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Monday, 17 February 2014

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at Somerset House, London

“The apparel oft proclaims the man” (says Polonious in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) meaning the way a person dresses or the clothes that they wear can reveal a lot about the person. This must surely have been the case with the late Isabella Bow and her huge wardrobe of clothes on show at Somerset House. Her life is told through her collection of Philip Treacy hats and Alexander McQueen ensembles (amongst clothes by other designers). Photographs, editorials and artifacts also help to build up a picture of the eccentric English aristocrat, who championed the work of up and coming designers throughout her short life. The clothes, or should I say works of art, on display are spectacular, in particular those by Treacy and McQueen. Treacy's hats are conceptual, fantastical and beautifully fashioned. The details of dresses (by McQueen), shown 'in the round', not easily perceived in flat photographic format, are exquisite; feathers locked together, chainmail, all beautifully tailored so that they looked more like sculptures than articles of clothing. Haute Couture is an art form. The designer distills his/her concepts and ideas into 3D cladding for a human form.


For my degree show at The Slade I painted portraits of my friends and family, wearing their favourite clothes or the outfits that most defined them (to be found in ‘Retrospective’ on this site, works dated 1996).  Portraits from the past have always revealed something about their sitter’s identity, whether through clothes, background or objects displayed.  Isabella Blow’s collection revealed an otherworldly person, someone who revelled in the theatrical and dramatic, the colourful and surreal. Her world must certainly have been different to the majority of us and because of this I can only think that at times it was a rather lonely place.



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