If you've grown tired of Occupying Wall Street, head over to the museum at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology so you can see how the 1% lives.
That's the way I felt after visiting the Daphne Guinness exhibit, which is the museum's first to chronicle a single person's style. If you don't know who Guinness is, she's very rich, very beautiful and is a collector of haute couture. She's heir to the beer family's fortune and something of a muse to many of the biggest names in fashion, including the late Alexander McQueen. Indeed, there are dozens of stunning pieces by McQueen in the FIT exhibit, so if you missed "Savage Beauty" at the Met, this is the next best thing (and it's FREE!). Other notable designers heavily represented in the collection: Nina Ricci, Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Lacroix, and Valentino.
The clothes are truly amazing. The video presentations on Guinness.... less so. In one, about her fragrance, she really seemed to be phoning it in. On creating her scent, roughly paraphrased: "It's in my mind. I don't really think about it too much...." Come again?
Throughout the exhibit are quotes from Guinness explaining her style, including her love of armour. Again, roughly paraphrased, though her wording was no more eloquent than this: "I love armour. It's beautiful to wear metal — and it has protective qualities." Deep.
I didn't go to this exhibit expecting to feel any animosity toward the woman whose clothes I wanted to see. Indeed I felt nothing of this sort after seeing Savage Beauty, the Met's exhibition on McQueen. The clothes themselves are truly captivating. But I guess I had hoped for more from someone who is known for daring style and support of up-and-coming young designers than "I like shiny things" (a direct quote from Guinness. Also, my three-year-old says this occasionally).
Am I being too hard on Daphne Guinness? I know since moving to New York City I've had issues with class politics (the Sunday Times' Style Section, for one, never fails to fuel my class rage). As the recession drags on, and so many people I know are just hoping to make it through the winter without having to buy new boots, to parade around in such ridiculously impractical outfits — or laud someone as an artist for doing so — it's a little unseemly. That's not to say art or fashion should take the backseat during economic hard times (beautiful things make us happier, more hopeful, right?), but the emperor has new shoes, and they're impossible to walk in.