As I’m sure you guys know, I’m currently in my third and final year of studying Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins in London. While I won’t be too sad to be able to give the library a bit of a miss once I graduate next Spring, it has truly been the most incredible course and I feel so lucky to have done it. Between learning the chronological history of clothing from the Renaissance period to today, grappling with academic theory and visiting many a museum, my two-and-a-bit years at CSM have of course given me a whole new understanding of all things sartorial (not to mention lots of clever-sounding info to whip out at dinner parties) but on top of that, it’s also involved us in several incredible ventures going on in the industry right now. Case in point, Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!
When my course mates and I heard the news that our tutor, Alistair O’Neil would be curating a retrospective exhibition on the life and style of Isabella Blow, to say we were excited would be an understatement. When he asked us to help in the preparations, well, I’m sure you can imagine. Editor, style icon, muse and mentor are just a few of the ways one could describe the legend that is Isabella Blow. Her story is one of glamour, high society and haute couture but equally of tragedy and to have the slightest involvement in telling it was fascinating and an absolute privilege. As we were going through the archive of her wardrobe with co-curator, Shonagh Marshall (as it happens, an alum of our course), what struck us the most was not the amount of unbelievable garments and fancy hats Isabella owned, although admittedly it was pretty mind boggling. What really came through was was Isabella Blow the person. Her couture was food stained and cigarette burned, she really lived in it. Many pieces were from the graduate collections of the designers she championed and who’s careers Blow was fundamental in building, she was a loyal, fearless supporter of artists who’s mutual devotion to her spoke volumes. Alongside personal ephemera, pictures and anecdotes from friends who enjoyed her hospitality the impression I gathered of Isabella from the experience was that of a complicated, highly intelligent, talented, flawed and incredibly kind person who’s life and legacy consists of so much more than fabulous McQueen outfits.
When we saw the exhibition last week, some months after having had much to do with it, this idea of who Isabella Blow was, the woman behind the lobster hats and couture corsetry, shone through more clearly than ever. Of course, her clothes are displayed, styled as she herself styled them and looking fantastic but it’s their combination with personal pieces; childhood photographs, sketches on napkins, film footage of Isabella at her family home, Doddington Hall, and shoots she styled for Tatler and Sunday Times Style make this exhibition a beautiful, moving and fitting tribute to Isabella Blow, fashion editor, friend and legend.
And how do you celebrate the unveiling of a M-A-J-O-R fashion exhibition? With a fabulous party of course! And that, my friends, is precisely what went down last Tuesday. Events at Somerset House are always awesome and this was was just spectacular. The guest list included everyone from Daphne Guinness, Mary Charteris, David Downton to Mary J Blige, Rachel Weisz and Boy George. As for the outfits, I suspect Isabella would have approved.
Your’s truly wearing Temperley with a Roger Vivier clutch & Isabel Marant heels
Liberty Ross & Mary J Blige (I DIE!)
Sarah Burton, Creative Director of McQueen
I highly, highly recommend you get yourselves to Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! ASAP… The Somerset House ice rink is up so you could finish with an hour’s gliding and a glass of mulled wine! In fact, at 12.30pm on Sunday the 1st of December there will be a special ice skating session where everyone is invited to wear their most extravagant hats in homage to Isabella. There will be a prize for best headgear, a free drink for all and half price entry to the exhibition. Find out more here.
Love Ella. X