“Five days before she died she said she felt she didn’t matter anymore. This exhibition proves her wrong – she’s always going to matter now”– Philip Treacy
Head to toe in swathes of immaculate flesh-tight black that cascaded into a delicate train behind her, The Hon. Daphne Guinness effortlessly glided over to me in her gravity defying heel-less shoes with a lightness of grace I had never quite witnessed in another human being. Her personal hairdresser followed, teasing that trademark platinum blond and jet black duality into finalized perfection with two precise sprays of hair lacquer and a theatrical poke of his comb.
“Pint ‘o Guinness!” she said disarmingly, pointing to her iconic pompadour up-do. I felt I laughed a little too hard at this, composing myself to say, with as much plausible calm as I could measure, “Oh, my god. You look STUNNING, Daphne…”
Her skin was translucent, glowing from within and as flawless as cream silk draped taut and pore-less upon her light bones of delicate porcelain and she brimmed with heady emanations of patchouli and tuberose as she came to rest at my side, cupping my elbow and lowering her gaze with an inquisitive peer at the picture I held in my hand.
I was holding my grandpa’s image pressed against my wallet by a clammy thumb, when I looked into the eyes of she whom I now considered a friend – there exists you see, a particular brand of adoration for a Rara Avis, that in the flesh, can unhinge even the hardest to impress of any neatly put together gay man. Yes, it was she whom I now held in such regard as to be the most inspirational person to have touched my wonder and hopes since my grandfather’s agonizing death years ago.
London, I must confide, had thus far been the intimidating seat of my life’s greatest and most cruel tormentors. Yet now Daphne filled my hopes with a renewed faith, pure as a child honing his truest wishes onto a polished penny destined for the bottom of a wishing well – with a belief in a magical realism that was absolute and spellbound.
“Best thing about London?” she said, ‘is getting the hell out of here.’
Quite the reassurance then…
The evening ahead was to honor her late friend, the legendary editorial fashion maverick and aristocrat, Isabella Blow, who had adorned, edited or featured across all the magazines to have carried my coffee cup rings and daydreams since I first came to know of her, through The Sunday Times Style Magazines of the late nineties – where I wrote to my crush and writing inspiration, AA Gill, telling him all about my Cheshire frolics and pretensions, asking my favorite critic and good pal of Joan Collins, why he rarely reviewed anywhere outside of London.
He didn’t reply direct – instead he took Jeremy Clarkson on a road-trip there, to rip the piss in the Culture supplement. Letting me know, ‘Joan Collins is just an actress’ which was humiliating in the extreme having opened up in writing – but a thrill non the less. He was, and still is – my favorite writer, wit and style, even if he thought me as mad as a hatter, for I was but a tender 20 years old.
Anyways, 33 now and still being very un-London and having never had the wallet, inclination or indeed any notion of what to wear when asked to escort a global fashion icon to the launch of her own star-studded exhibition of Isabella’s couture – I thought only to hire a groomsman’s suit from a wedding supplier, and bull shine some old leather shoes.
It must have worked. Daphne complimented its stitching and silhouette, which placed me at ease a degree whilst my heart pulsed ferociously for the significantly terrifying night ahead, of chaperoning my empress to the private launch of ‘Fashion Galore’ at Somerset House, London —- and what better way to celebrate Issie’s supportive and authentic and pioneering personality, than with a new foundation in her name? Set up on the very day she would have turned fifty years old. Just marvelous!
Indeed, we had bonded over music, high art and a sense of being an alien in this world, and I was there to help Daphne celebrate the life of her friend Isabella Blow. To honor her inimitable and authentic personality and influence on the worlds of fashion, art, and style that we both so loved, except I was no longer a spectator.
‘Thank you for everything, and for being my friend.’ I said stood there, awake inside a dream, ‘you can’t know what it means to me, Daphne! Not with the horrors I’ve endured.’
“I am not a flake…” she said, “and besides, my friend, this is only the beginning.”
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!
Beautifully written David xx