The gallery partners with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins to celebrate the extraordinary life and wardrobe of the late British patron of fashion and art. Compiled by Alistair O’Neill with Shonagh Marshall with installations by celebrated set designer Shona Heath, the exhibition will display Isabella’s extensive collection of fashionable wears, an ode to an icon who lived her life in a whirlwind of fabulous fashions.
Isabella was born into British aristocracy with a career spanning three decades. Beginning in the early 80s as Anna Wintour’s assistant at US Vogue. On her return to London in 1986 she worked at Tatler Magazine, followed by British Vogue. In 1997 Isabella became the Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style, and then returned to Tatler as Fashion Director.
Creative, outrageous and extraordinary, Isabella nurtured and inspired numerous artists and designers. The fashion maverick discovered model Sophie Dahl (who Blow, never one to mince her words, once described as "a blow up doll with brains”) as well as hugely successful model Stella Tennant. Throughout her career Isabella collaborated with top fashion photographers such as Steven Meisel, with whom she create the iconic ‘Babes in London ‘ shoot.
The exhibition is showcasing over a hundred pieces from her vast collection, accumulated over years immersed in an industry she called ‘her life’. Isabella’s collection is now owned by Daphne Guinness, who notes the exhibition is ‘a bittersweet event. Isabella 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”.
Visiting Somerset House, you will be privileged to see garments from the many designer talents Isabella discovered and launched. As Alexander McQueen’s greatest champion, expect many a designer gown. Blow bought Alexander’s entire graduate collection for ₤5,000, paying it off in weekly ₤100 instalments. As a muse for Philip Treacy, many of his creations are included in the collection along with Hussein Chalayan, Julien Macdonald and many other designer talents.
To accompany the exhibition, there is a catalogue with new commissioned photography by Nick Knight entitled ‘The Isabella Blow Collection’ priced at £40.
Opening image: Isabella Blow photographed by Mario Testino, 1997.