‘Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow’ – Detmar Blow & Tom Sykes (2010)
Image from Amazon.co.uk
Isabella Blow was a legendary figure in the fashion world. She was a writer, style icon, muse and had an amazing eye for spotting up and coming talent. She is credited for nurturing the likes of Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen and thrusting them into the fashion limelight. Her career in fashion spanned thirty years and she worked for American Vogue, Tatler and The Sunday Times Magazine.
But Isabella’s life was one of extreme tragedy and drama. Whilst she was a powerful force of creativity and eccentricity in the fashion world, her own personal happiness and the deep depression that plagued her ultimately lead to her tragic suicide in 2007, aged 48.
Isabella with hat designer Phillip Treacy
(Image from Oh! Ms. Blow)
‘Blow by Blow’ is an account of Isabella’s life through the eyes of her widow, Detmar and co-written by their friend Tom Sykes. Detmar and Isabella met in 1988, and were married sixteen days later, and despite some very turbulent times, remained married until her death. His point of view gives the book a very personal view of her life on a personal level, as well as documenting her career.
The book has received very mixed reviews, some finding the tone of the book self indulgent and accusing Detmar of basking in the limelight left by Isabella’s legacy. However, I did not find this to be the case. In my opinion, the book is a very honest and poignant account of a life that was amazingly glamorous, but equally terribly tragic. There is a lot of mention of wealthy people and famous people in the fashion world, but how could there not be? Those were the circles that Isabella and Detmar have moved in their whole lives.
I found that the book kept my interest all the way through as it gave an interesting background to Isabella’s family history (which had a deep impression on who she became as an adult) which was an insight I had not really known about before, as well as plotting her career. Detmar and Sykes are careful to not just include the highs of Isabella’s career, but also her lows. It documents her fiery relationship with Alexander McQueen (who himself had problems with depression and took his own life in 2010), and is very open about the issues their friendship had.
Isabella and Alexander (Lee) McQueen, photograph by David LaChapelle for Vogue UK
(Image source - Signature9)
This book is mostly for the fashion lovers out there, and I am not sure that it would be to everyone’s taste. However, the complicated and interesting life lead by Isabella makes for a great read if you are a fan of biographies.
Overall, I felt that the book managed to do justice to the genius of Isabella, whilst not being afraid of revealing her faults. She is not painted as an angel by any means, but the legacy she has left in the fashion world means that she will never be forgotten.