Philip Treacy Talks Alexander McQueen, Isabella Blow and the Unrelenting Pressure to Be 'New'

In a somber interview, Treacy reflects on the pressures of the industry that drove Blow and another of his close contemporaries, Alexander McQueen, to depression and eventual suicide.
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Alyssa Vingan Klein
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In a somber interview, Treacy reflects on the pressures of the industry that drove Blow and another of his close contemporaries, Alexander McQueen, to depression and eventual suicide.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Famous fashion editor (and fashion eccentric) Isabella Blow is being honored with an exhibition at London's Somerset House later this month called "Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!" To promote the exhibit, the Telegraph sat down with milliner Philip Treacy, a close friend of Blow's, whose hats -- 60 of them, to be exact -- will sit on display. In a somber interview, Treacy reflects on the pressures of the industry that drove Blow and another of his close contemporaries, Alexander McQueen, to depression and eventual suicide.

After revealing that his own designs are often criticized online with nasty comments from hypercritical consumers, Treacy says that a similar pressure haunted his muse Blow. Treacy's creations are often attacked for being too "out there." Blow seemed to have the same problem, and while she's now praised for her brilliance, she was often mocked when she was alive. Treacy told the paper:

She thought she no longer mattered. For all her flamboyance and humour and warmth, Isabella actually suffered from low self-esteem... She also had this thing about getting old. She hated it. Before she died, she told me that she felt as if she had been somehow left behind in the fashion world. It wasn’t true. But she was never feted while she was alive. She gave so much and worked so hard. She supported the careers of many young people who didn’t stand a chance without her, yet she never won a single award.

Treacy reveals that similar demons haunted his friend Alexander McQueen, who faced unrelenting pressure to outdo himself and to create comething completely "new" season after season. “Alexander was under a lot of pressure," Treacy explained. "He was doing four main collections a year and then all these other diffusion lines, and people had very high expectations of him. That’s pretty tough.”

In a digital age in which everyone with an Internet connection is a critic and cyberbullying reaches even top talents like Philip Treacy, he was right when he says that the fashion world is changing -- and for those sensitive to public criticism, perhaps not for the better. You can read the full interview right here.