Isabella Blow was one of the most brilliant, creative and fascinating people in fashion. Last night I got to talk with two people who were close enough with her to write a book about her life. Anthropologie hosted the launch party for Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow (which, in turn, is the launchpad for the Fashionista Book Club!).
Anthropologie co-prez Wendy Wurtzberger felt the company and Blow's story were a great fit,. She took me through the amazing in-store gallery exhibition featuring iconic images and artifacts from Isabella’s life. Fun fact about one particularly interesting photograph of Issie and Detmar Blow, her husband and co-author of the book, in a field next to a castle: There is a mysterious bunch of flowers hanging at the top of the frame--those flowers are being held by Alexander McQueen.
Next, we spoke to Detmar, who was wearing a suit that had “The Modern Art” printed all over it in pink letters so tiny they almost looked like pinstripes. “Alexander McQueen picked out the fabric,” he told me, “He said the one I had originally chosen was too pink.”
Onto discussing the book. I admitted that I had not yet read it, but told him Lauren had read the whole thing in one evening. “That’s how we wrote it,” he explained, “It was written fast, like her life.” Detmar rushed to show me an old black and white photograph of he and Isabella sitting next to each other at a table. It was taken the night they met, at a wedding. “I told her, ‘I love your hat.’”
Tom Sykes, who co-authored the book with Detmar, is a true character and full of stories, including a few that did not make it into the book! He told me one of the best parts about working on the book was learning new things about Isabella, who is only referred to as Issie, from her strange childhood to her striptease performances in college.
The first story he told was of a trip Issie and Detmar took to Ireland. It involved a series of detours, including Issie refusing to leave a beauty parlor and desperately needing a steak despite being late. Detmar, wrought with frustration, started yelling at her and calling her “a total fuck artist” repeatedly. She later jumped on top of their car amidst of a crowd of people and begun dancing, screaming to him, “Is this a fuck artist?!”
“She just didn’t give a shit,” Tom explained. He told me it was that attitude that would go on to cause problems for her in the fashion industry, because she “didn’t know how to play the game,” or perhaps didn’t want to. Tom explained that she was always doing big things without going through the motions and playing the games that people felt she was supposed to. “In a way, that was the end of Issie at British Vogue,” he said of her snagging famed fashion photographer Steven Meisel for a British Vogue shoot soon after being hired. He feels that she was too brilliant and “too nice for a horrendously bitchy business,” and that if she had ultimately been more successful in the industry, she may have been happier and better able to deal with issues later in life, like not being able to have children.
It was clear that Isabella had, and still has, a massive following of people who feel very passionately about her. All I can say is that it was an honor to be in their presence and I can’t wait to read this book. The only disappointing part of the evening was that no one would spill any beans about the upcoming Isabella Blow biopic, which is based on another book about Isabella called Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion. It's being released here in the US on Nov. 9. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Blow by Blow is available in select Anthropologie stores today, and if you’re in New York, we highly suggest picking it up at the Rock Center location--we are told they have signed copies and the awesome gallery of images and artifacts will be up until November 29!