A few weeks ago, I got a very cool, rare look into brilliant creativity at the New York Fashion Conference. One of the conversations was with jewelry designer Shaun Leane and one of his muses, Daphne Guinness.
Guinness has a totally fascinating life story that I encourage you to look into. She’s not your run-of-the-mill heiress. I totally relate to some of her connections to clothing, which makes her a far more accessible personality. Guinness, it turns out, sees clothing and accessories as having the powers of camouflage and of armor. The world is a hard place for some of us to traverse, more so at varying times, for varied reasons. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, then you know that I see clothing in both contexts.
So, when I heard Ms. Guinness speaking about how she found protection from her garments, I sat sharply upright and took notice.
Enter Mr. Shaun Leane, a sprightly looking man, similarly diminutive in stature to me, but gigantically talented, and enormously humble. Trained as a goldsmith in London, at a young adult age, Shaun met legendary fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Their personal friendship led to a professional collaboration that ended when McQueen, very sadly, took his own life.
Intertwined in one another’s lives, Guinness, McQueen, and Leane found themselves alone together at a massive event. They wondered why they were all there. Guinness asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to have some armor?” The concept of the Contra Mundum was born. It is more of a work of art than it really is a fashion item. The Contra Mundum is a glove, of the most extraordinary kind. A bespoke piece made of white gold chain mail and over 5000 diamonds, the glove fits precisely to Guinness’ arm. The diamonds form the shape of decorative birds.
The Contra Mundum, and the works Leane did in collaboration with McQueen were on exhibit at Sotheby’s in New York. Two days ago, Sotheby’s auctioned the entire collection. Leane owned all of the pieces, and jointly owned the Contra Mundum with Guinness. One day, long in the future, all of these works of art will come together for a retrospective. Who really knows when that will happen, though. So, what a super lucky moment it was to look into brilliant creativity – Shaun Leane happened to be at Sotheby’s.
This look into brilliant creativity leaves me with newfound appreciation for the power of clothes. When we need the protection of camouflage or of armor, clothing can be of such tremendous strategic use. It can also be beautiful to behold, and it can simply inspire awe. I, for one, am left gobsmacked.