Isabella Blow - Fashion Galore!
Somerset House London November 2013 - March 2014
Isabella Blow enjoyed a celebrated career and partly became well known for her generosity and vision in launching the careers of others. The Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martin's College have joined forces with Somerset House to celebrate this amazing retrospective.
Isabella is known as a legendary stylist and Patron of fashion and art. The work of many designers that she helped to launch features in the exhibit.
In an echo of Isabella's ability to draw people together, her family and the Foundation established by Daphne Guinness have come together to put on this landmark exhibition. Daphne bought the vast collection that Isabella gathered during her career as a stylist to be curated and preserved for the future. The foundation raises money to support young fashion students and promotes the study and research of Mental Health issues.
To save this collection intact for posterity is a great gift to the world and we and many future generations of fashion students and the public at large owe Daphne a debt of thanks.
Image to the right (C) Angela Cliffe. All below images with kind permission of Somerset House and the Isabella Blow Foundation (C)
Alongside the graduate McQueen collection was a video of the other collections that showed on the same day at Central Saint Martin's. By an extraordinary coincidence as my friend and I watched it we stood alongside one of the other designers featured in the film who had come to visit the collection with her girlfriends. It was a great stroke of luck to meet one of Alexander McQueen's contemporaries.
Isabella was known for championing young designers with their own unique outlook on fashion. The result was that she assembled collection of unique depth and scope and in particular the collection contains a lot of early work from designers who went on to achieve great things such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Julien Macdonald and Philip Traecy.
The extraordinary pink dress to the right is one of the most striking outfits in the collection. Twinned with ruby-red shoes it sets off the dress with a contrasting edge.
Above is one of the many, many rooms on the exhibition. There is a lot of detail in the outfits in both the fabrics and the design. There's much to see and study. You also get the full sence of interraction and synergie between Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy and other designers in the displays that have been put together. Non of this would have been possible without Isabella's eye and instinctive forsight for which designer's works would compliment eachother well.
Beginning with a look at her childhood in Cheshire and her awareness of the historical past from her roots; the Exhibition moves on look at her beginnings in fashion with her early years in New York as Anna Wintour's Assistant at American Vogue.
The graduate collection of Alexander Lee McQueen which she famously bought in it's entirety is displayed and as I looked at it with a friend we both saw pieces that we would wear now. It's touching to see how durable his style is. We often use the word "timeless" in fashion but even his very early works are.
The gallery of hats above held my attention for a very long time. Many of the works are by Philip Treacy and they are all objects of wonder in their own right. This is a part of the exhibition that you need to allow plenty of time for. I felt that alongside the dresses and suits, the more time I looked at the hats, the more detail I saw and the more I wanted to see.
There is a huge depth and variety in the collection and the picture above right showing the silver sheet-layered dress amongst the others in that room. I love the black silk embroidered dress behind it looking like a variation of the traditional Japanese Kimono. Together with a carnival mask it's a beautiful couture piece.
Isabella also launched the careers of a number of models who became Household Names including Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl. Her celebrated shoot that she worked on with photographer Stephen Meisel's "Anglo-Saxon Attitudes" included Isabella's cousin Honor Fraser and Plum Sykes as well as Stella. For Stella it was launch pad that sent her straight to the top of the fashion world. She was signed shortly afterwards by Karl Lagerfeld as the face of Chanel. Plum and Honor both modelled for a while very successfully and then their careers took them to America and very successful careers in the Arts industry.
I would say if you can visit this exhibition you could easily spend 90 minutes or longer walking the rooms studying all the looks that shown. Many dozens of designs.
And lastly to finish here is a picture of Isabella herself with her radiant smile remembered by many people. You can see the light radiating out of her. It was exactly this infectious enthusiasm of the talent she discovered that helped launched the careers of the designers and models she discovered. Isabella's energy and sharp eye played a hugely significant role in late 20th and early 21st century fashion. She will be remembered always by those who knew her and I have the feeling she will remain in style annals to be studied as part of fashion history for a very long time.
The model to the left is a submerged high fashion mermaid. In a beautiful black corseted dress she sits in her undersea kingdom. The hat on her head is beautiful spirals reach out from the crown reminiscent of seaweed and her face is shaded with a masque of Aqua Marine Blue to show how she sees the world through the prism of moving liquids. Perched on her rock she is still with the waters moving around her.
In the centre the dress attended to by the curator is a fascinating design. Many individual sheets of Silver plate lie criss crossed over each other to create the centre design. It's a great work of art and construction and I love this picture showing the curator adjusting the pieces. To me it looks like piece worthy of a design museum as well as a fashion museum. Highly conceptualised I see it as a symbol of female strength.
