Notes on fashion, style and culture

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Blow Out: Isabella Blow on Show

Isabella Blow (2002)
Somerset House is to host a major exhibition dedicated to ‘the extraordinary life and wardrobe’ of the late tour-de-force patron of the fashion world, as well as one of its most iconic faces, Isabella Blow.

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! will feature over a hundred pieces from the personal collection of the legendary fashion editor, consultant, muse, nurturer of young fashion talent and style icon, which is now owned by close friend and fellow fashion maverick, Daphne Guinness after she purchased it in its entirety at auction in 2010.

Isabella Blow by Mario Testino (1997)
‘This exhibition is, to me, a bittersweet event,’ said Guinness in an interview with Stylist magazine. ‘Isabella Blow made our world more vivid, trailing colour with every pace she took. It is a sorrier place for her absence. When I visited her beloved clothes in a storage room in South Kensington, it  seemed quite clear the collection would be of immense value to a great many people. I do believe that in choosing to exhibit them we’ve done the right thing – and that it is what she would have wanted. I am doing this in memory of a dear friend, in the hope that her legacy may continue to aid and inspire generations of designers to come.’

Curated by Alistair O’Neill with Shonagh Marshall and featuring installations by celebrated set designer Shona Heath, Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! will chart Blow’s life in fashion chronologically, highlighting her aristocratic background, growing up at the family seat  at Doddington Hall in Cheshire, her championing of Philip Treacy, Alexander McQueen, Julien McDonald and Hussein Chalayan amongst others, her love of the British countryside with a huge installation of a hedge and the legacy she left behind when she tragically committed suicide aged 48 in 2007.

At the American Embassy in Paris by Roxanne Lowit (1998)
The exhibition will feature priceless outfits by the then-fledgling designers that she championed, as well as bespoke Isabella Blow mannequins adorned in full outfits worn by her and will serve to demonstrate her distinctive, avant-garde style.

Designers whose pieces will be on show in the exhibition include Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Philip Treacy, Dior, Prada, Viktor and Rolf, Manolo Blahnik and Marni.

Blow had hard-core fashion beginnings, assisting Anna Wintour in New York at US Vogue (At Blow’s memorial service, Wintour amusingly recounted that when Blow worked for Vogue she did everything fabulously, even cleaning Wintour’s desk with Perrier water and Chanel perfume) before returning to England to work as fashion director of The Sunday Times Style, and then to the same position at Tatler where she masterminded many of the magazine’s most memorable – and costly – fashion shoots.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, Burning Down the House (1996)
The outlandish accessory-loving Blow not only nurtured a whole host of graduate and young fashion designers, but also discovered some of the industry’s most famous faced models, giving Stella Tennant, Plum Sykes, Honor Fraser and Bella Freud their first shoot in British Vogue in 1993 with photographer Steven Meisel.

Guinness is the founder of the Isabella Blow Foundation, set up after her death and which promotes fashion, encourages young talent, and supports charities promoting further research in the fields of depression and mental health.


In partnership with Central Saint Martins, the Isabella Blow Foundation collaborated with Somerset House to present Blow’s collection. The show is to run at Somerset House in London from November 20 to March 2, 2014.

Isabella Blow with Horns, Gloucestershire (1996)

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