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Wear WE Are: Remember Isabella Blow


This is a time of fashion blogalism, yet it is also a perfect time to remember the golden role model of all fashion journalists across the world. In whose blood fashion lived. With whom eccentric aesthetics conquered all creative fields. One who never didn’t see glamour, vanity and materialism in fashion; she simply embraced herself with fun, extremity and passion. Isabella Blow, the late British patron of fashion and art.

Along with the current exhibition at Somerset House, prestigious publisher Rizzoli unveiled the latest publication ‘Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!’ written by Caroline Evans and photographed by Nick Knight. As the description goes, the 168-page book leads into the world of “one of fashion’s most courageous, outrageous, and imaginative muses”, as if there were others associated with similar qualities. In an era when words like ‘muse’ and ‘icon’ are being shamelessly spoiled, Isabella Blow was probably the only one who could be called ‘matchless’ – matchless in style, status and legend. The most unforgettable fashion editor amongst all.

Born into the rarefied world of British aristocracy, Isabella’s thirty year career began in the early 80s as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue. On her return to London in 1986 she worked at Tatler followed by British Vogue. In 1997 she became the Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style after which she returned to Tatler as Fashion Director. Driven by a passion for creativity, Isabella was credited for having nurtured and inspired numerous artists and designers. Besides the famed muse of Philip Treacy, Isabella is also known for discovering models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant, and for her collaborations with major photographers such as Steven Meisel, David LaChapelle and Sean Ellis, which pushed the boundaries of convention in her increasingly provocative fashion spreads and establishing herself as a legendary figure within the international fashion and contemporary art worlds. The 1996 portrait by David LaChapelle ‘Burning Down the House’ now lives in history as a symbol of her creative bond with the late Alexander McQueen.

People remember seeing Blow topping her head with a Philip Treacy most of the time, and the bond actually started when Treacy designed her bridal headpiece when she married art dealer Detmar Hamilton Blow. After that, Blow let Treacy work on his collections at her London apartment, and the legacy of her flamboyant headpiece aesthetics was hence born. In an interview, Blow revealed that her headpieces were made to “keep everyone away”, which also hinted at her deepening depression – partly due to infertility and cancer diagnosis, that is believed to have caused her suicide in 2007.

Blow’s life may not make an encouraging story, but her passion for fashion and creativity still inspires many. To celebrate a legend that made fashion fun and rhapsodic, this exhibition at Somerset House showcases over a hundred pieces from her incredibly rich collection, one of the most important private collections of late 20th Century/early 21st Century British fashion design, now owned by Daphne Guinness. This includes garments from the many designer talents she discovered and launched, such as Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy, Hussein Chalayan and Julien Macdonald amongst others. From now through March 2014.

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