In my last post I was telling you all about my visit to the “Hello my name is Paul Smith” exhibition at the design museum. I had a bit of a gallery day and also visited the Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House. Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos in the “Fashion Galore!” exhibition but I’ve posted a short film created for it and some photo’s by Nick Knight taken for the exhibition catalogue. Seeing both exhibitions on the same day makes for an interesting comparison between the two. On one hand you have Paul Smith , who started from humble beginnings, designing out of a small room in Nottingham, and then you have Isabella who was born into aristocracy. Yet, despite the differences in their background both Paul Smith and Isabella Blow have managed to make their mark on fashion.
Isabella Blow was born on 19th November 1958, and sadly took her own life in 2007. The exhibition is a celebration of her life, work and extraordinary wardrobe which is now owned by Daphne Guinness. The exhibition starts with a selection of family photo albums, before moving onto showcasing her vast collection of Phillip Treacy hats and pieces from Alexander McQueen’s graduate collection. Blow was well known for using her position as a well respected fashion journalist, working at both Tatler and the Sunday Times Style to support and launch the careers of young designers. She famously brought up McQueen’s graduate collection for £5,000. I don’t know if any of you have watched the “McQueen and I” documentary but it really showcases the impact that Isabella had on launching his career and how much her own death effected him.
Isabella’s wardrobe was predominately made up of McQueen, along with a fair amount of Hussein Chalayan and Manolo Blahnik, so in some respects the exhibition was as much about looking at the work of McQueen too. One thing I did love about looking at Isabella’s collection is that quite a few pieces were clearly worn, shoes were scuffed, garments were snagged and some were even covered in cigarette burns. It was nice to see to the clothes in a lived in, and worn condition, you could see they were clearly loved. Never underdressed, Issy wore clothes as they’re were meant to be worn, she didn’t save things for special occasions but wore what she loved, something I greatly admire.
As well as looking back at her fantastic collection, the exhibition showcases a selection of Isabella’s most successful fashion shoot. Along with launching the career of designers, she had a great eye for spotting talent and also helped to launch the careers of Plum Skyes and Bella Freud. Walking round the exhibition it’s clear to see that Blow’s talent was her eye for spotting potential and helping to harness it.
For me the best part of the exhibition was the ending, a short film showcasing La Dame Bleue, a collection that Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy collaborated on and dedicated to Isabella after her death. The film, directed by Ruth Hogben is set in Doddington Hall which was home to Isabella. There’s something about the setting, along with Bryan Ferry’s “She walks in the room” playing in the background that leaves you with a deep sense of sadness. The collection is brought to life by models: Anais Mali, Liberty Ross, Alexia Wight and Xiao Wen Ju- very beautifully shot but at the same time melancholy.
As Daphne Guiness put so well the exhibition 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. “
Isabella Blow Image: http://www.hungertv.com/feature/blow-me/#
Nick Knight catalogue images: http://showstudio.com/project/isabella_blow_fashion_galore/catalogue_images_nick_knight