Recently, I bumped into an old project I produced for Daphne Guinness, entitled Phenomenology of Body (2008) inspired by a book she introduced me to, Phenomenology of Spirit. We were both passionate about women’s roles and their archetypal dressing throughout history. . Four years ago, I had a chat with the lady herself, Miss Daphne, and further delved into her first directorial effort. The theme is relevant and always will be.

(Daphne Guinness, era Marie Antoinette)

Originally Published July, 2008
Daphne Guinness’ First Film

I sat down with Director Daphne Guinness to ask a few questions about what this art project (born from a vision she had) meant to her. I remember being on set and launching into a flurry on conversations with the other models about what each era of clothing represented in the battle of the sexes. Daphne’s reading material for the day, The Phenomenology of Spirit written by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, sat on top of the monitor during the shoot, and would later serve as inspiration for the title.

(era Joan of Arc)

On my plane ride back from Paris, I gobbled through the new Vanity Fair and read a thought-provoking piece on Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign (Hillaryland at War), which really resonated inside me in terms of women, their perception, their strengths, and their crucibles. What I didn’t realize was all the internal struggles Hillary faced inside her conflicted camp. The main problem of course being, a relentless push by her Chief Strategist among others, for her to run like a man. The notion of enjoying a true woman’s strength in office (at this very high level) was eclipsed by the fact she was discouraged from even expressing her true female core. Somehow, that was the visceral disconnect for me — the missing piece of the puzzle. Probably the reason I felt unidentified with her at times, even though I know she is a brilliant woman. Add to the the fact that for 16 years, she (and her marriage) took a beatdown by the Republican party. The truth is, Hilary was pretty much damned if she acted like a woman, or damned if she acted like a man.

On her final speech to the American public (after 4 days of letting the loss sink in), she stood up on a podium and said “But I am a woman”, in her swan song speech. “And like millions of women I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious”.

(Lindsay Thornburg, era Suffrage movement, as women began to vote)

Hillary’s shrewd debate skills made Barack a better candidate for what lies ahead of him. He knows this and respects this. Similar to the way an athlete respects another athlete for a tough match. Hillary finally ducked out of the picture with class. Her final words: “From now on it will be unremarkable to think a woman could be President of the United States – and that is truly remarkable…. Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it”.
What does this have to do with Daphne’s film? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but it just felt like an overall week of questioning women — the perception versus reality of who we are, be it through the eyes of a man or a woman. Clearly, we all have a long way to go….

(Making the image: Producer Brody Baker, Make-up Artist Jillian Chaitin, and DP Sam Levy)

Jauretsi: In your own words, describe the storyline of this piece?

Daphne Guinness: It’s not really a narrative piece in a linear sense. There is sequence and movement. The story is a “great release” like the song [by LCD Soundsystem]. It leads and spins symbolically from Eve (before she had a name) to women who have no name in this movement – Is it a birth, a death, an arrival, a departure? – I don’t know. Really the piece is a revolving passage, a voyage of the female form canceling or revealing: it’s very simple in that sense. The unspooling of apparition or a reality. Why a second century discussion on togas set me off on this road, who knows? – but there it is. It’s the Phenomenology of the female form.

Can you describe the mission statement of this piece? What would you like your audience to walk away with?

I didn’t think of making a statement political or otherwise. The work just seemed right and true visually. I think woman’s perception of women is a kind of incredible mission.

Do you consider Fashion to be political?

Fashion has to be political. Fashion is the first flag of culture, which is necessarily hemmed by politics. But this is not political flag waving. I wanted to move beyond a reflection and evoke a sensibility of woman – all women – and her response to the time and places she inhabited.

Lastly, this was your first Directoral piece. What motivated you to create this piece of art, and why for the internet? Do you think you’ll direct again?

The Internet is a 21-century conduit. I wanted my piece to be accessed by anyone at anytime. I don’t think I can stop “making” now. I just want to keep going. This piece has led into thoughts for the next – I will just keep moving.

(A break on set)

To view the short, visit T Magazine for New York Times. Photos by Kevin Tachman. Styling by Heidi Bivens