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All eyes on... Isabella Blow

Isabella Blow was born on November 19th, 1958 in London, England.  Her family came from an aristocratic background and she was one of 4 children in the household. Sadly, her younger brother drowned at the age of 2 in the family’s pool, and in her early teens, upon her parents divorce, her mother left the family. These two holes in her family quilt were tremendous sources of pain for the young Isabella, further aggreviated by the inheretance of a mere £5,000 from her father’s estate. The daughters were sent to boarding school until at 18, she found a home in a  London squat house and began working in various odd jobs, in a bakery, as a cleaner…


…but destiny would have bigger plans for Isabella. After being accepted at Columbia University, Isabella moved from London to New York City in 1979 to study Ancient Chinese Art. She would only see one year of college, and after a brief stint working with Guy Laroche, the stars would align which would bring her into the acquaintance, and soon the assistance, of Vogue’s fashion director, Anna Wintour in 1981 (who called her Dizzy Issie quickly deposited her as the assistant to André Leon Talley.) She incited a kind of excitement at Vogue with her inspired costumes and antics, one of which was using Chanel perfume and Perrier to clean her desk. She also befriended the art stars of the New York scene, most notably Andy Warhol and Basquiat. The same year she would marry her first of two husbands in a union that would last 2 years.
“Isabella was this amazing bright light in a world of increasingly corporate culture.”
-Anna Wintour
“She was aristocratic, in the old bohemian sense of anything is possible, yet she could talk about fashion with complete rigor in terms of silhouette, shape and historical context. She was an academic with a punk rocker’s anarchic sense.”
-Geordie Grieg of Tatler Magazine

’”It was like magic everywhere- they were like muffins popping out of toasters. I said, ‘I really want to keep an eye on you this year, I really want to make sure that you’re well and you’re healthy.’ They were popping all over the place.”
-Isabella on Philip Treacy to The Observer
In 1992, Issy would provide the same housing and encouragement for a recent graduate at Central St. Martins: Alexander McQueen. She purchased his entire graduate collection for £5,000, moving him into her home on Elizabeth Street, and paying him in weekly installments of £100 each. The descriptions of their relationship are that of a mother and son in a sense, both full of worship and love, and also of expectation, frustration, and disappointment. McQueen’s star rose quickly, and while he designed for Givenchy and sold McQueen to Gucci in a deal brokered by Isabella, she expressed sadness over not being given a concrete position within the companies.

Still, Isabella established herself irreplacebly as a stylist, editor, and spotter of unknown talent. She appeared dramatically at fashion week, notoriously late and changing 6 or more times in a day. Her candid and poetic dictions of style and genuine appreciation of craft left an enormous impact on those around her as well as the world of fashion itself, which experienced a dull and dismal wane into minimalism in the 90′s. While externally, Isabella experienced a world of lavish pleasure, internally she struggled with a severe depression. 

She also agonized over a fear of not having the financial security she deserved and that would support the lifestyle she felt comfortable in. Isabella suffered from the pervasive depression which had followed her all her life. She and her husband tried to conceive a child, but it was to no avail. Affairs drove her and her husband apart for a time, though they did manage to come back together again. 

Unfortunately, Isabella found she had ovarian cancer not long thereafter. She was in and out of treatment for over a year trying to get her mental and physical health in shape. The Daily Mail stated in May of 2007 that “Those close to her said she was determined to go out in as extravagant a manner as she had lived.” After several attempted suicide attempts, Isabella did take her own life at the age of 48 by ingesting poison. Her legacy, however, lives on in those she left behind, those talents she fostered, and the thousands of unmistakable pieces of inspired art she left behind for the world to continue to adore. We can only imagine what her wings look like…


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