There is a slew of articles on this much anticipated exhibit today and they all add up to one thought - its great - get thee ass down and go see if you can! Isabel was a force and it is still with great sadness that we think back on her and the loss of having her end her own life. We have long waited for this since hearing the news that her friend Daphne Guiness had swept in and bought up the entire estate before it could go to auction. If there was ever a loving homage to a friend this is Daphne's to Isabel.
Saran Mower wrote the following article for Vogue which we have printed her in full. We have also included the video referenced by Sarah and urge you to take a moment and watch it - it's worth it. Under all of that we have put some of our own favorite photographs of Isabella. Where ever you are now Ms Blow - we know you are making it a more fashionable place!
From the Vogie article bySarah Mower:
"Perhaps there’s only one thing missing from the exhibition on Isabella Blow, which throws open its doors in London tonight: The sound of her great, honking laugh. Still, the infectious exuberance of the late, incendiary British editor and her sensual, reveling enthusiasm for fashion pulsates through every nook and cranny of “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” “It’s a trip!” exclaims Philip Treacy, whose career was ignited by her while he was still a millinery student at the Royal College of Art. “It brings back all the things about life with Issy—all the fun, all the fights. She enjoyed fashion and was entertained by it, and I think you feel that here. I’m happy for her. It’s all as she’d like it. It feels like she’s been running the show.”
The show at Somerset House is essentially a loving homage from Isabella’s surviving friends, brilliantly curated by Alistair O’Neill and Shonagh Marshall to tell her story through her wardrobe and work. When Isabella ended her own life in 2007, it was Daphne Guinness who stepped in to buy her friend’s mountain of clothes to save them from being dispersed at auction. There’s Alexander McQueen’s graduate collection (brought to her in bin bags by the designer, who marched her to the ATM to pay in cash), her monumental stash of Treacy’s headgear, her piles of Manolo Blahnik shoes, and dozens of pieces from many more designer protégés.
Her filmmaker friend John Maybury remembers: “Last time I saw Issy, we were sitting together at a dinner, where she was wearing a hat with sort of bull horns, which almost took my eye out. I just remember us laughing our heads off. She had a pioneering belief in designers. She had the most beautiful clothes, but wore them day in, day out like they were overalls.” (Maybury’s video impression of the exhibition is below)
Loudly cheering from the front rows in her alarmingly surreal hats, corseted dresses, teetering heels, and approximately applied red lipstick, Blow put McQueen, Treacy, Hussein Chalayan, and Julien Macdonald on the world stage—her massive contribution to the reputation of “Cool Britannia” in the mid-nineties. An introductory gallery, clad in black velvet, is titled “Truffling for Talent,” a phrase coined by her friend Hamish Bowles for Isabella’s drive to discover—and wear—the best designers out of British art college . . . . “She had the conviction to make herself into a walking billboard for all that talent,” says John Maybury. Her eye for picking out and nurturing aristo-edgy girls to model was just as sharply accurate: Stella Tennant, and Honor Fraser owe their careers to her, as a roomful of Steven Meisel shoots attests.
The exhibition wends its way from her cash-strapped upbringing as a daughter of the aristocratic Delves Broughton family, through her career at Tatler and The Sunday Times, and touches on the (literally) rich tapestried-backdrop of the arts & crafts-cum-medievalist lifestyle, she and her husband, Detmar Blow, played with at his Gloucestershire country home, Hilles.
There are discoveries which will stop gallerygoers in their tracks. Blow’s kindling of a generation of fashion-friendship action is replayed on a VHS tape nobody knew existed until curator O’Neill found it two months ago languishing on top of a cupboard at the Royal College of Art—the graduation show of 1990, with Treacy’s hats modeled with haughty hilarity by Blow, Lucy Ferry, and Hamish Bowles.
O’Neill devotes two breathtaking rooms to the events of autumn-winter 1996, when Blow’s incendiary talents as a fixer, stylist, and provocateur were first identified by Amy Spindler of The New York Times as the fuel behind London’s resurgence. That was the season Blow bought a huge tranche of McQueen’s seminal Dante collection—incredible deconstructed lace dresses, a gold-embroidered military frock coat, a mauve hourglass corseted jacket, and a black mantilla cascading from a pair of silver antlers made by Treacy. It all stands in a towering set, which mimics the columns of Christchurch and Spitalfields, where McQueen showed. Up a spiral staircase hung with plastic abattoir curtains (a detail which would have made Blow hoot) is a room containing the history of that following evening, when she styled a fashion show for Treacy.
Treacy’s most poignant commission for Blow is The Ship, the black eighteenth-century galleon that was placed on her coffin at her funeral in Gloucester Cathedral. In the exhibition, it’s sailed to a happier place as the pièce de résistance in a tableau dedicated to her love of the sea, accompanied by Erik Halley’s lobster hat and a Mr Pearl corset.
Ultimately, despite the sad manner of her departure, Isabella’s legacy is an exhibition experience thousands will queue for, and leave motivated to dress up, inspired to design—and smiling. Treacy reflects: “It’s an epic homage. I spoke to Issy five days before she died, and she was saying she felt she didn’t matter anymore. I’m happy for her. Glad that she’s been proved wrong. She does matter.”
Proceeds from the exhibition and a charity auction tonight at Claridges will go into the Isabella Blow Foundation Daphne Guiness set up to fund research for depression and mental illness, and to finance scholarships for art and fashion students at Central Saint Martins.
“Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” is on view at Somerset House through March 2, 2014; somersethouse.org.uk.