Isabella Blow was a tour de force in the world of fashion, style and magazines, renowned for her creativity, for the eccentric, larger than life hats she wore and for the way she spotted up and coming designers way before anyone else clocked their talent.
An aristocrat by birth – she was born into the notorious Delves Broughton family – Blow began her career in the early 80s as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue and later became fashion director of Sunday Times Style and fashion director of Tatler. Her then editor, Geordie Greig, described her as “an academic with a punk rocker’s anarchic sense.” She also launched the careers of models like Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl and of designer talents like Hussein Chalayan and Julien Macdonald.
But she was probably best known for discovering the brilliant fashion designer Alexander McQueen. She coolly bought up all the clothes he had made for his graduate show for the princely sum of £5,000 and paid for them in £100-a-week instalments.
McQueen was so devoted to her that when Blow committed suicide in 2007 he commissioned an illustration of her riding through the skies as a goddess in a chariot drawn by two horses – himself and milliner Philip Treacy. They were used as invitations to her funeral at Gloucester Cathedral.
Now Somerset House in London has teamed up with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins School of Art to celebrate her extraordinary life, massive talent and stunning wardrobe. I visited the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition last week and it was utterly breathtaking.
From the confection of hats and outfits she wore, to her old-fashioned Rolodex and notes written in pink ink, the exhibition perfectly sums up her life and times. I adored reading about her penchant for wearing odd shoes and gazing at items like a self-drawn caricature on a napkin. The stars of the show, though, are definitely the clothes. My favourites were a gorgeous black empire line dress with a distressed hem, designed by Alexander McQueen in 1992 and a sculpted red silk hat that only Isabella Blow could pull off in style.
She was an amazing talent – and very much missed.
The exhibition is open till March 2, so get your skates on and go…