The Characters of Kenwood: Daphne Guinness June 27, 2012

During the run of the exhibition Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, we will fill you in on the lives of the characters that add to the colorful history of the Kenwood estate. Last time we introduced you to Mary, Countess Howe, whose elegant portrait by Thomas Gainsborough depicts fashion trends of the 18th century.

The name Guinness may first have become famous because of the world-renowned brewery, but today the name might be just as recognizable to fashion aficionados as it is to beer drinkers. That’s thanks to fashion icon Daphne Guinness, the great-great-granddaughter of Edward Cecil Guinness

Known as an heiress, a muse, a socialite, a designer, and an artist, Daphne (born 1967) is a modern-day living portrait of the fabulous art collection at Kenwood House.

She was a friend of late fashion designer Alexander McQueen and a fan of his work, and the New Yorker described her as resembling both “a Gainsborough portrait of a lady and a Gainsborough portrait of the lady’s husband.” Many of Daphne’s outfits seem to draw inspiration from the lace ruffles and velvet frocks worn by several men and women in portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Frans Hals. Her wilder ensembles rival the eccentricity that has become synonymous with Lady Gaga.

Daphne inherited more than just a name from her great-great-grandfather; she inherited the desire to collect beautiful, striking objects. In the fall of 2011, the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) devoted an exhibition to some 100 objects from Daphne’s collection, including tailored suits, feathery capes, and floral ceramic shoes. On June 27 of this year, Christie’s in London holds an auction of some of Daphne’s finest clothes and shoes. Chanel, McQueen, Prada, and Versace are among the designers represented, and proceeds benefit one of Daphne’s charities.

Visit The Treasures of Kenwood House exhibition—organized by the American Federation of Arts and English Heritage—at the MFAH to see the exquisite fashion that inspires Daphne’s collection, and stay tuned for more on the characters of Kenwood.