Daphne Guinness on her time with McQueen, and why she bought Isabella Blow’s wardrobe

11 May 2011

As part of the ongoing festivities over the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Daphne Guinness has been showing visitors around the exhibition and giving them a commentary of the outfits she herself owns. Mademoiselle Guinness introduced herself by describing her fashion sense as ‘tailoring plus chaos’ and then went on to talk about a bejewelled corset, saying ‘It’s a piece of art, but it’s extremely heavy to wear. The rhinestones are incredibly heavy and they fall off a lot, but it’s so beautiful, it’s like a piece of jewellery. [McQueen] was always very good at making corsets and I’d say ‘tighter, tighter’ and he’d say “Okay, look we’re going too far.”’

Or, in another case, an absolutely bonkers flappy cape saying; ‘I call this my jellyfish cloak because it’s very transparent, and when you run it sort of balloons out at the back like a parachute. For me, this is a piece of theatre, though, funnily enough, I do wear it a lot.’

As well as being a loyal customer of the late designer, Daphne was a personal friend of McQueen’s, having been introduced by Isabella Blow; a cousin of Daphne’s and Lee’s mentor and first supporter in the industry.  She described going to visit him in his studios; ‘You’d go upstairs and it was just like a humming little hive of activity, of course we were always joking too — English gallows humour, which doesn’t ever come across well in print. Sometimes I say stuff and I’m being ironic and it’s like, “oh gosh”’ Yes, like the time she said THIS!

She also explained why she decided to buy up the entire Issie Blow archive when her sisters put it up for auction to settle debts on her estate, an action which Daphne described in retrospect as ‘probably the maddest decision ever’ and went on to say ‘I thought what’s going to happen is [the pieces are] going to be lost. She had an incredible eye and she truly loved her pieces, they're like a diary. I didn’t want to buy them and wear them, I wanted to buy them and keep them because I think it’s very interesting for students and people who are interested in fashion to see.’ Though she admits if they were made into a museum, it would be better as a ‘virtual museum’ so more people could access it. We think the Met Museum one will get its fair share of customers as it is Daphne!


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