The look to the right focuses on the beautiful headpiece and glasses celebrating Isabella's devotion to and patronage of fine accessories. One common feature of most of the head-wear that I've seen in the collection is that it has volume and the height radiates out often in the form of tendrils and feathers that give a delicacy to the impact. Shapes curl, float and move all in their own right. The hat in the centre look also has this form of construction. Very broadly taking an influence from the sea anemone.
In December Beulah and French Sole launched their Blue collaboration. The Blue Heart shoe takes the signature Blue Heart Beaulah design and pairs it with the stylish ballet flat that is found in many girls wardrobes. The Blue Heart design can be seen in the lining and across the toes.
The Blue Heart shoe is available in the French Sole stores on the New Kings Road and Brook Street in London. In the UK the shoes retail from £185.00 and 25% of profits will go to the Blue Heart campaign.
Jane Winkworth the founder of French Sole and Natasha and Lavinia from Beulah share a common ethical goal in stopping the exploitation of women and children working within the textile and shoe making industries world-wide. The Blue Heart itself represents the commitment to fighting Human trafficing.
Both brands celebrate style and beauty and have the same high production values and clientelle. It's a truly great cause and I hope many of these special pairs of shoes find a good home.
CHANEL are celebrating the arrival of spring with "A melody of colour".
A celestial harmony of tones guides us into the brighter, longer days. I personally love the rush of Spring energy every year and the perfect streamlined morning beauty routine is a great way to start.
To the right are two Rouge Coco lip shades in bluish pink Dedicace and Triomphe in a Peachy pink. Furthest to the right is the candy red Sonate in the Levres Scintillantes collection. Sending a clear bright signal like the chime of a bell this colour and the further notes of the series come in the pinks of Murmure and Plaisir.
(C) Beulah Blue Heart ballet shoe with kind permission of French Sole and Beulah.
(C) All images with kind permission of CHANEL
Rouge Allure joins the concert of colour with three shades the powerful La Diva, the bright pink Fougueuse and the velvety rich L'adoree. The key to the enjoyment of these lip colours is two fold. The colours bring that spring time youthfull energy and life to the skin and the texture and moisture of the lipcolours themselves envelop the lips in their beautiful textures.
The heart of the collection this season is a bright youthful red of spring. This is the centre of the colour wheel and from there the other colours radiate out in pinks and lilacs. I love the analogy with music and tones rising and falling on the musical scale. I think there's a quality about poetry of beauty in art or a well composed and made up face that has the same resonance as hearing a well prepared musical score.
There's definitly the joy of spring in this collection and the light harmony will give you that extra happy feeling.
The two palettes below are a duo called Rose Majeur and the quartet Quadrille. Both are clever shadow sets that can also be used as enhancer broadly around the eyes, for lids, sockets and the upper corner of the check bones for the lighter shades.
Both the above palletes set the warm apricot notes in contrast to the smoky, dusky velvet and apricot shades. It's a well composed balance and colours like the two Illusion pots above can be used alone or in combination with others from the collection. Like with all well - orchestrated productions, everything fits together. There is a harmony here like the notes of the staff.
Key to setting off a make-up look is the nail coat and CHANEL this season have brought out two new colours and re-introduced one of their most popular and versatille, Ballerina. Ballerina is a colour that I've worn many times myself and find a versatile go-to for the French manicure. It's a very gentle fresh colour and perfect for Spring and Summer. Charivar is a colour I find fascinating. A smokey Lilac that gives a dramtic emphasis like a crescendo from the orchestra. Tapage is firey and rings to the theme of the vibrant red of spring bursting into life.
This Duo of CHANEL blushes is pretty special. If you havn't bought from CHANEL in a little while I strongly recommend that you go to look at them or order a blusher online becuase in recent season;s they've introduced Rose into the blusher as a fragrance but also perhaps in the form of Rose oil. I'm not expecting CHANEL to divulge their formula secrets but Rose is an ancient form of skin care beauty product dating back to Mesopotamia. These blush powder compacts in the pink Chamade and Intonation are both very light and creamy on the skin. These are both at the forefront of the blushes on the market as I've personally found they don't dry on the skin, even when you're under lights for a long day/evening or at an event on a hot summers day. As with the rest of the collection, they're very good investment pieces.
CHANEL's new skin care offereing is a very clever technological step forward. Using technology working with the skin. Using natural plant extracts and proteins manufactured by the plant it works actively with your skin to re-build tissues and fibres on a dialy basis. I recommend you try it.
To close this look at the new season's offereing here is the pressed powder Preface. It's beautiful and light and gives a warm glow to the skin without feeling cakey in the slightest. To delicate powder we all need to have around.