Daphne Guinness is one of the best dressed women in the world. Daughter of the Guinness brewery heir and ex-wife of a Niarchos shipping tycoon, her pedigree is as haute couture as her clothing. But for someone who routinely graces magazine pages and houses her wardrobe in its own room at Claridge's Hotel in London, Daphne keeps her style surprisingly simple: she only wears black and white clothes, which match her black and blond tresses. I recently asked the socialite about her signature look, and what looks she loathes.
How did black and white become your logo?
I feel cleaner in black and white, and I pretty much only wear those colors. It's very boring, I'm afraid. I wear a white shirt and black trousers, or a black suit with a white shirt.
How long have you had this look?
I've been wearing black all my life. Even when I was a child I liked black. And about 20 years ago, I started wearing the white shirts. And then the hair went from there; it's been sort of two-tone for ages actually.
Do you remember exactly when you dyed your hair blond and black?
I was about 14, at school, and it was an experiment with peroxide that I disguised as a science project. You know, "I wonder what happens when you put peroxide on hair?" And the spectrum just became more extreme until it became a force unto its own with dark and light, which is exactly what happened to my wardrobe as well.
What statement do you think that makes about you?
I like black and white on the page. I like the idea of being able to write a new page in one's life. I think it's got something to do with my love of reading. That sounds absolutely bizarre, but I feel very comfortable with black and white.
Do you think it's easier to read Daphne the person through a wardrobe of black and white versus some kind of Technicolor facade?
Yes, definitely. I can throw the Technicolor into the mix but just as a sort of firework at the end rather then the whole story.
Do you have any colored clothes?
I do wear red occasionally, but I rarely break out into color. Sometimes I will wear an extreme shoe, brooch or add something metallic. I never, ever wear prints... unless it's on a beach.
How has your look evolved over time?
I don't go in to many shops anymore. I design my own clothes or I have an idea and I'll go off and find it in a vintage shop or in a book and then I'll find someone to make it for me.
Who makes your clothes for you?
Some tailors that I know, but I really have quite a lot of input on these things myself. Because no one knows one's own proportions better then oneself. And I have a neurosis about where the seam is on a shoulder. The precision of it creates a sharper silhouette and provides maximum flexibility.
Has anyone ever said anything negative to you about your look?
No, but I'm so self-critical. I'm always kind of looking for a way to perfect my look. I'll suddenly get some inspiration walking down the street and I'll think, "Oh my God, that's a great geometric pattern. That's should go on a bracelet." Or I'll be in a museum, looking at a picture, and I'll suddenly get inspired. I don't really follow trends at all.
You're an original!
Yeah. I don't know if I ever did follow trends. For me, the cut, the fit, the way it makes you feel is important; if you feel comfortable in it or not. And sometimes it just takes a really great shirt or a really great belt or a really great pin to pull it together. But apart from that, frankly, I love my black and white.
Who are your personal style icons?
Nancy Cunard, Mona Bismark, Queen Elizabeth I. It must have been pretty great to be an ancient Roman. Joan of Arc, she got to wear all of that armor.
Do you think that personal style is a professional asset?
Yes. I also think it's more difficult to distinguish where people are from now with the spread of designer labels. You used to be able to tell where someone was from what they wore, especially in places like England; if someone was into hunting or if they lived in the country. But now there are the same boutiques all over the world and people are starting to look similar.
What are some of your other signature style traits?
I loathe tropical flowers.