Daphne Guinness calls buying all of late fashion editor Isabella Blow's wardrobe to halt its auction "probably the maddest decision ever." Speaking late last week to Platinum and Centurion American Express cardholders at an exclusive tour of the Met's new "Savage Beauty" exhibit — showcasing the work of her and Blow's friend Alexander McQueen — she explained
I thought what’s going to happen is [the pieces are] going to be lost. She had an incredible eye and she truly loved her pieces, they're like a diary. I didn’t want to buy them and wear them, I wanted to buy them and keep them because I think it’s very interesting for students and people who are interested in fashion to see.
Guinness, who said looking at the clothes was difficult since they reminded her of Blow, loaned some of Blow's collection to the Met for the exhibit, and to Barnyes and Harvey Nichols to display, while the rest remains in a storage facility. Guinness wants to display the whole lot of it, but isn't sure how. "I’m trying to think of a way to do it, and I’m thinking maybe it’ll be a virtual museum, maybe then it could go on tour," she said.
Describing her current style as "tailoring plus chaos," Guinness acknowledged she was a relatively late McQueen champion, only first becoming aware of his work during his years designing for Givenchy. Blow introduced her. "She always used to say, ‘Oh, you have to meet him’ and I would always say, 'No, I don’t want to.' And he actually came up to me ... and he said 'Hello, I’m the person you don’t want to meet.' You don’t expect someone to come tap you on the shoulder [and introduce himself like that], it was just very bizarre."
The pair became firm friends fast, with Daphne spending much time at the McQueen studios, "You’d go upstairs and it was just like a humming little hive of activity, of course we were always joking too — English gallows humor, which doesn’t ever come across well in print. Sometimes I say stuff and I’m being ironic and it’s like, ‘oh gosh.'" (See here for a possible example of said humor.)
But she's not without reservations about now possessing Blow's clothing. "I wanted to be respectful and I don’t want to be making capital. It wasn’t bought as an investment, absolutely not," she said. "[The exhibition is] a very bittersweet thing, because you want to celebrate your friends but then it’s like where are they and why aren’t they here?"
Would McQueen and Blow be happy with "Savage Beauty"? "I think he would have been really happy ... when I was walking around the show it struck me seeing the whole narrative of his work, it was really quite moving. It says a lot about his state of mind. And I did want Issy to be here, she would have been laughing, that laugh of hers — my God, she was fun."
As well as the many custom pieces she'd commission from McQueen, Daphne also bought extensively from his collections directly. For her talk, she brought along five McQueen pieces from her personal collection, which you can see in the slideshow. "It’s awful if you just leave things hanging in the cupboard," she said.
See those looks in the slideshow.