DAPHNE GUINNESS- FASHION MAECENAS OF OUR TIMES
There are few people more passionate about fashion and its associated crafts than Daphne Guinness. Her style is known the world over, instantly recognisable, unafraid and elegant.
When one looks at pictures of the young Daphne it is surprising to see a rather Sloaney girl with a conventional hairstyle, a million miles away from the uber-styled fashionista we see today. Fashionista is probably the wrong word to describe her- she is no slave to fashion and more of an artist in her highly developed individualism. This individualism must have been always been lurking there and was very likely fed by her childhood holidays in Spain swimming in Salvador Dali’s pool and being visited by people such as Man Ray, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney. Certainly there is more than a touch of surrealism not just about her looks but in a lot of the artistic projects she undertakes.
Her collaborations with fashion and artists is legendary, having been sought out by Karl Lagerfeld, Francois Nars, Gareth Pugh, Tom Ford and Philip Treacy to name but a few. Her fashion input is clearly valued by its creators and unlike a lot of high profile fashion collaborations it is screamingly obvious by the unique stamp she imparts on these projects that she is personally highly involved in these. She certainly has the flair for it and it is well known that her imagination and intellect are fed by her voracious appetite for literature- every interview of her I have read describes her as incredibly well-read.
With these qualities she could hardly be anything other than a creator rather than a follower. She has crafted an image (I was going to say look but I feel it is a weak word for Daphne) which is instantly recognisable immensely fluid and which allows her to showcase talent which she admires and supports. Famously, if she can’t find something she wants she has it made, and made to the highest standards. This would go a long way in explaining her fascination with couture, which encapsulates in a single garment the pinnacle of talent of scores of craftsmen. Her friendship with the late Alexander McQueen- an absolute master cutter is well recorded. Alexander knew how to create form because he understood how it all had to fit together underneath in order to create the desired external effect. The same applies to Philip Treacy, whose understanding of structure is incredible.
Daphne’s willingness to collaborate with relatively unknown creators as well as the design superstars is a breath of fresh air and their imagination and technical understanding combined with her vision often produces incredible results. A notable piece that springs to mind is the jewelled glove she and the jeweller Shaun Leane created together. What started off as a seemingly simple commission ended up as a four year project- she initially wanted a piece to reflect her love of armour and as the limitations of silver in relation to this project began to become apparent, the project evolved into a technical masterpiece, incorporating white gold and over 5000 diamonds. It is clear from the result that they were pushing each other’s limits. This particular association propelled Shaun Leane’s name from being relatively well known to positively ubiquitous.I have only elaborated on what Daphne is well known for, which is clothes, but she is so clearly fascinated and involved by so many artistic fields... It is what artists and designers really need, people who will commission pieces because they like the creator, understand them and nurture them, wanting to show the world what they are capable of. Daphne continues in the tradition of the great 17th and 18th century patrons, the Maecenas, who forged special, understanding relationships with their protégés, encouraged and promoted new ideas, excellent craftsmanship and individual style.