Born in 1958 into an upper-class background, Isabella Blow started her fashion career as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue before returning to London in 1986 and working at Tatler and British Vogue. Becoming Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style in 1997, she later resumed working for Tatler as Fashion Director there. In addition to these roles, Blow was also the inspiration for a range of designers, including Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Julien Macdonald, and milliner Philip Treacy. She also discovered the models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant and collaborated with major photographers Steven Meisel, David LaChapelle and Sean Ellis. So, she’s a figure worth celebrating.
A special section of the exhibition celebrates the early careers of McQueen and Treacy and the talent Blow saw in them. In addition, she was also a collector and had her own visual presentational manner: celebrated set designer Shona Heath has created mannequins wearing full outfits to show Blow’s distinctive, eclectic style, demonstrating the way this sensitive woman used clothes as a form of armour. Blow believed that the head and feet should always be accentuated, and Heath has also made installations showing the importance Blow gave to hats and shoes.
Finally – by showing a collection created by McQueen and Treacy and dedicated to her after her suicide in 2007 – the exhibition celebrates Blow’s legacy. Blow lived life with passion – if not always with happiness – and her lasting memorial is the wider work that arose from her vision, support and creativity. The exhibition serves as an inspiration and example for all sections of the fashion scene, now and to come.
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore, 20 November 2013 – 2 March 2014 Somerset House, London. Tickets: £12.50 Concessions £10, half price Mondays.
Words: Nicky Charlish