Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Weds 20th Nov: "Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!" at Somerset House

Wow.  You can see here a snippet sample of what's in store at the latest Somerset House exhibition "Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!" which opened last evening.  A sea of hats worn in honour of the subject, flooded into the Embankment vault gallery to see the mass of millinery amassed by Blow during her untimely short life.  One of the main legacies left by Isabella is that she wore her otherworldly wardrobe on a daily basis and lived it all to the max instead of keeping it for best, boxed away.  Therefore the majority of the iconic headpieces on show have either been restored or completely re-made by Philip Treacy which is almost inconceivable as there are so many pieces on display and all totally unique designs.  I can never remember how I made something so I can't believe his team have been able to turn around the vast collection with materials that vary in experimental mediums from antique jacquard fabrics to molten perspex and precious materials.
BUT ITS NOT ALL ABOUT THE HATS.  The most exciting aspect is the original pieces from the degree collections that she discovered and invested in.  There is the actual decomposing Hussein Chalayan dress which she marched from his show straight into Browns.  She snapped up Alexander McQueen's student work by setting up a higher purchase scheme of paying him £100 a week with a piece being delivered to her each month.  I'm so pleased that this retrospective has happened so that everyone can read these anecdotes and learn that it was her who put these multi-national names on the global map.  It was Isabella's sartorial sense of smell for truffling out student talent that gave the British Fashion Council its constellation of future stars.  I was so chuffed to see this McQueen black lace violet corset which hooked me into the fashion world, seeing it shot in The Face by Nick Knight - with that exact story displayed by its side.  The whole show has been installed beautifully with curation by Shona Heath including Trompe L'Oiel wallpaper of Isabella's home interior which Shona visited to shoot.
This is a must-see for anyone with any inclining and appreciation for fashion and English eccentricity. It charts the whole of her life from the very beginning with family photos, thru to her notebooks and correspondence.  It's a neat summary of the exceptional creativity in recent history of UK fashion artistry as she personally collected pieces from each designer as they emerged into the limelight.

(Above, Lousie Gray & Piers Atkinson and Mary J Blige with Felicity Hayward who has leant me this gorgeous pic!)

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