Going straight to it: I was blown away by Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore exhibition at Somerset House in London.
If you can, get yourself there now and feast yourself on Isabella’s fabulous life. Well, at least the part that is shown, which I find only fair, as it is a celebration of all things Issie. Despite all the unhappiness and tragedy throughout her life, as Philip Treacy said, “Nothing about her was tragic. She was triumphant”.
Isabella Blow, fashion editor, consultant, muse and nurturer of young fashion talent was born English aristocracy and started her career as Anna Wintour’s assistant at Vogue US, only to come home and head fashion for Vogue, Tatler and The Sunday Times.
Her quirkiness, creativity and wonderfully outrageous fashion sense was more than evident in her wonderful fashion edits. Sadly, her personal life was plagued by depression, infertility, cancer and multiple suicide bids, which eventually materialised, taking her away in 2007.
Blow is credited to discovering Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen and Julien MacDonald, amongst other designers, and also models.
It was no surprise I would love the exhibition, being the huge millinery fan I am. Treacy’s amazing head pieces are an integral part of the exhibition, dotted around all over the place, as well as McQueen pieces – and I really like that the their stories appear entwined as they were in real life. It proves it takes one talent to know one. The what I now call “Blow triad” is very palpable: head in Treacy, body in McQueen and feet in Manolo Blahnik.
From all the wonder of feasting my eyes with glorious garments, a few caught my eye, including the fabulous Deborah Milner, A/W 1997 red velvet coat with fur collar. Sigh…
Another interesting aspect is the state of her personal garments. They show wear. And tear. This is something really important to me, as although I don’t share her careless attitude to these expensive items (she famously left shoes at the back of cabs – God forbid I will EVER do that; just the thought makes me shiver!), I believe every item should be worn and enjoyed to the maximum. Yes, a scuff, a stain might look ugly, but it gives the item life and tells a small story itself. And I think that is why they didn’t restore items.
In the various areas of the exhibition, we are taken through her life, her style, her influences and the celebration of British.
And the finale almost brought a tear to my eye – McQueen’s S/S 08 fashion show, a collection in collaboration with Philip Treacy and dedicated to Isabella after her death. The pieces are breathtaking, as well as the closing with the legacy of the unique legend that was Isabella Blow.
I had great fun and learnt a fair bit. I left with a sense of sadness for the losses fashion, and creativity, suffered. But I am also grateful for the legacy, nicely condensed and exposed here, for all to see.
The Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore exhibition is on at Somerset House until March 2014 and you can book tickets via their website.
Image credits: Somerset House, Vogue UK and Design Scene.
Read Vogue’s biography of Isabella Blow.