At the Daphne Guinness exhibition at the Museum at FIT (227 27th St., at Seventh Avenue) everything but the conventional goes. On display until Jan. 7, the recently opened tribute to the couture collection of this beer heiress turned style icon allows viewers to escape into a world of fashion fantasy.
A gallery featuring some of Guinness’ most memorable and eccentric footwear—from a pair of ruby-red crystal-covered Noritaka Tatehana heels complete with gold metal-studded soles to Alexander McQueen brown leather and horn boots—welcomes guests into the fanciful main corridor. The exhibit is separated into six sections, each devoted to a different element of Guinness’ signature style.
Glamorous lighting and mirrored walls are juxtaposed against a tranquil soundtrack that lulls in the background, recreating what one could only dream how the inside of Guinness’ personal closet would be. Every turn through the gallery reveals another cutting-edge couture ensemble to epitomize the exhibit’s themes of dandyism, armor, chic, evening chic, exoticism, and sparkle.
The works of Alexander McQueen (a personal friend of Guinness), Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, and Gareth Pugh dominate the room. Guinness’ mantra of viewing fashion as art, and not purely materialistic vanity, is effortlessly conveyed. Each piece is given the respect its craftsmanship deserves: from the hand-sewn fuchsia Alexander McQueen leggings paired with an expertly tailored ivory, emerald, and ruby-embellished Lagerfeld for Chanel jacket in the evening chic wing, to the astonishingly constructed Gareth Pugh sliced silver metallic dress and hooded coat amongst the ensembles of armor.
Much smaller than the immensely popular and extraordinarily assembled “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., at 82nd Street) this past summer, “Daphne Guinness” nonetheless inspires a similar reverence for design and all of its boundary-pushing possibilities.
A plaque on the wall of the exhibit contains a quote from Guinness that states, “What draws me to fashion is art … and certainly not fashion as a status symbol.” An entire exposition that highlights the undoubtedly expensive collection of designer garments custom made for a popular heiress may seem a bit off-putting. Yet the exhibit is not so much celebrating Guinness’ immense wealth as it is honoring and sharing the fearless, unique, and inspiring personal style that this privilege has allowed.
Some may not accept fashion as a true art form, but just one step into “Daphne Guinness,” and the realization that expertly designed, constructed and styled evening gowns, overcoats and even gold-beaded cat suits are more than just disposable frivolities is inescapable.