Sunday 2 March 2014


I loved the Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition at Somerset House so much that I saw the show three times - twice when it opened last autumn and again during last month's London Fashion Week held at the same opulent venue.

Sadly the exhibition closed its doors today and I'm sure if the show had been granted an extended run I would have found my way back to Somerset House again for a final peek...

The reason the show resonated so well with me wasn't just because Isabella Blow (1958 - 2007) was such a colourful and flamboyant figure at fashion shows and associated fashion events for so many years, it was because of her collection of much loved and often well-worn clothes and hats, many complete with cigarette burns, that told such a powerful story of a life lived through clothes.

Isabella Blow, 1997 
© Mario Testino 

As is well documented, Blow helped launch the careers of several high profile contemporary designers, including Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan, during her time as a fashion editor at Tatler, Vogue and the Sunday Times Style magazine and she accumulated a vast wardrobe of her favoured designers' clothes.

After her untimely death at the age of 48, her friend and fashion maverick, Daphne Guinness, bought Blow's entire wardrobe at auction to ensure that the collection was kept intact. This collection is the backbone of the Somerset House show, with the addition of many personal items that Blow used during her career, including her favourite signature scarlet lipstick - Rouge Coromandel by Chanel, that Coco Chanel first introduced in 1920. Blow's extensive collection of hats and shoes are also a focal point, plus three right foot silver sandals in slightly varying sizes by Manolo Blahnik, illustrating her penchant for often wearing odd shoes.

'This exhibition is, to me, a bittersweet event,' commented Daphne Guinness, 'Isabella Blow made our world more vivid, trailing colour with every pace she took. When I visited her beloved clothes in a storage room in South Kensington, it seemed quite clear that the collection would be of immense value to a great many people.'

Isabella Blow, 2002 
© Diego Uchitel 

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow: Burning Down The House, 1996, 
London © David LaChapelle Studio, Inc 

Isabella Blow at the American Embassy in Paris 1998
 © Roxanne Lowi

Isabella Blow and Philip Treacy, 2003 for Vanity Fair 
© Donald McPherson 

This way to Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore at Somerset House...

Isabella Blow's heady signature fragrance Fracas by Robert Piguet

The exhibition sadly closes its doors today

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