“If you don’t wear lipstick, I can’t talk to you.”
So said Isabella Blow, whose lips always boasted some violent shade of red.
Isabella Delves Broughton, born in 1958, grew up in Cheshire with her parents, two sisters and a half-brother who drowned in the family pool
at a young age. The tragedy was at least partially responsible for her parents’ divorce, which was finalized when Isabella was 14.
“Visionary, conspiratorial, bawdy, inspirational; you couldn’t have invented Issy.” –Hamish
Isabella was sent away to school in Surrey, where she remained until she was 18. In 1979, she moved to New York to study ancient
Chinese art at Columbia University. In New York, she met and became friends with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Michael Basquiat. After a brief stint in Texas, she moved back to New York and became the assistant of Anna Wintour, who
was then the creative director of Vogue.
“Isabella was an otherworldly creature of mythical proportions.” –Ebe Oke
In 1986, Isabella moved back to London to work for Tatler magazine. In London, she discovered Philip Treacy, a student at the Royal
College of Art. Treacy and Isabella became fast friends, and remained so until her death. Isabella was rarely seen without a hat of his design on her head.
“She was unstoppably extravagant; even her jokes were expensive.” –Liza Campbell
Three years after discovering Treacy, Isabella attended the Central Saint Martins graduate show and was blow-n away by the work of student
Alexander McQueen. She bought his entire collection for 5,000 pounds and became his mentor and friend—even letting him set up studio in her basement for a time. Through Treacy and McQueen, she became a kind of voice for creative people without a voice.
“She was a true self-destructive big-hearted eccentric.” –Hussein Chalayan
Isabella left Tatler to work at The Sunday Times but returned in 2001 to be the publication’s fashion editor. There, she gained a reputation
for pushing boundaries. She is responsible for some of fashion’s most subversive and innovative editorial spreads of all time. In one 2004 photo
shoot, she was photographed topless for an editorial entitled “See nipples and die”.
“For me Isabella was what fashion was all about and you can’t be humourless with a lobster on your head.” –Boy George
Isabella suffered from depression and attempted suicide several times before she was successful in 2007. Isabella died in the hospital on
May 7 after drinking weed killer. Glamorous to the end, Issy wore a silver lamé dress at the time of her death.
Perhaps I should explain why I am so moved by Isabella Blow. She was always memorable, glamorously mercurial, and had the kind of vision that most editors would give their best Louboutins for. She suffered from a crippling depression (literally, for a time, as one suicide attempt resulted in the shattering of both of her ankles) that made her feel less than human, yet she became a mentor to many and a legend to all. Although Isabella’s life ended tragically, I still think of her as a beacon of hope, a model of resilience, and an immortal chimerical creature.
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