New York

Isabella Blow, 1958–2007


If it can be argued that there are, sartorially speaking, only two types of women in the world, those who wish to blend in and those who dress to astonish, Isabella Blow, who died yesterday at 48, was triumphantly in the latter category. Blow had worked as a stylist and an editor, but her true talent was as muse, impresario, wild enthusiast and advocate for avant guard fashion designers. She bought Alexander McQueen’s entire first collection when he was fresh out school of and was an early proponent of John Galliano, a designer so adventurous he once made a ball gown with a train of tin cans and other detritus for his notorious clochard (French for vagrant) collection.

In a time of increasing conformity, the presence of a rare magpie like Blow—who did look positively bird-like in the couture Philip Treacey hats she favored—is a considerable gift. It is a sad irony that she passed away on the same day as the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s so-called “party of the year”—this season honoring the work of designer Paul Poiret.

Poiret, who did his best work before World War I, would have adored Blow. He thought nothing of wrapping women in velvet kimonos or lush brocade hobble skirts or mountainous ermine-trimmed evening cloaks. Like Blow, he certainly wasn’t a less-is-more guy.

How many of the celebrities at last night’s gala, parading up the museum’s steps in gowns chosen for them by their stylists, have any real appreciation for someone like Blow; a woman who dressed for herself, the crazier her ensembles the better?

Let us remember her by dressing as fearlessly as we dare, ignoring the slings and arrows of lesser mortals, who, content in their tees and jeans, will never know the pleasures of becoming your own work of art.

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