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Will flamboyant fashion powerhouse Isabella Blow finally get her dues? | Fashion

Will flamboyant fashion powerhouse Isabella Blow finally get her dues?  |  Fashion
Will flamboyant fashion powerhouse Isabella Blow finally get her dues?  |  Fashion

 


TLegendary fashion editor Isabella Blow is remembered for her hats. A jewel-encrusted lobster that rose from his forehead like a crustacean mohican. A miniature Chinese garden, with tiny eaved pagodas and Lilliputian cherry trees with quivering flowers. Her trademark was so distinctive that Princess Margaret once greeted her at a party with the words: Good evening, Hat. At her funeral in 2007, an 18th-century black galleon helmet with delicate lace sails cascading from its high prow, created for her by her favorite milliner Philip Treacy, crowned her coffin on a bed of white roses.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow at a launch party in London in 2005. Photo: Richard Young/Shutterstock

But The Queen of Fashion, a recently announced biopic directed by Alex Marx with Oscar-nominated actor Andrea Riseborough in the title role, is expected to highlight Blow's more serious role as a central figure of the Gilded Age of British fashion, a kingmaker. who launched the career of Alexander McQueen and a powerhouse who helped put 1990s London at the center of the creative world.

Fashion biopics have been a storyline of 2024. Becoming Karl Lagerfeld brings the feuds, affairs and paper fans of Chanel's designer careers to the small screens in a Disney+ series next month, following the sumptuous drama of Cristbal Balenciaga era and Apple TV The New Look. , with Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior and Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel. The documentary High & Low: John Galliano re-examined one of fashion's most high-profile falls from grace. But The Queen of Fashion, the latest in a series of film projects about Blow, who died aged 48 after a lifetime of battling depression, might be the most dramatic story of all.

Larger-than-life wardrobe shots made her a thing of folklore. Guardian writer Emine Saner, who was Blows' assistant at the Sunday Times Style in the late 1990s, describes her Wallis Simpson look as envisioned by Salvador Dal. In the newspaper offices, everyone stood up to get a better look at her, Saner remembers. She would sit with Manolo Blahnik stilettos on the desk and have loud, extremely dirty phone conversations with photographers and designers. As a boss, she was exhilarating and exhausting. She didn't hesitate to call at any time, usually with an unreasonable request. She was obsessed with sex and made the kind of remarks and physical contact that would land her in court today. She was also brilliant, original, generous and hilarious. Two decades later, every time I sniff a tuberose scent, I experience a feeling of both panic and excitement.

Andy Warhol and Isabella Blow at the Café de Paris in Piccadilly, London, in 1986. Photograph: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

At lunch with Nicholas Coleridge, the chief executive of Cond Nast, Blow wore a pair of antlers covered in a thick black veil. When he asked her how she could eat, she replied: Nicolas, that doesn't concern me at all.

But Blow was also a Peggy Guggenheim of British fashion, brilliant with her radar for talent and dynamic in the way she nurtured it. After attending Hussein Chalayan's graduate parade, she sent him for a roll of trash bags, helped him wrap the clothes in them, and walked him to the Browns store on South Molton Street in London, where Joan Burstein bought the collection on the spot and put it in the window, making him a star. Blow didn't just provide money or opportunities, it grabbed people by the collar and guided them towards their futures, says Alistair O'Neill, a fashion professor at Central St Martins and curator of a 2013 exhibition on Blow. Decades before the Met Gala made fashion mainstream entertainment, Blow knew how to use fashion to showcase the brilliance of talent and creativity to the world, he says.

Isabella Blow and Daphne Guinness at the When Philip Met Isabella exhibition in London in 2002. Photo: Dave Bennett/Getty Images

Blow, who was of aristocratic lineage but disinherited by her father, was legendarily bad with money and never reaped the financial rewards of the industry she helped amplify. She infuriated newspaper bosses in 1997 when she listed the bill for a single Givenchy haute couture garment costing 35,000 French francs, the equivalent of 9,000 today, on an expense report scrawled with the words : I. Blow Business Wardrobe.

Front row seats at shows were guaranteed, but she was also ridiculed, Saner recalls. It was too easy to just focus on the lobster on his head. She was underestimated, never given enough credit for her keen eye, vast knowledge of art and countless cultural references, all of which were incorporated into her photos.

In 1992, Blow purchased McQueen's entire graduate collection for 5,000, which she paid in 100 weekly checks. The couple had a tumultuous relationship. When fame and fortune came to McQueen, Blow felt he had left it behind, failing to repay his debt to his early loyalty. McQueen was devastated by Blow's death and dedicated his next collection to him. The show took place in a Parisian salon perfumed with Fracas, the tuberose perfume she always wore.

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Shot in 2004. Photograph: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

Blow was a complex character and his excessive personality made him live beyond his means and work beyond his role, O'Neill explains. This explains why she was not rewarded or recognized properly during her life. People in the industry didn't know how to place it, which was its downfall.

Born in London, Blow studied ancient Chinese art at New York University, where her roommate was Catherine Oxenberg, who went on to play Amanda Carrington on Dynasty. In the 1980s, she helped a promising publisher called Anna Wintour, befriended the artist Andy Warhol after admiring his Blahnik stilettos, one pink and one purple, but fell out with Jean-Michel Basquiat after she told him his Comme des Garons duffle coat was terrible. She returned to London in 1986. Blow suffered from depression, was treated with electroshock treatment for bipolar disorder, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and attempted suicide several times in the years before her death.

She was always fabulously dressed, O'Neill recalled. She loved proportions and knew how to accessorize an outfit to the hilt. She said: Always accentuate the head and feet. She was small, but she still towers over all those people walking up the steps at the Met Gala.

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