Daphne Guiness

Daphne Guinness and James Gager

Of all the artistic wonders I luxuriated in during Miami’s recent Art Basel fair, few were more inspiring than Daphne Guinness herself. The 43-year-old British heiress and haute mode aficionado, who turned herself into a virtual work of art with her sublime sense of aesthetics and brave creative choices, swooped into Miami to launch her latest project with MAC: a 24-piecce make-up line based on a sophisticated palette that runs the gamut from dreamy shades of light silver and pink to frosty lavender, deep rose, ‘dirty’ eggplant and deep brown plum. One of the world’s most revered designer muses, and close collaborator and confidenat of the late Alexander McQueen, Guinness worked closely with MAC creative director James Gager on the line, adamant about being part of the whole process. “I’d feel like I fraud if I didn’t,” she told me, curled up on a couch in Miami’s Soho House hotel, in a white Azzedine Alaia corset, umpteen black plastic hair combs sticking out of her silver hair up ‘do. “And it was a joy being with people who speak the same language of integrity,” said Guinness.

As for MAC, the visionary company famous for celebrating fashion’s most forward players, from Rupaul to Lady Gaga, the collaboration was a match made in haute style heaven. “I love Daphne’s whole being, and MAC stands for Makeup Art Cosmetics,” notes Gager. “I think Daphne for me represents the art of couture and just the art of dressing in the most amazing way possible.” Indeed, Guinness ‘art of dressing’ has earned her an exhibition of some of her fantastical pieces, currently on at New York’s FIT Museum. But beyond the sartorial trappings, Guinness has also always made an impact with her dramatic signature makeup, which she started experimenting with as a child. Then, instead of actual make-up, she used watercolours and acrylics—anything she could get her hands on—painting pictures on her face and her eyelids. “But we weren’t allowed to wear make up at school. I really started wearing it in London as a teenager because there was a whole punk, New Romantic thing going on, with Adam and the Ants. And then there was that whole Boy George moment,” she recalls. “But then it changed for some people. Now I think it’s coming back—that feeling that you can be an individual and you can actually express yourself through art. I think there’s a more balanced kind of generation coming up,” she adds.

Most of all, MAC and Gager appreciate Daphne’s point of view about colour—one that Gager calls ‘very poetic’. “She’s a painter, and artist….When we first met, she literally started mixing colours from her little watercolour box that she had in her handbag,” Gager explains. “The collaboration was authentic from the second we met and the second she started putting together the colours for us, to the final naming of the shades to the photography.” For Guinness, MAC’S respect for pure artistry has been most heartening. “I’d sort of lost hope slightly that it still existed,” she admits. “But it does.” The Daphne Guinness MAC collection will be available in stores Dec. 26th.

Jeanne: Really and for you when you got the call what was your first reaction?

Daphne: Hurray!

James: (laughs)

Jeanne: Oh really?

Daphne: Hurray finally I can actually deal with people that know what they’re doing instead of like mixing my stuff and trying to make it look alright (this part was a lot of mumbling) it’s so difficult otherwise you’re (unknown words) sort of mix things together myself

Jeanne: It’s wonderful though when you think of a line of makeup because that really is something that has the power to transform you in a most wonderful way, and you know we see a lot of celebrity fragrances and a lot of people going that route trying to share a little bit of themselves I suppose in a sense with the public. But this is something very different this is something much more inspirational I think as far as you’re concerned to really be able to give people some of your sensibility

Daphne: I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I couldn’t. I would find, I would feel like a fraud if I wasn’t part of the process, I mean it always happens like that, it has to be organic and it has to be, I have to be part of it because otherwise you can’t I mean you can’t speak about something that you haven’t actually had a hand in. And um I think there is such a disconnect sometimes between product and things and this was just a joy because being with people that speak the same language of integrity and um-

James: It was one of those moments when she came into the office, and she came in by herself and she was Daphne and I was thinking oh my goodness and it was like kind of, for me anyway I think it was for her too, it was kind of love at first sight. And it just was the easiest most wonderful process because Daphne’s a painter she’s an artist, she kind of has a point of view about colour and it’s a very poetic point of view and um she started literally mixing from her little water colour box that she had in her handbag, brought it out and started mixing colours for us so if, as Daphne just said it was really authentic from the second we met and the second she started putting together the colours for us to the final naming of the shades to the photography

Jeanne: What fun! Really what a great creative project

Daphne: Yea!

Jeanne: Truly the marriage between art and fashion, something like makeup

Daphne: And I’d sort of lost hope slightly that it still existed and it does, that people like James exist

Jeanne: When did you first fall in love with makeup though Daphne? Were you wearing it from a very young age?

