We popped to Somerset House this week to have an exclusive sneak preview of the much anticipated Isabella Blow exhibition: Fashion Galore! We can’t give too much away but we can assure you it’s going to be an honourable homage to the late muse.
Blow (1958-2007) devoted her life to discovering incredible fashion talent and championing the designers she discovered and much of the show features pieces by them, most notably her protégées Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen, whose rare MA collections are on display. Rather cruelly, footage from those collections has been placed alongside videos of less successful fellow graduates from the same year and the contrast is immense – what foresight Blow had. Conservators have been hard at work making sure the clothes – many of them well worn by Blow – have been restored to their former glory. That includes Erik Halley’s famous lobster hat, which got a bit bashed up in a car crash en route to a Julien Macdonald show, which appears in an incredible under sea installation alongside Treacy’s ship hat. Tip: stop and gawp at this masterpiece, it’s awesome.
The exhibition starts with fascinating snap shots into Blow’s past with ephemera including a birth announcement in the Evening Standard and old photographs of Blow as a child on the Cheshire family estate, Doddington House. Walking through past an installation of Blow’s head by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, you arrive at outfits from McQueen’s breakthrough Dante collection of 1996. Touchingly there is video footage from the show and you see Blow’s excited gesticulation and expressions of delight while steely fashion editors stare on glumly.
On the mezzanine level you are greeted by Treacy’s incredible hat collection of the same year. The climax is a gallery of Blow-a-like black mannequins complete with red cut-out lips and wonky black bob featuring her most dazzling and photographed outfits. Be prepared to be wowed, this is fashion in its purest and most captivating form. Maggie Davis
‘Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!’ runs from Nov 20–Mar 2 2014 at Somerset House