I'd been dispatched to a period property in Waterloo, my only instruction to look for the controversial pink door. On arrival, I was greeted by a woman wearing a black, intricately-embroidered kimono, with a full-bellied, snorting laugh and bright fuchsia lipstick.
Isabella Blow was an exotic vision of unconventional womanhood and the creative pinnacle of everything. I had studied and brushed up on every designer imaginable, ready for any question you could conceive, however – as with most things involving Isabella – this wasn't your typical job interview. Not a single fashion word was uttered. Instead, she grilled me on my childhood and experiences at English boarding schools. Hours later I found myself working for a modern-day tour-du-force, the Fashion Director of the Sunday Times Style.
Much has been written on Isabella, as she touched so many people in such deep and personal ways. She trained under Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley and Michael Roberts at Tatler. Even in her early days working as an assistant to Wintour at American Vogue, she was a lightning rod for talent. As a Fashion Editor, Isabella had the rare ability to draw together creative individuals from all disciplines: art, photography, architecture and fashion, and help them to feed off each other. In our conversations she would often refer to the Salons of the 17th and 18th centuries and how they brought different creative disciplines together. Personally, however, I always felt with Isabella’s energy, she was more like a creative particle accelerator: throwing different personalities together and watching the sparks fly!
In her quieter moments Isabella would often describe herself as a truffle-hunting pig, her job to sniff out talent hidden in the dark underground, and show it to the world. Isabella was a particularly good truffle hunter. She is credited with the discovery of not one but several of the world’s creative geniuses and modern beauties. From the late Alexander McQueen (she bought his graduate collection), to the milliner Philip Treacy, Julien McDonald, Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant. Her sad and far too early demise in 2007 created a void in the fashion world.
However she left behind the legacy of a vast, eclectic wardrobe of spectacular clothes and, luckily for us, they've been preserved in their entirety by her dear friend Daphne Guinness. A large selection from the Manolos on her feet to the Treacys on her head and all fashion of garments in between will be on display at Somerset House this autumn. During the three years we worked together, I was taught by Isabella to be fearless: 'Push yourself;' 'believe anything is possible.' Although she is no longer with us, she left an indelible impression on an industry that isn’t easily impressed. The exhibition Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! will be a fitting tribute to her legacy.
The exhibition and fashion retrospective Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! will run from 20 November 2013 to 2 March 2014 at the Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Tel: +44 (0)20 7845 4600.