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The Iconoclast

Q&A

A new exhibition turns its focus on one of the world's most stylish women, Daphne Guinness.

Daphne Guinness doesn't shy away from taking fashion risks; she of the 10-inch heels that teeter dangerously on edge, and of armor-worthy dresses and headpieces. It's no wonder that on first meeting, Valerie Steele, director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, began to engage this enchantress to mount a show of her most iconic looks. The exhibition "Daphne Guinness" features about 100 garments and accessories from Guinness' personal collection, including designs from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Valentino and Guinness' own designs. We sat down with Valerie Steele to discuss "Daphne Guinness" and the woman behind the show, two years in the making.—Tali Jaffe

When did you first begin to work with Daphne Guinness on this show?

I've wanted to do this for some time. We've actually been working on it for the past two years. The first time I met Daphne, I immediately wanted to do a show with her. But she's such a lovely and humble person that she demurred.

Some time later, I was showing her around a show at FIT and she asked what it would take to make a show happen, and I said "well, there are 80 dresses in this show, you have 80 dresses, don't you?," I teased. She kind of giggled and we agreed that we had something. For Daphne, it's all about the art of fashion. She has so much respect for the craftsmen and the artisans. She loves to talk about the pattern makers, embroiderers and seamstresses.

How is the show organized?

It's going to be the most beautiful show we've ever done. There are about 100 looks, as well as an introductory gallery that includes some of her insane shoes. The big gallery is inspired by the look of her apartment, which is sort of a hall of mirrors. It's going to be divided into six sections, and each is dedicated to an aspect of Daphne's personal style. For example, she adores tailored clothes and menswear inspired things. In fact, she once said that in her next life she's going to come back as a tailor. So, in that section, there are beautiful things from Alaia, Lagerfeld, McQueen and Balenciaga.

There's a section inspired by her love of armor, which includes pieces by Gareth Pugh and McQueen. Another section features feathers and beads, because, you know, Valentino used to joke that you could find Daphne in London by following the trail of feathers.

Was there anything Daphne did not want to part with?

Oh, yes, we stripped her of the best of her closet! But being as generous as she is, she made sure we got what we wanted—even if it meant she had to go out to buy something new to replace it.

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