Sunday 27 June 2010

Alexander McQueen ‘laughing with Isabella Blow in heaven’

Alexander McQueen’s friends are taking comfort

from the thought that the acclaimed fashion designer

has been reunited with his mentor Isabella Blow.

Ms. Blow, the eccentric British stylist who was known for wearing daring hats, is credited with discovering Mr McQueen.  The style guru was known for her love of eccentric headgear and red lipstick.

McQueen’s graduate collection caught the attention of Issy, the late, legendary, fashion guru who purchased his entire graduation collection and helped him make industry connections.

Ms Blow had said:

‘My relationship with McQueen began in 1994, when I went to a Saint Martins graduate show.

I couldn’t get a seat, so I sat on the stairs and I was just watching, when I suddenly thought:

I really like those clothes, they are amazing. It was his first collection.

‘It was the tailoring and the movement which initially drew me to them.

I tried to get hold of him and I kept calling his mother, but he was on holiday.
She kept saying: ‘He’s not here, he’s not here.’ She told him: ‘This crazy person is trying to get hold of you.’

I eventually got to meet him and I decided to buy the entire collection for ₤5000: I bought one thing a month and paid him £100 a week. He’d bring an outfit in a bin liner, I’d look at it and then he’d come to the cashpoint with me.’

Isabella Blow, who took her own life after a long bout with depression, a constant use of fake urine products in order to assist work, was the inspiration
behind the collection that Alexander McQueen unveiled at the Omnisport Bercy in Paris, 2008.

Blow’s suicide in 2007 “just left a big void in my life,” McQueen told W magazine.

In Isabella’s memory, he dedicated his Spring Summer 2008 show to his late friend.

The Issy tribute show, had angel wings as a backdrop and a poster-size invitation, illustrated by Richard Gray, that arrived in a giant cardboard cylinder. It depicted a triumphant Blow, in a McQueen dress and a Philip Treacy headdress, riding to the heavens in a chariot pulled by winged horses.

Avian Influences

Alexander McQueen Spring 2008.

On entering the white-on-white space the mood had an affectionate nostalgia for Issy Blow,
whose favourite Robert Paguet scent, Fracas had been sprayed liberally around the room,
and pink boxes containing fragrance were on the seats:

all denoted that this would be a fitting tribute ~ love was in the air.

As her two most successful discoveries and close friends,

Philip Treacy and McQueen collaborated on the show in tribute to Issy.

Entitled La Dame Bleue it featured typically ambitious head pieces from Treacy

- from his signature butterfly swarms to metal visors and incredible spiral sweeps of chain mail.

Any one could have been chosen by her for any of her public appearances – or indeed, any of her trips to the office. For Issy, no day was a dress-down day and her nipple-revealing corsets, boxer short moments and eye-catching, eye-covering hats were legendary in Vogue House at any time from Monday morning to Friday night.

To honor Isabella Blow, her collection of Phillip Treacy hats must be acknowledged. McQueen’s models wore headgear that ranged from simple feathered creations to a full fencer’s mask. A rainbow colored dress with its winged feather collar both paid homage to Blow and made allusion to a phoenix rising.

The theme of birds—particularly symbolic of Blow—held the show together.
From bird-of-paradise silhouettes to wing-like capes and feathered details,
the show was an ode to delicate creatures of the sky.

The gallery shows the bird-of-paradise inspirations in head adornments, colourful capes that resemble an extended set of wings, a stunning dress in what appears to resemble the feather patterns of an owl and a grey dress so pale, it evokes images of the soft plummage of a swan.

A huge set of mechanical wings flashed red above the catwalk as we heard Pegasus

snorting and taking off, and when the show began models took to the catwalk,

emerging from the eagle sculpture.

Models came out of the pulsating wing-shaped light sculpture wearing hats of all types: metallic structures, swarms of butterflies, pink patent leather fencing masks and feather headdresses were all represented.

At the end of the show, models took their final runway turn to the tune of a romantic Neil Diamond song, and many of the guests wiped away tears.

Hats off to Isabella: Style icon’s funeral brimmed with emotion

Arriving a fashionable 15 minutes late for her funeral at Gloucester Cathedral,

her woven willow coffin was draped with lilies and white roses.

It had been preceded by a stream of gazelle-like models and six black horses that drew her glass hearse.

Even at her funeral, Isabella Blow managed to have the most spectacular hat in the room.

Though many wore extravagant creations in tribute, none could top the

Philip Treacy black sailing ship bonnet adorning the coffin.

On top of her coffin were white roses surmounted by the black “ship” hat,

worn at various times by both Blow and the singer, Grace Jones.

