Isabella Blow’s life on show
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! is a feast for the eyes of the fashion lover.
The exhibition at Somerset House documents the rise of the fashion industry’s most influential visionary through clothes, photographs, film and tokens of her unique personality.
Fashion Galore opens with a brief look at Blow’s family. Born in 1958 to an aristocratic family, she was denied the luxurious life she should have inherited and was forced to find a career; so she turned to fashion.
Arguably her greatest skill was that she loved spotting and nurturing emerging talent in the fashion world. Fascinated by the staid items that they were reviving using unconventional materials, Blow worked closely with Alexander McQueen
and Philip Treacy and was heavily involved in their career-launching autumn-winter 1996 catwalk shows. Although she was not a designer, Blow influenced the biggest names in the London fashion scene.
Habits and quirks
The exhibition plays footage of each designer’s catwalk show surrounded by pieces from their autumn-winter ’96 ranges, all taken from Blow’s private collection of McQueen and Treacy pieces. On display is McQueen’s intimidating black lace
dress with silver-antler headdress and floor sweeping veil, and Treacy’s vivid-orange ostrich-feather hat with Swarovski crystals.
From here, Fashion Galore moves on to focusing on Blow herself, looking at her time as editor and stylist on many high-fashion titles including Tatler and US and UK Vogue.
Artifacts portraying Blow’s habits and quirks are on display, including hand written notes, pairs of glittery fake lashes and her synonymous red Chanel lipstick. Nearby, a fax of her unaccountable expenses account from a photoshoot at the
Sunday Times’ Style magazine is a reminder of her eccentricity.
After a hallway lined with designer clad mannequins, exploring Blow’s collection of pieces concerned with how the body is modified by fashion, the exhibition ends on a somewhat poignant note.
The final section shows the joint SS’08 collection of McQueen and Treacy, which was created as a touching tribute to Blow after her untimely death the previous year.
Although McQueen and Treacy were undoubtedly a large part of Blow’s career and life, it seemed the exhibition is somewhat dominated by their rise to fashion fame. However, as a huge fan of both designers, this was a delightful bonus for me.
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! displays Blow’s beautiful and vast collection of clothes, shoes and headwear whilst giving visitors snippets of information about the eccentric and revolutionary woman behind it all.
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! is on show at the Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, until March 2.