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Nov 20 - Mar 02

Somerset House, Strand London WC2R 1LA, London, , , UK
  • Isabella Blow and Philip Treacy for Vanity Fair, 2003. © Donald McPherson

  • A view of Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

  • Hat — Philip Treacy, S/S 2003. Cut out mouths pop art hat, paper, silk and wire. Dress — Chalayan, S/S 1999. Cream folded pleat dress, silk. Model: Xiao Wen Ju at IMG. © Nick Knight


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Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! exhibition at the Somerset House, London

Somerset House recently presented Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, a major fashion exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life of the iconic British stylist, in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins. It was high time a major exhibition was dedicated entirely to Isabella Blow, not only because she was one of the most inspiring people ever in the fashion world, constantly breaking the rules and pushing the limits despite being considered a rara avis, but also for being one of the last fashion patrons, with a keen nose for discovering and supporting new talents. Fashion is indebted to Isabella. It owes her the launching of Alexander Mc Queen, Philip Treacy, Hussein Chalayan, Julien Macdonald, Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl, among others. It also owes her a world of gratitude for opening a new window into creativity, for opting for the extravagant and visually stimulating in an era ill-disposed towards such ideas, for being an example of generosity, perseverance and cordiality in a world that promotes success at all costs. Isabella was both a mentor and a muse, offering moral, creative and sometimes financial support to a new generation of British talents. She was one of the first people to see Mc Queen’s potential and famously bought his entire Central Saint Martins graduate collection. She was also the one that made Philip Treacy an international star, constantly encouraging him to take the next step in his career. She is the key behind Steven Meisel, David LaChapelle and Sean Ellis’ fashion shoots that marked an era with their bold theatricality and ground breaking aesthetics. It’s really impossible to think about British fashion without thinking of her.

Despite her successful career at Tatler, British Vogue or the Sunday Times Style, Isabella was constantly struggling with depression and in 2007, after various failed attempts, she committed suicide at the age of 48. Isabella left behind her an unconventional trajectory and an unparalleled legacy that continues to inspire up to the present day. After her death, her belongings were initially meant to be auctioned but luckily enough the auction was cancelled thanks to longtime friend Daphne Guinness who bought the entire lot, which is now the core of the exhibition at the Somerset House. Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! showcases over a hundred pieces from Blow’s incredibly rich collection, one of the most important private collections of late 20th Century/early 21st Century British fashion design, including many of Treacy’s most extravagant hats and some of McQueen’s earliest designs. It also covers Blow’s early life and aristocratic background and features an extensive selection of snapshots and videos, alongside a Tim Noble and Sue Webster installation.

“This exhibition is, to me, a bittersweet event,” said Guinness. “When I visited her beloved clothes in a storage room in South Kensington, it seemed quite clear the collection would be of immense value to a great many people… 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.” Alistair O’Neill, co-curator of the exhibition together with Shonagh Marshall, shares his thought on Blow’s aesthetics: “She was progressive, trying to push fashion forward, a patron of contemporary fashion, but a patron in the sense that she encouraged learning, she was keen on feeding designers ideas, and she nurtured them in very important ways.” “Isabella Blow was a champion of creative talent. So much that we know today would never have happened without her vision, and her support of British fashion and creativity was unique,” said Louise Wilson, professor at Central Saint Martins college. Isabella Blow’s exhibition at the Somerset House is a sad but at the same time exciting tribute to the extraordinary talent of a woman that knew how to be bold and imaginative even in the hardest times; a necessary homage to the influential work of a genius that still stands unequaled.

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! is curated by Alistair O’Neill with Shonagh Marshall and designed by award-winning architectural firm Carmody Groarke, with installations by celebrated set designer Shona Heath. To accompany the exhibition, there will be a catalogue with new, commissioned photography by Nick Knight of the Isabella Blow Collection, edited by Alistair O’Neil with essays by Alistair O’Neil, Professor Caroline Evans, Alexander Fury and Shonagh Marshall, designed by Graphic Thought Facility and published by Rizzoli.