Nurturing, inspirational and full of personality. Those are some of the words that Isabella Blow’s friends repeat the most when talking about her, so it is no surprise that they can also be used to describe the exhibition “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!” that has just opened at Somerset House.
The space, curated by Alistair O’Neill and Shonagh Marshall, is a celebration of her life and her vision put together by some of the people who loved her the most. It goes beyond fashion. It is a way of gathering, celebrating and giving back to her, of proving that she still matters and influences the fashion world, six years after she took her own life.
It all started when Daphne Guinness bought her wardrobe in its entirety in 2010 just after finding out that it was going to be sold at a Christie’s auction. She was refusing to let her confidant’s identity be divided and spread, because she felt that her clothes were her DNA, her life and her art. Later on, together with help from Central Saint Martins and the Isabella Blow Foundation, the project started to take shape.
The collection features over a hundred pieces, mostly of talent she had discovered and helped to launch. Because Issy, as her dear ones called her, liked to wear clothes from the people she loved. There are over 90 Alexander McQueen dresses and 50 Philip Treacy hats, surrounded by pieces from Hussein Chalayan, Julien McDonald, Manolo Blahnik and Jun Takahashi, as well as videos and portraits by Mario Testino, Sean Ellis and Karl Lagerfeld.
Everything is styled the way she would have put it together. There are even worn out and damaged pieces, like shoes missing heels and burnt hats, which help to create a story. They make the clothes seem real, demonstrate how she lived in them, how they were part of her everyday life. In summary, they capture her essence. There is a sense of eccentricity, humour and wit that is intrinsic Isabella. Because, after all, the exhibition is nothing but a celebration of her persona and life.
Accompanying the showing there is a catalogue shot by Nick Knight which tries to place Isabella and her clothes in the present. We can see her, albeit through models that she never worked with, but that she would have booked if she was still alive.
The exhibition runs until the 2nd of March 2104 in Somerset House, London.