Until 2 March 2014
What’s really great about Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! – the exhibition of one woman’s extraordinary wardrobe that opens at Somerset House this week – is that Issie herself feels very present. Her voice echoes around this broad show in audio tapes of interviews where she discusses her passion for extreme clothes and thrilling designers, and in video snippets that caught her post-show discussing her newest discovery – of which, of course, there were many.
The word eccentric is bound to be bandied around a lot as this exhibition gets underway but what the show really demonstrates so very clearly is that Blow was far more than just a fashion plate (although she did that with great verve). She nurtured some of fashion’s biggest names whether it was dragging Hussein Chalayan off to Browns on South Molton Street with his graduate collection (which was snapped up instantly by Joan Burstein) or her much more publicised relationships with Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen. Although this show is about Isabella Blow, it’s really overwhelmingly focussed on the triptych of Blow, McQueen and Treacy.
While the early part of the show is dedicated to the graduating shows of Treacy and McQueen (the latter’s was bought in its entirety by Blow and she had to pay in weekly installments of £100), the rooms upstairs where entire outfits are displayed as they were worn (nearly every single one with extreme sculpted headpieces, hat or Swarovski crystal studded masks) are the most compelling and where Blow’s taste for avant-garde fashion is most clear. It’s a bitter sweet show – because there’s no doubt Blow would have loved to have been lauded so publicly but it’s also a fitting tribute to one of fashion’s truly great creatives. There’s a shop at the end of the show which is worth a visit – if only to place your order for one of the Alexander’s Issie floribunda roses on sale here. The rose which has beautiful deep coral pink petals, was specially commissioned by Alexander McQueen shortly before his own death, and there are only 100 plants available to order.