Thursday, 21 August 2008

Isabella Blow

Stalking my way through Ostrich Leather, Nappa Suede and all other types of Goat, Deer and Elephant skin bags on Net-a-Porter, I stumbled across the Blow, bag by Alexander McQueen, which I am making a large assumption is a tribute to the late Isabella Blow.

Blow somewhat discovered Alexander McQueen when he graduated from reknowned London Fashion School Central St Martins, buying his entire Graduate Collection for ₤5,000, paying it off over almost a year at ₤100 a week.

Blow was a fascinatingly tragic woman who suffered serious depression in her later years and tried to kill herself on numerous occasions, in a myriad of ways. Unfortunately this kind of tragedy that plagued her life is likely what she will be remembered for, alongside her relationship with Philip Treacy and her support of his Millinery with her bold hats that she was rarely photographed without.

But beyond the Melodrama and Depression she was such a fascinating person, a person that so many people know nothing of, for example she moved to NYC in 1979 (the year of the Clash) to study Ancient Chinese Art at Columbia University to move one year later to Texas to work for Guy Laroche. In 1981 she was introduced Anna Wintour, the (devil) editor of US Vogue, and hired as her aassistant, but it was not long before she was assisting Andre Leon Talley, now U.S. Vogue's editor-at-large. While working in New York, she befriended Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In 1986 she returned to London, working for Michael Roberts, then the fashion director of Tatler and the Sunday Times Style magazine.

In 1989, Blow married her second husband, art dealer Detmar Blow, in Gloucester Cathedral. Philip Treacy designed the bride's wedding headdress and a now-famous fashion relationship was forged. Realizing Treacy's talent, Blow established Treacy in her London flat, where he worked on his collections. She soon began wearing Treacy's hats, making them a signature part of her flamboyant style.

In a 2002 interview with Tamsin Blanchard, Blow declared that she wore extravagant hats for a practical reason:

" keep everyone away from me. They say, Oh, can I kiss you? I say, No, thank you very much. That's why I've worn the hat. Goodbye. I don't want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love."

Blow had a natural sense of style and a good feeling for future fashion directions. She discovered Alexander McQueen and Spotting Sophie Dahl, Blow described Dahl as "a blow up doll with brains", and launched the model's career. She went on to become the Fashion Director of Tatler and consulted for DuPont Lycra, Lacoste, and Swarovski.

You may have also noticed her quite breifly in Wes Anderson's the Life Aquatic.

Toward the end of her life, Blow had become seriously depressed and was reportedly anguished over her inability to "find a home in a world she influenced". Daphne Guinness, a friend of Blow's stated, "She [Blow] was upset that [Alexander] McQueen didn't take her along when he sold his brand to Gucci. Once the deals started happening, she fell by the wayside. Everybody else got contracts, and she got a free dress". According to a 2002 interview with Tamsin Blanchard, it was Blow who brokered the deal in which Gucci purchased McQueen's label.

Other pressures included money problems (Blow was disinherited by her father in 1994 and infertility. In an effort to have a child, Blow and her husband had unsuccessfully tried in vitro fertilization eight times. She later stated, "We were like a pair of exotic fruits that could not breed when placed together", she said.

Following a disagreement with her mother-in-law over which member of the family would inherit her husband's ancestral home, Hilles, near Stroud, Gloucestershire. In 2004, Isabella and Detmar Blow separated, reportedly so Detmar could father a son with a fertile woman and ensure his particular branch of the Blow family would remain in charge of Hilles. Detmar Blow went on to have an affair with Stephanie Theobald, a bisexual who was the society editor of British Harper's Bazaar, while his estranged wife entered into a liaison with a gondolier she met in Venice. During the couple's separation, Blow was diagnosed with a Bipolar disorder and began undergoing electroshock therapy. For a time, the treatments appeared to be helpful. After an eighteen month separation, Isabella and Detmar Blow got back together. Soon after, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Depressed over her waning celebrity status and her cancer diagnosis, Blow began telling friends that she was suicidal. In 2006, Blow attempted suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Later that year, Blow again attempted suicide by jumping from the Hammersmith Flyover, which resulted in her breaking both ankles. After her death, Detmar Blow confirmed that his wife suffered from depression and had once declared, "I can't beat it".

In 2007, Blow made several more suicide attempts by driving her car into the rear of a truck, by attempting to obtain horse tranquilizers, by drowning in a lake and by overdosing while on a beach in India.

Finally on May 6, 2007, during a weekend house party at Hilles, where the guests included Treacy and his life partner, Stefan Bartlett, Blow announced that she was going shopping. Instead, she was later discovered collapsed on a bathroom floor by her sister Lavinia and was taken to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where Blow told the doctor she had drunk the weedkiller Paraquat. Blow died at the hospital the following day.

Blow's death was initially reported as being caused by ovarian cancer, however, a coroner later ruled the death a suicide. In the inquest, Blow's sister, Lavinia Verney, stated that after she discovered her sister had ingested the poison, Blow had told her: "I'm worried that I haven't taken enough."

Her funeral was held at Gloucester Cathedral on May 15, 2007. Her coffin, made of willow, was surmounted by one of her Philip Treacy hats instead of a floral tribute.

I know that was a long post but sometimes a History Lesson can be very interesting.

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