McQueen and Testino Break Records at the Daphne Guinness Christie's Auction, With a Little Help From Lady Gaga

Daphne Guinness
(Billy Farrell Agency)

As far as storied wardrobes go, heiress Daphne Guinness’s couture-filled closet pretty much tops the list with custom Alexander McQueen dresses, 10-inch heelless Nina Ricci platforms, Valentino suits, and more. Her collection was even the subject of an exhibition at the Museum at FIT. Fortunately, the fashion icon felt it was time to put some of her clothing to good use, and Wednesday evening she auctioned off a portion of her decadent frocks at Christie’s South Kensington to benefit the charity she founded in the name of her late friend, fashion editor Isabella Blow.

The evening proved to be a record-breaking bonanza, raising £476,800 ($744,285) — more than four times the pre-sale estimate of £100,000 ($155,470). Collectors from 21 countries snapped up 88 percent of the 102 lots. The top lot — a photo of Guinness by Mario Testino for the March 2008 issue of British Vogue – fetched £133,250 ($208,000), setting a world record price for a Testino image at auction. The event also broke a record for the now-defunct Christian Lacroix label at auction, with a Spanish-style white lace dress with black matador jacket hammering down at £16,250 ($25,257).

Two Alexander McQueen dresses surpassed the previous world record price for the late designer at auction: “The Girl Who Lived in the Tree,” an ivory silk tulle empire waist gown, paired with a photograph by Mat Collishaw for the May 2012 issue of Harper’s Bazaar U.K. titled “Daphne Guinness,” was the top dress of the night, going for £85,250 ($133,075). A custom sculptural mini-dress McQueen made for Guinness and another Collishaw photograph of the heiress went for £79,250 ($123,709).

Bargains were also to be found at the sale. A black chiffon sheer evening gown by Narciso Rodriguez went for £125 ($195), while lot 87 — two silk blouses, a nude silk skirt, and a cotton lace skirt by Isabela Capeto and Anna Molinari — brought £188 ($293).

Even Lady Gaga made a successful bid in the sale, purchasing an undisclosed item.

Guinness was especially touched by the response of the sale, which will help aspiring artists and fashion designers, and fund mental health research.

“I’m overwhelmed by how many bidders took part this evening and I’m particularly moved by Lady Gaga’s support for the Foundation,” she said in a release. “I like her very much, and it’s lovely to see the nascent beginnings of something that may help other people.”

UPDATE (2:07 p.m.): WWD reports that Lady Gaga purchased the record-breaking "Girl Who Lived in the Tree" gown from the United States by phone.

Click on the slide show to see the top 10 lots from “The Daphne Guinness Collection Sold to Benefit the Isabella Blow Foundation.”