Style Icon: Daphne Guinness

Sophisticated socialite. Designer muse. Mother of three. Noteworthy collector of haute couture. Model. Modern heiress of an aristocrat Irish Protestant family. Journalist. Stylist extraordinaire. Philanthropist. On-and-off-again girlfriend of a married French philosopher. Undisputed style icon. Daphne Suzannah Diana Joan Guinness was born into a life of luxury. Now, at age 41 (or is it 42? “I don’t really care,” said Guinness), the tiny, trendsetting fashionista known for her love of towering stilettos and showstopping accessories is at the top of her game with the recent launch of her eponymous perfume, Daphne, and a quickly expanding troop of style admirers who, in total, may outnumber the amount of black garments in her multiple closets.

Keep reading to learn more about Daphne Guinness’ engaging ensembles and innovative style…

Daphne Guinness was born in 1967 to brewery heir Jonathan Guinness and French model Suzanne Lisney. She spent her childhood living in both England and Ireland, with plenty of vacations to Spain. As a youth, her natural blonde hair lightened to its current shade of white as she bathed in the ample sunshine of a small Catalan fishing village. While on summer holiday, Guinness was graced with the casual company of Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray, among many other revolutionary artists who frequented that same seaside village.

Guinness’ exposure to innovative artists of the 1970s is partially responsible for her inclination toward the avant-garde, and her undeniably chic taste. When asked how she developed such a distinct personal style, Guinness replied, “I grew up in an artists’ colony near Barcelona with Salvador Dali and the Surrealists, so my dress sense is very colored by my youth. Everybody knew that Dali was the most crazy – you’d go to his house and he would have lobsters in his pool.” Dali, and other boundary-breaking artists who mingled with Guinness during her formative years taught her that being “crazy” was, well, pretty cool, especially in terms of individual appearance. She learned that unabashed self-expression was pertinent to her individual happiness, which she cultivated by developing a truly original style aesthetic.

Growing up, Guinness lived a gilded life as a member of the aforementioned aristocratic Irish dynasty. She briefly studied art at Slade, developed an affliction for classical music, and tinkered with the idea of becoming an opera singer. However, these aspirations soon faded when, at a mere 19 years-old, Guinness married Spyros Niarchos, an heir of the shipping magnate Stavros. Niarchos and Guinness traveled the world a thousand times over, while Guinness managed to birth and raise three children. Their glamorous, villa-frequenting, jet-setting lifestyle was enviable to many, but her immense wealth and the constant, watchful eye of stifling bodyguards made Guinness feel isolated, alone, and somewhat unhappy. In 1999, the enigmatic couple separated, and Guinness suddenly had to “start over.” She regained contact with family and friends, focused on being an attentive mother, and began to establish herself more eminently as a fashion connoisseur, a prominent member at every launch party, always in the front row of haute couture runway shows, rubbing elbows with the fashion elite and receiving invitations to international, awe-inspiring parties. Guinness said, “I found, at that time, that fashion became an extension of self.”

During her marriage to Niarchos, Guinness began collecting haute couture clothing, a hobby she is now most notably known for. Her affinity for exquisite, handmade, breathtaking clothing reflects Guinness’ penchant for the arts, and more specifically, her sentimental admiration for those who create gorgeous garments which invoke feelings of serenity and visions of grandeur.

Guinness said, “Why I love couture is the people that do it…because they are absolute masters. It’s just a dying craft…When you see the whole back story and you know the people, and when you put on a jacket and find a pin in your sleeve, that’s so great because you think that day of who made it.”

As a muse to designers like Valentino and Gareth Pugh (pictured below), it’s obvious that Guinness’ respect for the work of visionary tailors is fully reciprocated. Her style cannot, and will not be defined – it exists as an equivocal element replete with appealing intrigue. When asked to define herself, Guinness replied, “I can’t be objective. I’m just never sure about it….I love to create beautiful things and I like to be around people who are trying to do things that are authentic.”

When asked how she gets dressed in the morning, Guinness elaborated, “By a wing and prayer. If you look very carefully, mainly it’s the same thing and I re-accessorize it. Or I have the same jacket made again and again. Or I’ll have a sparkly coat or I’ll just have a new pair of shoes. It’s pretty easy, actually.

Easy to look at, sure, but certainly not easy to replicate. Her usual errand-running ensemble? A fitted black dress by L’Wren Scott, several black scarves, asymmetrical cat-eyed sunglasses, and of course, 7” red platform Mary-Jane heels. Her formula for flawless style is enviable, to say the least, but it’s also inspiring. Although many don’t possess, or even come close to owning, Guinness’ incomparable collection of clothes, hordes of superlative accessories, and varied array of extravagant shoes, we all possess a unique individuality capable of propagating remarkable style.

“Celebrities almost never look good unless they are out at something or other, while real fashion animals always look a little interesting, even if they are only going to Starbucks. Individuality will always exist,” she asserts. “It’s more that it has become very underground and doesn’t infiltrate the mainstream as much as it should, so you have to search it out, which is getting more difficult, but also more rewarding.”

This past September, Guinness released a signature scent with Comme des Garcons. However, unlike many other celebrity perfume lines, Guinness’ scent is an idiosyncratic fragrance which resulted from two-and-a-half years of mingling her favorite aromas to find that one perfect aromatic essence.

The fragrance is aptly named Daphne. It possesses a principal note of tuberose, a night-blooming perennial flower native to Mexico. When asked for her impression of the perfume, Guinness replied that the tuberose reminds her of her mother, who passed away in 2005, and the flower market in Spain she visited every summer.

“We always used to have these huge vats of them (tuberose), and they would just fill the house with scent all summer long. It reminds me of my childhood. I would collect them and put them all on greaseproof paper with a kind of gel, and then you leave it for a few days. Then you’d scrape off the gel and have a sort of essence…they’re not beautiful in the peony sense of the word, but the smell is unlike anything else. I love it.”

When asked how important fragrance is to her style, Guinness replied, “Huge. Huge. It’s a ritual…I just go to my cupboard and I sort of look at all my different oils and think, “OK, right, today this is the baseline and I’m going to build it up to there.”

And that’s also how she “builds up” her style. A little of this, a little of that – an Alexander McQueen dress here, a pair of “unwalkable,” gravity-defying Nina Ricci heels there, a flair of fabulousness with a dichotomous hair style, a sense of seriousness with a solemn, armour-inspired arm of jewelry. Daphne Guinness is the epitome of a successful, fashionable socialite, someone who is acutely aware of their personal preferences, executed exceptionally well via impeccable ensembles and a certain je ne sai quoi.


About Annie

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  1. Avatar
    aire 11/17/2009 at 4:44 pm #

    I love Daphne! I so enjoy seeing her on the pages of W from time to time! Great post, Annie!

  2. Avatar Maegan 11/17/2009 at 6:09 pm #

    I love how theatrical she is

  3. Avatar
    Kate 11/18/2009 at 2:59 am #

    In the last photo it looks like she has an angry face on her crotch.

  4. Avatar
    Breana 11/18/2009 at 7:34 pm #

    hehehe you’re right, Kate; i giggled

  5. Avatar
    Sarah 11/18/2009 at 10:24 pm #

    What an inspiration!

  6. Avatar
    becca boo 11/19/2009 at 2:35 am #


  7. Avatar
    Allan 02/13/2010 at 11:02 pm #

    I love Daphne Guinness style. She’s been so close to the geratest (Warhol, Isabella Blow, McQueen, Commes Des Garcons) that truly might have influenced in her life. A true diva!

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