and socialite as she prepares for her recent installation in the windows of Barneys New York.
Do you think one can have an emotional relationship with clothes?
I don't think you can miss anything that can't miss you. There are a few items that I am attached to, like white shirts [smiles], and my shoes. Perhaps, when you have less to choose from you'll end up looking better; when you have less to deal with, you are less confused. But I like to collect. I am very interested in textiles, old and new, Chinese and Japanese robes, embroideries, lace. I like to see how it is all made. It's really the craft and the history that I have a relationship with; it's much less to do with trends.
Would you call this relationship a fetish?
I love fetish, and the fantastic silhouettes. I can imagine it could be seen like that. A fetish object is something that compels you, and people have fetishes for all sorts of things. It is a very human thing. It’s sort of an exploration of the human body. I did a life drawing course at the Slade. I wanted to take an architecture drawing course and the professor said no. Do the human body first, and then you’ll understand architecture. It’s the original geometry.
Daphne Guinness tribute to Alexander McQueen performed in New York in March 2011. Video by Indriani and GK Reid.
Have you ever been to Russia?
I am dying to go to Russia. Particularly, it is Russian literature that excites me: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Goncharov, Dostoevsky, and Bulgakov. I also find the concept of the "Russian soul" fascinating.
What do you think of the oft-quoted Dostoevsky line from The Idiot: "Beauty will save the world"?
This is true. I do believe it. Nature follows art. It takes art to point out what is beautiful. The world has become a bit of a mess, but we are capable of changing it by thinking about what's beautiful, reminding ourselves. You try to do the correct thing. It’s inside of you. It starts there.
To learn more about the Hon. Daphne Guinness and her impact on the creative trajectories of the world’s leading fashion designers, check out the DEPESHA review of the Museum at FIT exhibition here and visit the installation in New York City on display now through January 7, 2012.