How I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Blow and Guinness.

October 27, 2014 | Bill V.

Comments (3)

I bow before the fashion genius and daring that was stylist Isabella Blow. Her friend and fashionista Daphne Guinness used some of her own family fortune and influence to buy the entire clothing estate of the late Blow (who sadly died of suicide in 2007). 

Toronto you have a rare, free and very short window (until November 1st) to see some amazing modern couture fashion - never again to be seen in person or this close up. I spent Saturday afternoon gazing in wonder in "The Room" at the Bay's Queen Street location (3rd floor) which is showing 55 items from Isabella Blow's personal collection.

Ah "The Room"...... it is no longer the staid but expensive "St Regis Room" your grandmother might have frequented for that something special back in the 1960s courtesy of Margery Steele. It's now full of vintage Alexander McQueen and sliced leather.

Isabella Blow  a life in fashion

There are many iconic and couture dresses as well as some amazing accessories including shoes and hats. As well, Daphne Guinness has added some pieces from her own personal substantial collection.

Blow by Blow  the story of Isabella Blow written by her husband Detmar Blow 

Toronto has a smaller exhibit than the original show at Somerset House London but it still has many choice pieces (you can see the catalogue for the full show below). You may well know the pictures of the pink chiffon burka but to see it in person is something very different. They have intentionally been kept as they were during Blow's lifetime - so there are stains and rips which make them only that much more real in my mind. She had a small figure so I was especially struck by the rips in one lace sheath along the back zipper and edges (exactly where you would sit and where the pressure would be greatest). It's hard not to be touched by the well worn Manolo Blahnik pumps that have the broken heel.

Isabella Blow Fashion Galore! The original catalogue of the show from Somerset House London - published by Rizzoli Press
A beautifully photographed insider’s look at the highly influential personal style and wardrobe of Isabella Blow. She had a gift for spotting fashion genius—her discoveries included Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, and Sophie Dahl.  Isabella’s ...boundaries-pushing aesthetics, and her willingness to wear the outrageous made her into a fashion icon. This elaborate volume to accompany the fall 2013 exhibition—is an exhaustive survey of Isabella’s personal collection. With over 100 gorgeous full-color and black-and-white photographs.

The hats by Philip Treacy are quite spectacular. While many images of her in the hats are quite ubiquitous, the single eye patch with feather and Swarovski crystal and the variation of bird feathers as spears are really quite something else. For the serious milliner or lover of hats it's worth going just to see these.

Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies    Philip Treacy When Philip Met Isabella

The show at The Bay is part of wider fundraising initiative by The Isabella Blow Foundation & Daphne Guinness that will see a Canadian student sponsored at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (including fashion). Additional money raised will be going to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health / CAMH. 

Daphne Guinness