Cornelia Guest may have been the "it" girl of the '80s, the Paris Hilton of big hair and bell bottoms, a New York nonpareil (and controversial) debutante, a descendant of Winston Churchill, a high school (more like private academy) drop out, who once dated Sylvester Stallone. She's the daughter of a famed socialite, International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame inductee and fashion icon who rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali. . . both mom's and daughter's credits go on and on and on.
But today Guest and I are talking vegan fashion. Scratch that: She prefers cruelty-free.
When chatting with Guest at Tootsies during a two-day trunk show sale, there was no indication of her partying past. In fact, robed in a classic sleeveless little black dress, gold Cartier timepiece, understated earrings and makeup au naturel, Guest's wholesome manner perhaps is a mirror of all the good her blue blood pedigree bestowed upon her.
She's a child of the shoulder pad era. And I, a decade later. But we share things in common: A belief in marriage equality and that factory farming is just atrocious.
For the latter, fashion is one of the culprits. There are better options, and not at the expense of style.
"I've always been a classic dresser with a twist — I don't look great when I am funked up but I want that funky element in my appearance. That's what I try to bring into my collection."
"The world is ready for cruelty-free accessories, " Guest tells me. "I think its important for us to be educated about what we are eating and about what we are doing. The more and more we learn about how horrible factory farming is, people become much more open to a cruelty-free lifestyle."
At $300 and under Guest's new line of handbags — her second fashion collection — are affordable, and offer a smart alternative to traditional couture accessories. They are crafted from faux skins, snakes, cotton, linen, canvass and PVC, albeit the material has to have a luxurious feel and texture fitting for the creme-de-la-creme.
"I've always been a classic dresser with a twist — I don't look great when I am funked up but I want that funky element in my appearance, " she explains. "That's what I try to bring into my collection."
The oversized totes hang at a comfortable height and can fit everything and the kitchen sink. The formal clutches, equipped with a mirror, are sized to store away inside the larger satchels so that working gals can morph into evening socialites without a need for a break in between. The more dressy weaved designs come in black, white, red and blue, totes in blush and black and canvas day bags in yellow chiffon and soft peach.
Though her journey as a fashion designer is just beginning, she has plans to work on footwear, and later, move into table top items.
For anyone doubting Guest's passion for animal rights, know that she's willing to bear it all to make her point — and I mean that literally. Just last year Guest posed nude to endorse PETA's anti-fur message. Her tips and recipes to healthy cooking and easy entertaining are chronicled in her book Simple Pleasures, slated to be released in June.
Watch the video (above) for Guest's interview. We chat fashion and her beginnings as an animal advocate.