Long before Lady Gaga rose to fame, British fashion editor and stylist Isabella Blow made theatrical clothes and outlandish headgear her personal trademark.
Her life and style are now being celebrated at an exhibition in London. Eccentric, flamboyant and witty, she was the muse of hat designer Philip Treacy, and is credited with discovering fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
One of the most influential personalities in fashion, she committed suicide at the age of 48.
“After her untimely death in 2007, her estate was in arrears and her family was forced to sell the biggest asset in her estate, namely her wardrobe. It was put up for auction and at the 11th hour Daphne Guinness intervened to stop it being broken up and dispersed, to maintain it as a collection. So this is the first time that it has been shown to the public,” says the show’s curator, Alistair O’Neill.
Isabella Blow wore everything from a crystal-studded lobster to a tall ship made of feathers on her head, and chose a purple medieval robe for her wedding dress.
The show at Somerset House features the fashion editor’s personal collection of more than 100 rare designer items, including many of Treacy’s dramatic hats and some of McQueen’s earlier designs. Blow met McQueen at his graduate fashion show and famously bought up his entire collection. She commissioned headdresses from Treacy when he was still a student. Blow wore their designs everywhere, and used her network to promote her proteges.
The exhibition also hints at the darker side of her glamourous life which saw her struggling with depression.
“Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” is on at London’s Somerset House until March.