Diva: Isabella Blow

15Jun10


Isabella Blow
by Jo Craven

Isabella Blow’s life was one of extremes of tragedy and inspiration. She fostered talent whilst nurturing desperate personal unhappiness. Descended from the Delves-Broughton family, for many she embodied English eccentricity.

She had close friendships with key figures in the fashion world from Philip Treacy to Alexander McQueen, Sheikh Majed, Ronnie Newhouse and Nadja Swarovski.

She discovered Sophie Dahl sobbing in a doorway; she bought Alexander McQueen’s entire degree show, and had Philip Treacy design her wedding hat when she married Detmar Blow in 1988 – as well being credited with discovering Hussein Chalayan and Stella Tennant.

She also worked as Anna Wintour’s assistant on American Vogue, then for Michael Roberts at Tatler, then British Vogue, then The Sunday Times – and ultimately she returned to Tatler as fashion director. Convinced she was ugly, she almost always wore a Treacy hat that would obscure her face, accessorized with her famous slash of red lipstick – MAC designed one in homage to her.

• Born in 1958, she went to Heathfield School and in 1979 went to Columbia University where she shared a room with Catherine Oxenburg, who was to play Amanda in Dynasty
• “When I said, ‘I know this sounds a bit weird but I want to buy the whole of your collection,’ Alexander McQueen offered to sell me a coat for £350. I said, ‘That’s a lot for a student.’ And he said, ‘But I made it.’ In the end I bought it all for £5,000 but it took me a long time to pay for it”
• In 2002, she was the subject of an exhibition at the London Design Museum, featuring all the hats made for her by Treacy. A book by Treacy, When Philip met Isabella, featuring some of her most outrageous outfits, was published to accompany the exhibition

Isabella died on Sunday, May 6 2007, having been treated for cancer and severe depression for some months, at the age of 48. Treacy designed a black feathered hat for her cortege and a funeral was held in The Guards Chapel where the whole fashion world descended in their most appropriate outfits to pay their respects.

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