She wore a long red silk coat embroidered with gold and with a tassled hem, with matching gold platform shoes, specially made for her by the designer she discovered and championed, Alexander McQueen. On her head was her favourite “pheasant” hat by the milliner, Philip Treacy, another of the designers she launched into the global spotlight. ”I’m having space made in my coffin for a pheasant hat,” the Issy once said.

“I love the idea of the feathers dying with me slowly.”

The coffin was borne away in a Victorian glass hearse drawn by three matching pairs of bay horses.

Their ostrich-plumed headdresses had been specially embellished by Treacy to be even more luxuriant.

The service opened with the hymn O Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem, composed by John Blow, a descendant of Blow’s husband. Blow was said to regularly attend the cathedral “always in different hats” with her husband Detmar, whom she married there in 1989. Detmar attended yesterday’s service in the same black suit that he wore at their marriage.

The funeral was conducted with the style, extravagance and flamboyance that marked her life.

Issy would have loved it!

Isabella Blow’s  husband, Detmar Blow,

recalls the deep bond that united the designer and his muse.

I first met Alexander when Isabella invited him to live with us at 67 Elizabeth Street in Belgravia. We were on the top floor, [the milliner] Philip Treacy on the first, and Alexander was on the ground. Issie was working at British Vogue at the time and had come across Alexander at his graduate fashion show in 1992.

There was an expectant atmosphere, and no seats were left,

so she ended up sitting on the stairs watching the clothes go past.

She returned home enraptured, his clothes were, she told me, unique -

he could cut material like a god and they moved like birds.

Issie was on the case.

Alexander would later tell me that his beloved mother had told him:

“There is this crazy woman who keeps ringing up about your clothes.”

They met and Issie asked how much a jacket was. He said £300.

She said: “That’s a lot for a student.”

Like Issie, Alexander had a sharp wit. They were from very different backgrounds but had much in common. They both had a creative vision that was innovative and thoughtful, too. They also shared a darkness. Both had unresolved issues from their childhoods, and they remained burdened by these weights.

Alexander moved to Hoxton Square the following year when it was still very scruffy and set up his studio. It was an instant success. He possessed the most extraordinary tailoring skills, but he also loved to shock, something that was apparent in his shows. Of course there was the frivolity of fashion, but he commented too on the darkness of life. His work had themes about rape, say, or death, or featured models with prosthetic limbs.

He was so close to his wonderful mother, Joyce, who was a genealogist. She had researched the McQueen family line and had discovered that they were grave-diggers in Inverness. This appealed to both Alexander and Issie hugely.

Alexander loved going to Hilles, my family’s house in Gloucestershire. He loved nature. “Detmar, it’s a jungle out there,” he would tell me, and would say how, even as a boy, he’d watch the birds hovering around the tower blocks in the East End. After his shows, he would come to Hilles for a break. We would do a lot of walking and talking. Issie organised two local falconers to come up to the house as she knew how much he loved birds.

In 1996 he was appointed head designer at Givenchy. The job came out of the blue. It vindicated Issie’s courage in championing him over those four years – she was, I feel, often ridiculed and mocked as a fringe eccentric.

Issie travelled to Paris with Alexander when he signed the three-year Givenchy contract. She returned home without a job from him. Alexander worked with [the stylist] Katy England, and that was that. Issie was so sad about this. She had an exciting vision for him at Givenchy – and a new Audrey Hepburn in her cousin, the model Honor Fraser.

After this were the years of building his brand, with all this money coming through. The relationship between him and Issie had changed, of course. Yet Issie remained faithful when it came to her signature silhouette:

a Philip Treacy hat, McQueen clothes, Manolo Blahnik shoes.

At Issie’s funeral in 2007, he sat directly behind me, which I felt was symbolic.

He was utterly devastated, distraught.

Issie was buried in McQueen, in a red-and-gold brocade dress.

McQueen, Philip and her sister Julia helped dress the body.

They both took life very seriously, and I think their vision of the world has now been vindicated.

Long live Alexander the Great and Queen Isabella.

Source: Detmar Blow wrote this article for the Telegraph newspaper.


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    3 Responses to “Alexander McQueen ‘laughing with Isabella Blow in heaven’”

    1. [...] 2008 collection, La Dame Bleue, which paid tribute to McQueen’s Pygmalion, muse and dear friend Isabella Blow several months after her tragic death. Butterflies, symbols of metamorphosis, recall one of mad [...]

    2. they will surely be missed. truly, the creative minds have contributed much to the evolution of the world.

    3. Shroudwoman says:

      Why so all the really great ones have to die so soon?


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