Asked about the relationship today, Guinness utters a demure “Gosh,” and sits silent. Her eyes flash a look, however, that seems to say, I can’t go there. She later describes herself and Lévy as “close friends.” Lévy declined to comment.
What does get Guinness chatting is her forthcoming limited-edition scent for Comme des Garçons, Daphne, due in April. Always passionate about scent, Guinness has long mixed her own concoctions. “My bathroom is like a chemist shop,” she says. The standard offerings have just never cut it for her. “Going into department stores, they try to spray you like a mosquito,” she adds with horror. Guinness swoons when recounting her trips to the Paris laboratory of Givaudan, the eminent fragrance house. “I thought, I know a bit about this, but when I got there, it was suddenly like playing with the London Philharmonic,” she says. “There’s the string section, the horns…it was beautiful. I thought I was in that moment in 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
For a woman who has identified Lord Nelson as a style icon, Guinness admits that her tastes are “quite odd.” In scent, she aims to conjure up the smells of men’s colognes and churches—evocations of her childhood. “But I am turning that slightly feminine,” she says. To that end, she features musky notes of amber, cypress, tuberose and orange. “But tweaked, tweaked, tweaked,” she emphasizes. Her control extends to the packaging. Inside the linen paper box, a plain but engraved bottle is nestled in red velvet. “It’s no frills or bells. I wanted to get to the core,” she says. “I’ve got a lot of myself invested in this.” More Guinness products are doubtless to come. Her new agent, Todd Shemarya, who represents Brad Pitt and other A-listers, is determined to make her into a high-end lifestyle brand.
Guinness has already spun her fantasies into reality. “There are movie stars you see in film or characters in a novel that are an idealized version of what we dream life to be about, and rarely is this great expectation met,” says Klein. “But Daphne is the exception: She is the embodiment of the ideal—beautiful, chic, fiercely intelligent and kind.”
Her close friend art historian John Richardson also sees her as a character. “She’s metamorphosed into the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute—somehow regal and resplendent,” he says. “But she’s the object of her own creativity. Her persona is her own masterpiece.”
“What’s perceived is not what I am,” Guinness says. Then, with a sigh, she adds, “My life has always somehow been played out in a minor key, unresolved. Art somehow resolves things for me. Through art, you create your own world.”