Born Isabella Delves Broughton on 19th November 1958, into a wealthy family. Her father was a military officer, her mother a barrister. Blow’s early life was filled with privilege and pain. Her younger brother drowned aged 2, her mother left aged 14 (with a hand shake) and she never enjoyed a close relationship with her father (when he died in 1994, he disinherited Isabella). Her interest in fashion came courtesy of her sole happy memory of her childhood; trying on her mother’s hat.
In 1979, she moved to US and married her first husband Nicholas Taylor. Her career in fashion magazine began in 1981 when she started working as Anna Wintour’s assistant (then Fashion Director of Vogue). She also associated with artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Blow returned to London working for Tatler Magazine and marrying her second husband Detmar Hamilton Blow. Her relationship with milliner Philip Treacy began when he created her wedding hat, after which became part of her signature eccentric style.
It was Blow who was credited with discovering Alexander McQueen, Stella Tennent, Sophie Dahl. Away from her duties for Tatler magazine, Blow consulted for Swarovski and Lacoste.
Tragically, Blow was struggling to fit into the often superficial world of fashion. Depression began to bury Blow, she was hurt when Alexander McQueen sold his label to Gucci (which she was instrumental in orchestrating) all she got was a free dress. Her downward spiral continued with a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, a brief separation from her husband, failed IVF treatment. If that was not enough to chip away at anyone’s resilience; a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer.
6th May 2007 after several failed suicide attempts, Blow swallowed a bottle of Paraquat. She died the following day, aged just 48.
Blow’s clothes were auctioned by Christies in 2010, bought mostly by Daphne Guinness. In her honour, the Isabella Blow Foundation was set up. Their main aim is to promote new and aspiring designers, exhibiting Isabella Blows clothes and assisting those with mental health problems.
Blow’s tragic death proves that no amount of money, prestige and fashion connections mean nothing against the toll of mental illness. One of the saddest quotes from Blow I feel offers a deeper perspective on her motivation; ” If you are beautiful you do not need clothes, if you are ugly like me you are like a house with no foundation. You need something to build you up”. Possible that is why she chose to wear more eccentric elaborate outfits, in her mind she was compensating for what she felt was her last of looks. Ironically, she will be remembered as an icon not the ordinary ‘beautiful people’. Maybe in time Isabella Blow will be remembered as a woman who took the sadness of her life and managed to find beauty where others could not see.