To say that Isabella Blow liked fashion is a bit like saying Alexander McQueen was quite good at designing clothes. She lived and breathed the stuff. Fashion Galore!, a new exhibition at Somerset House, celebrates the extraordinary life (and covetable wardrobe) of the late British fashion editor and arts patron.
Works on display include pieces by some of Isabella’s favourite designers, including names like Hussein Chalayan, Jeremy Scott, Comme des Garçons, Julien Macdonald, Viktor and Rolf and Undercover, Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy.
Born to the eccentric and rarefied world of English aristocracy, Isabella's career started with a stint in the early 1980s as Anna Wintour's assistant (it didn't last long) and she rose to hold fashion editor and fashion director titles for publications including British Vogue, Tatler and The Sunday Times Style.
But what Isabella is best known for is her support — both financial and emotional — of young talent in the fashion industry, and how her ideas about fashion challenged the boundaries. She is credited for discovering models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant, both considered highly unconventional at the time, and her collaborations with photographers like Steven Meisel and David LaChapelle produced exciting and provocative fashion editorials throughout the 1990s.
A significant chunk of the exhibition celebrates Isabella's relationship with two designers, Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, whom she championed from the very start of their careers. Pieces from Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy’s graduate MA collections are on display, and the talent that Isabella saw in them is clear. There are also items from McQueen's and Treacy’s fall/winter 1996 collections. Both designers dedicated these collections to Isabella.
The exhibition pays tribute to idiosyncrasies, humour, and her love of beauty, but also her legacy. Cocurator Daphne Guinness said: "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".
The Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition at Somerset House is presented in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins. The exhibition runs from November 20, 2013 to March 2, 2014.