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Isabella Blow: fashion’s punk academic

— February 2014

Associated media

Isabella Blow, 1997 © Mario Testino

A major show at London's Somerset House showcases the life and work of this extraordinary patron of the art of fashion

The late Isabella Blow ‘could talk about fashion with complete rigour in terms of silhouette, shape and historical context. She was an academic with a punk rocker’s anarchic sense’ (Geordie Greig, Blow’s editor at Tatler magazine).

Isabella Delves Broughton (Blow was her second husband’s surname) was born into an impoverished aristocratic English family in 1958. Her father was a baronet whose own father, Jock Delves Broughton, had been a profligate spendthrift. Jock had run through the family fortune and been accused (though cleared for lack of evidence) of murdering the Earl of Errol in the Kenyan ‘White Mischief’ scandal of 1941. Jock’s first wife, Isabella’s grandmother Lady Vera Delves Broughton, had been an adventuress who held the world record for landing the largest recorded tuna. Her photographs of Papua New Guinea were to fascinate the young Isabella.

As the family had no money, Isabella grew up knowing she would have to earn a living. After studying art history she became a fashion stylist and editor, working variously for Vogue, Tatler, the Sunday Times Style magazine and other publications. In this milieu she met many upcoming young designers, often singling them out at their graduation shows. She promoted them, including Hussein Charlayan and Julien Macdonald, by wearing their designs at prestigious events, covering their work in her publications, styling their fashion shows and giving business advice. Hat designer Philip Treacy worked for some time in a room in her flat.

Blow launched the careers of young British fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy. An exhibition at London’s Somerset House is currently exploring her work and covers the whole of her career. It is an extensive show... Cassone subscribers, click here to read on.

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