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FIT Peeks Into
Daphne Guinness's Unique World

Daphne-rene-habermacherWe haven't been paying enough attention to The Museum at FIT lately, and we have no really good reason why. We know we missed a few good exhibitions, but we feel like we made up for it yesterday when we stopped by to see its latest display simply titled Daphne Guinness.

It's one of the rare (but not unprecedented) fashion exhibitions based not on a particular designer or period, but on the personal style of one individual, and its worth a visit just for the sheer, mind-boggling spectacle of her wardrobe, or even just to gawk at her crazy balance-defying shoes. It's hard to imagine imagine to what occasion a person would wear one Alexander McQueen embroidered bodysuit, but the features two of them, and we suspect that she probably has a bunch more at home. Guinness is no mere shopper, and the show makes a strong case for her not only as a stylish person, but as a collector and patroness of fashion as a design pursuit. Co-curated by the woman herself and Valerie Steele along with Fred Dennis, the show focuses heavily on designers like McQueen and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, but rarely features an outfit composed by a single label. Instead they freely mix a Lacroix Jacket with a Valentino gown or possibly one designed by Guinness herself and so on, just as Guinness does herself. The exhibition's design by Ken Nintzel maintains a clean backdrop for the sensory overload of all the elaborate garments, dividing FIT's cavernous exhibition space into six districts of the subject's style. In fact, it's almost surprising to see a pair of Azzedine Alaïa gowns looking sleek and minimal amongst all the baroque embellishment.

It's tough to compare anything to the recent Alexander McQueen blockbuster at the Costume Institute, but this show about Guinness easily serves as a worthy counterpart, or perhaps a coda. Where the Met delved into the extraordinarily fertile imagination of a prodigious designer, this show turns the focus to one of the few women on the planet who will actually wear those outlandish runway pieces and incorporate them into her real life, however rarefied it may be —and the shoes prove that her life is nothing if not rarefied.  Few individuals have the resources to compile such a collection of couture, but it is entertaining to say the least, to take a moment and marvel at one who does.

Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT through January 7th, 1012, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, Chelsea


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