Daphne: No, I wasn’t, I wasn’t at all because I (stuttering) I was the…I lived in… I mean you weren’t allowed to wear it at school and in Kedekeswick (not sure where she meant here??) people didn’t really wear much makeup I mean it was like but I started wearing makeup sort of around when I was sort of in London as a teenager cause there was the whole kind of between punk, new romantic, kind of you know Adam and the Ants, kind of whatever you know that sort of thing and then it was that whole sort of Boy George moment, but then it changed but I didn’t notice that it had changed so much I still thought that it was like that but it had become different but there are people, and I think its coming back that sort of feeling that you can be an individual and you can actually express yourself through art. I think there is sort of more balance kind of generation coming up

Jeanne: Hmm, that’s interesting, a generation certainly informed, I mean that’s one thing really

Daphne: Well yea, well I think that’s why MAC’s been brilliant is with the AIDS thing is I believe that a lot of the arts were well I mean the arts were most affected by that and definitely makeup, hair, all of these things, it sort of kind of it did kind of flat lined in the nineties to a certain extent you had for a moment where there was a lot of the support systems went and that’s why MAC and everything they do with that is heroic actually I mean really

James: Thank you and I also just think, I know we’re talking about this before, um how I think there is a generation that is very comfortable with who they are and not afraid to be who they are and I think that breathes for new kind of creativity and I think that’s very special versus having to fit into a certain mold and not being able to kind of express yourself through makeup, through fashion, through hair, or through art or whatever you’re mode of expression is, words

Jeanne: You’re such an iconic figure in the minds of so many people who follow fashion who live for fashion almost. And you’ve inspired people in so many ways certainly sartorially and even you know just in the way you do your hair, and your makeup, and all that I mean I guess a bit daunting in a way to think people are watching you to that degree and now

Daphne: I don’t know if they are really

Jeanne: They are, I’ll tell you they are,

James: I think they are

Jeanne: I know o we shouldn’t tell her that

James: We shouldn’t tell her that no

Jeanne: That’s the wonderful thing about Daphne, I know its terrible you can go lalala, but I always feel compelled to share this with our viewers and the people you know are so envious of my position because I get to rub shoulders with very incredible people in the world is that Daphne is such a real person, such a soulful kind of person beneath the façade as well and I think to really give people a little bit of your sensibility on this, this is a really intimate thing makeup I mean this is really the way you put yourself together the things that you fish around for

James: I think the way she worked on the colour was very intimate. And it was like what you said was so fascinating because when she came to the office I was like oh my goodness I’m meeting Daphne, and I’ve seen photographs and she came in and she was like wow, she’s just kind of so amazing to talk to because she’s accessible, and lovely and she loves her kids and I don’t know, she just has all these great very tender nice stories and conversations and it was so great

Jeanne: So when you’re doing this or when you created this whole package really, the actual product itself, the image, the marketing, were you thinking a lot about the girl out there that’s going to be buying into it. That the people out there that really wanted maybe to consume it

Daphne: If I did it that way round it would be a disaster. Cause I absolutely have no idea what other people want. Because it’s, you can either, if you start that way round I mean you’ll drive yourself mad. I mean I think you just got to go with an idea and see where it takes you. I mean it’s a-

James: And we wouldn’t want that out

Daphne: Yea

James: of someone like Daphne. I mean we want her to give us her particular point of view on what makeup and colour and style are all about. I mean that would be insane

Daphne: Yea it’s like when you in some industries (mumbling) where like even the movie industry when they like give out questionnaire and they sort of change endings, in order for the- and you sort and you think well hang on a second that’s just messing with the artistic process

James: Right

Daphne: and you can’t…it’s just like if you’re always worried about how it’s going to be received it’s just you can’t really ever take an idea forward and you could get slated or not but at least it’s true

James: It’s true, and Jeanne I think you know enough about MAC I mean we kind of are out there in a lot of different ways and I think that’s what our customer loves about us

Jeanne: mmhmm definitely.

(conversation leads into Art Basel, I did not include this part)

Jeanne: The escalating importance of really fashion and cosmetics in our lives, what do you attribute that to, I mean is it increasing self awareness is it something that we’re just becoming so savvy about how to dress the way we feel how to make ourselves up the way we feel

James: I think we touched a little on it before I think people are feeling more liberated, and I think they’re feeling actually more comfortable with the fact that you can look the way you choose to look and don’t be afraid of that, I think celebrate that instead of joining the crowd and looking like everybody else. And I think that’s a great amazing message especially for young people growing up (continues talking about FIT exhibit, that part I did not include)


(Conversation continues on cosmetics)


James: I hope as a company MAC represents the individuality in everyone and the ability o kind of express yourself. And especially with makeup, you know makeup at the end of the day you can wash it off and it should be a joyous experience, you should be able to experiment have fun with it and be delighted by the result of it, or also live out some of your fantasy which I think creativity is all about. There is a lot of fantasy and imagination that obviously goes into creativity and I think you live your life enjoying all of that as well as I do. And I think that’s also another wonderful connect for having Daphne part of us