Isabella Blow @ Somerset House

Hubbie is singing non-stop and giving me a headache. I don’t want to hurt his feeling so keep my mouth shut. But he is so out of tune. Please HELP!

Belatedly, I visited a highly acclaimed exhibition dedicated to late Isabella Blow at Somerset House on Strand last Wednesday.
I meant to see it sooner but the trip to Japan and the colds I had after that held me back. Since the show would close this weekend, I thought I couldn’t delay any longer, so booked a ticket and off I went.

No more ice rink until next winter. The square looked bare but also it was a definite sign of the approaching spring and it made me happy…


Photographing was prohibited so there was no image of the inside of the exhibition “Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!”…


The first space was filled with old family photographs and newspaper clippings, depicting her early life and a complicated relationship with her aristocratic parents. I did know about her career in fashion but not so much about her private background. Therefore, listening to her, recounting how she was brought up in the shadow of her parents’ manor while longing for the luxury and opulence her pre-war ancestors must have enjoyed, was interesting and poignant. One of the exhibit was her interview film and in the centre of the frame was her family’s history book. From ime to time, her pale hand with a colossal bracelet on its wrist appeared and pointed at certain parts of the photographs, describing how the remnants of the bygone time haunted her and her family. It was the first time I heard about her less than ideal upbringing in her own voice and it endeared her to me. I felt sorry for her.

The rest of the exhibition was simply divine. I feasted my eyes on one-of-a-kind creations by Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen. The craftsmanship which involved to create them was awe-inspiring and I just couldn’t help ogling every detail from all angles. Materials, applications and executions, everything was exquisite. I understood why Isabella Blow was so taken by it. No offence to Mr.Valentino’s retrospective exhibition at the same venue last year but I was moved by this show more. The world Isabella helped to create with talented British designers was hauntingly beautiful and definitely one-of-a-kind. And I was very grateful to the people, explicitly to Daphne Guinness, who made this exhibition possible. She not only rescued Isabella’s entire collection from being auctioned off and lost forever but also shared it with us, showing the particular luxury and opulence the late Isabella aspired and practiced throughout her life…


By the way, did you know that I met Isabella Blow in the fresh once? My brief encounter with “The Hat” – apparently the late Princess Margaret nicknamed her as such – was at the Design Museum on Shad Thames. The museum was hosting “When Philip Met Isabella”, a show featuring Mr.Treacy and his famous mentor. As I was at their riverfront cafe and happened to look up from my cup of latte, there she was, Mrs.Blow was standing by the till with an elaborate but not so stupendous headgear, waiting for espresso. I remembered how awkward she looked. While the rest of us clad in jeans and sneakers, she was donning a hat, a pencil skirt and court shoes like a lady out of the thirties’ silver screen.
Without her and her beloved Mr.McQueen, the world had definitely become less beautiful and more mundane and I moaned their absence very very much…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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