Exhibition Review: Daphne Guinness

Daphne Guinness book cover. Photograph by Kevin Davies @ Z Photographic Ltd.

Daphne Guinness book cover. Photograph by Kevin Davies @ Z Photographic Ltd.

I recently had the pleasure of viewing The Museum at FIT’s exhibition dedicated to heiress, designer, artist, model, and “fashion icon” Daphne Guinness.

The show starts with a short essay by Valerie Steele which includes Guinness’ famous quote, “We need better things, not more. We should not pollute the world with meaningless, unused things when we can make and support things of rare and precious beauty.”  The exhibition showcases many of these items of “rare and precious beauty.”

In the first room, several of Guinness’ spectacular platform shoes and other accessories are on display, interspersed with video screens showcasing highly styled fashion photographs of her from various sources. These surround a single mannequin which has been dressed in an exquisite beaded Alexander McQueen catsuit and shimmery cloak ensemble.

Red suede shoes by Nina Ricci. From the collection of Daphne Guinness, to be featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Red suede shoes by Nina Ricci. From the collection of Daphne Guinness, featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Alexander McQueen ensemble featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Alexander McQueen ensemble featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

The main gallery is filled with mannequins, nearly all sporting Daphne Guinness’ signature black & platinum hairdo. The mannequins are arranged thematically in small platformed corridors, isolated by the use of mirrored walls and scrims. Several of her films are projected onto the walls and even on an otherworldly-looking transparent screen suspended from the ceiling at the center of the gallery.

As for the clothes, they are spectacular. Guinness’ unique personal style oozes from every ensemble, and the mix of exquisite haute couture pieces with quirky punk shop and vintage finds makes her style unique, yet accessible.

Ensembles from the DANDYISM section of the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Ensembles from the DANDYISM section of the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Ensemble: Shirt and jacket by Daphne Guinness; pants from London punk shop. From the collection of Daphne Guinness, featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Ensemble: Shirt and jacket by Daphne Guinness; pants from London punk shop. From the collection of Daphne Guinness, featured in the exhibition Daphne Guinness. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy ensembles from the EXOTICISM section of the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy ensembles from the EXOTICISM section of the exhibition Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Photograph courtesy The Museum at FIT.

If you are anywhere near New York City, I heartily recommend giving this show a visit. You won’t regret it.

Daphne Guinness
is on view through January 7, 2012

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
New York City 10001-5992
Information: 212 217.4558

Museum Hours
Tuesday-Friday – noon-8 pm
Saturday –10 am-5 pm
Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays

Admission is free and open to the public.

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