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Today and tomorrow, The Museum at FIT is hosting a symposium called Fashion Icons and Insiders. Held in conjunction with the Museum's fabulous Daphne Guinness exhibit (think the Met's McQueen show only smaller, free, and with no lines), the festivities include talks about about fashion icons from Marie Antoinette to Guinness and cover influential designers like Sophie Theallet and Jean Paul Gaultier. The symposium kicked off this morning with the Museum's director and chief curator, Dr. Valerie Steele, conducting an interview with Guinness herself.
First things first: We don't know who she was wearing, but Guinness was attired in black dress with a white blouse underneath it. The ensemble was accessorized with gray heel-less heels and lots of sparkling jewels. The icon wore her signature two-tone Cruella de Vil hair in an updo, with three black combs sticking out of it (not decorative combs, actual combs like a barber might use).
Guinness surprised us. Although articulate and interesting, she seemed fragile and possibly a little nervous about being in front of an audience. Somehow we thought that a woman who had been a muse, model and a designer, and even dressed publicly in the window of Barney's for the Met's Costume Institute Gala this year, would project a more showbizzy demeanor. Much to our delight, however, Guinness came off as charmingly sincere and real. Her conversation with Steele spanned the makings of the exhibit, her upbringing (as a tomboy!), and her love of designers like Valentino and Lagerfeld. But the highlight of the talk was when the discussion turned to her long-time friend and collaborator, the late Alexander McQueen.
Guinness shared that when their mutual friend Isabella Blow initially wanted to introduce her to McQueen, she was hesitant and kept declining, despite being a fan of the designer's work. Then one day Guinness, wearing a brightly colored silk McQueen kimono gown, was walking to the movies in Leicester Square, when all of a sudden she heard, "Oi! That's my coat! I'm the person you don't want to meet!" It was McQueen. So instead of going to going to the movies, she joined the designer for coffee, and one of fashion's most legendary friendships was born.
When Dr. Steele first approached Guinness about doing a show at the Museum, Guinness was unsure about it. After she eventually agreed, the curator suggested, "Why don't you call your friend Alex [McQueen] and see if he wants to do a show too." Guinness wasn't sure if he was at the right stage of his career and thought maybe he should wait a couple of more years before doing an exhibition. "And six months later," she began to explain, but couldn't finish.
The sessions go all day tomorrow as well, with more discussions on fashion's changing icons. Even if you can't make it, be sure to visit the amazing Daphne Guinness exhibition at the Museum (which includes a lot of McQueen). It runs through January. Also definitely check out the book Steele and Guinness co-authored, an interview with Guinness about her life and fashion. The proceeds go to FIT.
· Fashion Icons and Insiders Symposium [Official Site]
· The Museum at FIT [Official Site]
· Daphne Guinness [Amazon]