Many years ago, the inimitable Daphne Guinness began to capture the current fashion zeitgeist long before the rest caught on, championing the massive, transcendental talent of the late Lee Alexander McQueen. “Me and Lee and Issy (Blow), we were a little gang,” she says. “But it’s not about me, it’s about Lee and Issy.”
And so, hours before the Metropolitan Museum would unveil its retrospective, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the fine-boned eccentric appeared in a Barneys Madison Avenue window to regale onlookers with a ten-minute experiential performance in the art of undressing/dressing. “[Lee’s] humor was very black. And we never ever ever ever ever talked about fashion-ever,” she says. “We only ever talked about art. It was a terrible love life we had.” Fitting then that she referred to the performance as, “a small tribute to fashion as art and alas, for friends sorely missed.”
“It came out of another idea I had about voyeur windows,” says Barneys Creative Director, Dennis Freedman. “Daphne was one of the first people I talked to about turning her closet into a window.”
Daphne’s window (or stage, rather) was minimal, save a few Lucite furnishings, a sheet of frosted glass, and an Alexander McQueen pale-grey duck and ostrich feather gown. “It’s the dress that I wore during the show that I did when Lee died,” she says. “So it’s the transition; it’s passing the torch from Lee to Sarah.”
And it seems Guinness heartily approves of Sarah Burton’s appointment at the helm of McQueen’s empire, “I think [Kate Middleton] looked incredible. And Lee would have loved it,” she says. “I’m getting goose bumps now. You can see the narrative…you can see it all. It’s just very, very emotional. [pauses] I just wish they were all here, you know? For me, it’s sad, but it’s a sense of celebration as well.”
She slinked into view at 5pm sharp after starting her pre-event ritual privately at home with a bath. With her head swathed in sheer ombre scarves, she did a little Josephine Baker-esque dance, her Hogan McLaughlin bronze metal catsuit glinting beneath the display lights before dragging her way behind the blur of frosted glass. And there, with the help of an assistant, she shimmied into the awaiting dress.
“Every girl has to struggle with a zipper, even a size 00,” murmured one onlooker. “I think I saw tush…did anyone else see tush?” another posited. And suddenly, the dramatic reappearance: Daphne was back in view, this time fully dressed and with signature skunk-striped, Madame de Pompadour coif. The cheering crowd would agree: for that moment fashion had regained its verve and wit. Let’s call it The Daphne Effect.
Photos: Neilson Barnard/ Wire Image