Two competing biographies of Isabella Blow, widely regarded as one of the most brilliant and creative forces in fashion, hit shelves this week. There's Blow by Blow, Detmar Blow's biography of his late wife coauthored by Tom Sykes, and there's Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion by veteran fashion writer Lauren Goldstein Crowe. Crowe's is being optioned for a movie. Detmar's bio is the required reading for our first Fashionista book club (virtual) meeting.
There's a lot of bad blood between the two books. At the New York launch party for Blow by Blow, Detmar told WWD that he had "no interest" in Crowe's book. Following the London launch party for Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion, Crowe wrote to tell Racked.com: "Personally I thought it more interesting that Detmar's sister and cousin were there as were both Isabella's sisters and her step-mother and a variety of cousins. Also Philip Treacy and Lucy Ferry who didn't attend Detmar's launch. But hey, that's the world we live in."
And now Tom Sykes, coauthor of Blow by Blow (and brother of Plum and Lucy) is fighting back. He sent us a long, angry email to comment on what he called the "outrageous slur that has been made today on our book by Ms Crowe on the fashion blog racked.com."
Here it is in full (we've bolded the best bits):
'Hey, that's the world we live in'? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Lauren Golsdstein Crowe's outrageous insinuation seems to be that somehow her book is the 'approved version' because Issie's sisters came to her book launch. This cannot go unchallenged. Lavinia, Isabella's beloved youngest sister, came to the launch of our book in London, and was an honored guest at the dinner afterwards at Annabels. Freddie, Lavinia's son and one of Issie's cousins, was also at our launch in New York. And, for God's sake, DETMAR WAS ISSIE'S HUSBAND FOR ALMOST TWENTY YEARS!!!!
Isabella loathed her step mother and frequently referred to her (in her own inimitable style) as "a creature my father met on a bus in Hong Kong" so I would not take her presence at a book's launch party to be a particularly powerful endorsement of its integrity. I bumped into Lauren Goldstein Crowe at a party a few months go and she told me she was so sick of working on Isabella's story that she was giving up writing to become a 'consultant'! I have to say, judging from the only excerpt I have read, she'd be well advised to do so. It was an excerpt on Business of Fashion, about whether or not 'fashion killed' Issie and it was so childish I struggled to get past the opening paragraphs in which Ms Crowe went on about how she was the daughter of a psychologist. Does she seriously believes her parent's job gives her some unique insight into other people's minds?
Anna Wintour came to our launch in London, and has supported our book by mentioning it in the editor's letter in this month's issue of Vogue.
I wouldn't be saying all this if Crowe had not launched this snide and underhand attack on Detmar, but now, I'm breaking my silence. Detmar, as the racked.com review correctly notes, is a bereaved husband, and to attack him like this is disgusting of Ms Crowe. He is putting on a brave face, and although he is very upset by personal attacks on him, he has made it clear to me that he wants to maintain a dignified silence. However, I'm a journalist, and if people attack the book by attacking Detmar in this disgusting, personal fashion, I WILL fight back on his behalf. I'm not saying people shouldn't feel free to pass judgement on the book - of course not, any writer welcomes reviews - but I am saying that personal attacks on my friend Detmar are unacceptable.
Them's are fightin' words. Et tu Ms. Crowe?