The Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins is mounting a new exhibition titled Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! This will be a major fashion extravaganza celebrating the extraordinary life and wardrobe of the late, great British patron of fashion and art. It opens at Somerset House on the 20th November and run until 2nd March 2014.
One of the foundation’s primary objectives was to stage an exhibition, and to have this goal realised in such a culturally significant setting, with the support of Isabella’s family, is truly exciting. Co-curated by Alistair O’Neill and Shonagh Marshall, the exhibition will showcase Isabella’s idiosyncratic wardrobe amassed throughout her expansive styling career. The iconic collection, now owned by Daphne Guinness, is being loaned to the exhibition along with photographs, correspondence and footage contributed by those who knew her and whose lives she changed. Spanning her life and loves, the show will explore the well of cultural and historical inspirations from which her work sprung, with instillations created by celebrated set designer Shona Heath. Among the pieces exhibited will be highlights from Alexander McQueen’s precious graduate collection; famously purchased in its entirety by Blow when she discovered him at St Martin’s. In addition: assorted hats by protégé Philip Treacy, as well as pieces by designers she championed including Jeremy Scott, Julien Macdonald, Viktor & Rolf, Fendi, Escada, Prada, and Marni.
Born into the rarefied world of British aristocracy, Isabella’s thirty year career began in the early 80s as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue. On her return to London in 1986 she worked at Tatler followed by British Vogue. In 1997 she became the Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style after which she returned to Tatler as Fashion Director. Driven by a passion for creativity, Isabella is credited for having nurtured and inspired numerous artists and designers.
Isabella is also known for discovering models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant, and for her collaborations with major photographers such as Steven Meisel, David LaChapelle and Sean Ellis, which pushed the boundaries of convention in her increasingly provocative fashion spreads and establishing herself as a legendary figure within the international fashion and contemporary art worlds.
The first section of the exhibition will explore Isabella’s background, and her British aristocratic ancestral roots. Born Isabella Delves Broughton in 1950’s post-war Britain, with a family seat at Doddington Hall in Cheshire, her family history can be traced back to the 14th Century – a factor which played an important part in Isabella’s life. Highlights include family photographs and the sculpture entitled ‘Isabella Blow’ by Tim Noble and Sue Webster.
A huge hedge installation, inspired by Isabella’s love of the English countryside will display groups of clothing from her collection presented in four themes that conjure the fantastical world Isabella inhabited and drew inspiration from, reflecting her love of birds, flowers and the surreal. Works in this section show off a number of Isabella’s favourite designers, including clothing by Jeremy Scott, Comme des Garçons, Julien Macdonald, Viktor and Rolf and Undercover alongside accessories by Philip Treacy and Erik Halley.
Shona Heath will create bespoke Isabella Blow mannequins wearing full outfits worn by her, built referencing archival documentary images. These will demonstrate her distinctive, eclectic style and mixing of designer pieces. She was quoted as saying “Fashion is a vampiric thing, it’s the hoover on your brain. That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me”, demonstrating the way in which Isabella wore her clothing as a form of armour. Pieces here include McQueen for Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Philip Treacy, Escada, Teerabul Songvich, Dior, Prada, Jeremy Scott, Benoit Meleard for Jeremy Scott, Viktor and Rolf, John Galliano for Dior, Manolo Blahnik and Marni.
“This exhibition is, to me is a bittersweet event. 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”. – Daphne Guinness