20th Century and Contemporary, Fashion, Museums/Exhibits, Photography

Happy Birthday, Daphne Guinness!

Fashion is a world with its own language, rules, and aesthetic. It is a world at once self-consciously divorced from the everyday—a place where beauty, artistry and fancy flourish, assiduously protected against the stultifying demands of practicality or pedantic taste—and whose survival yet still depends on translating itself so as to appeal to the everyday. The work of translating and delivering the designer’s vision requires an extensive network of editors, photographers, models, retailers, patrons, and the all-important if not quite understood fashion icon.

Daphne Guinness—Anglo-Irish aristocrat, collector of couture, and the darling of Lagerfeld and Valentino—is one of today’s most significant and influential fashion icons. As Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and co-author with Guinness of Daphne Guinness, describes  a fashion icon in her recently published profile of Daphne Guinness not as an “early adopter” or “celebrity clothes horse,” but as someone who “not only inspires fashion designers and validates their clothes, but actually creates a look that affects the way other people dress and/or think about dressing.”  Women like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Coco Chanel or today’s Michelle Obama, Alexa Chung, and Sarah Jessica Parker have developed distinctive styles that have found enduring cultural resonance. We borrow their styles and make them our own.

We are drawn to women like Daphne Guinness because fashion for them is not a little girls’ game of dress up or a stunt designed draw the public attention. Fashion communicates who they are as women. Fashion is an extension of their personality. We do not admire the clothes so much as the women of daring and intelligence in the clothes. We are drawn to their unique way of being in the world—a way of being that finds its expression in their choice of style. Tom Ford observes, “Daphne has a reverence for clothing and or fashion, yet at the same time she realizes that other things in life are much more important and so she has no fear when it comes to dressing, and this fearlessness and total security with who she is as a woman creates a dazzling character. Daphne is a true fashion original. She is one of a kind.” We are not transfixed simply by Daphne Guinness’s theatrical, imaginative, and fearless style, but by the theatrical, imaginative, and fearless woman.

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