Fashion Galore, Blown Away.

Isabella Blow, 2002 by Diego Uchitel

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! What a spectacular fashion exhibition indeed. Curated by Alistair O’Neil and Shonagh Marshall, this Somerset House exhibition was a pure thrill to see. I visited on a late night Thursday on the week that it opened, a dark cold wintery London evening. Somerset House is breathtaking in this season, with the skate rink full of whizzing, wrapped up festive people and the Christmas tree that seems as big as a Cathedral; perfection. This exhibition used the same space which housed the Valentino exhibition, but this time the space was used so much better and felt like a much more slick and modern curation.

This huge exhibition celebrates the life and wardrobe of the infamous Isabella Blow whose work as a fashion Editor, Stylist, Consultant and Muse made her a prominent figure in the industry for over 20 years. A fascinating woman, born in 1958, who after a troubled upbringing whereby her parents separated, her Brother died and her Father didn’t like her, moved to New York City to study. Among many things, Blow shared an apartment with an actress, moved to Texas, worked for Guy Laroche, got married, met Anna Wintour and became her assistant. Pretty good going. She then became the assistant to Andre Leon Tally, chief Editor of US Vogue. Working for these people, the biggest names in fashion publishing, jobs that people would kill for, came naturally to Blow, hanging out in circles that included Andy Warhol, Blow was fast becoming a fashion icon. In 1986, she returned to London and worked for Michael Roberts, the then Fashion Editor of Tatler Magazine and The Sunday Times Magazine. Blow was a lucky lady in the career department, having jobs people can only dream of, and in her personal life, she was now divorced. In 1989 Blow went on to marry Art Dealer Detmar Blow. You would imagine her life to be wonderful, living a fashion dream, but she was a woman plagued by sadness and depression.

One of the things that Blow was most known and respected for was finding and nurturing British fashion talent. Most famously she discovered and nurtured Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson. She personally bought the entire first collection of McQueen by paying him in weekly installments. Philip Treacy’s hats became her signature style;

“That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me. They say, ‘Oh, can I kiss you?’ I say, ‘No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye.’ I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.”

In 2007 Blow committed suicide after drinking weed killer, it followed numerous attempts at taking her own life including jumping from Hammersmith Bridge and breaking both her ankles. At the time of her death, Blow was also suffering from ovarian cancer. She had told her husband that she couldn’t fight her depression any longer. A sad end to her life, a life that was vibrant, theatrical, bold and unapologetic. Blow’s story proves so vividly that no matter what success or wealth you find in life, mental illness can take precedence and make it all seem pointless. Her life is a very valid reminder of how big an illness depression can be. Blow left behind her a wonderful legacy, her eccentricity and her genius as an artist proves how important fashion is in enabling us to express ourselves and have fun.

Fashion Galore! showcases over 100 pieces from her collection including many from the designers she discovered and launched. An amazing amount of Treacy and McQueen, all displayed to perfection, with great lighting and a wink of humour, this exhibition is truly celebratory rather than sombre. I also loved how the clothes were not behind glass, instead of treating them like rare butterflies, they are in the open so you can really peep up close and breathe in the detail. A beautiful tribute to an extraordinary woman.


This exhibition runs at Somerset House until 2nd March 2014, in association with The Isabella Blow Foundation.

Blumenfeld Does It Beautifully

The last few sunny days of the season are upon us and my goodness it’s been a delight this year, I have looooved the summer! To make the most of the last days of summer I figured I needed to get down to London to finally take a peep at an exhibition that was nearly ending. So, off I headed under the sunny skies to have myself a day out! Somerset House is by far one of my most favourite venues for exhibitions, this small but perfectly formed exhibition of iconic fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld was in the east wing, the same place as the Tim Walker exhibition that I blogged about in January. It’s a great, simple, elegant and informal space, I always love visiting.

Erwin Blumenfeld, 1897-1969, a Berlin born Jew, moved himself to New York City in 1941 and fast became a prolific photographer of his time, formulating his own recognisable style of playing with colour, light and manipulating his images. Becoming part of the explosion of press in the USA at the time, Blumenfeld worked for many big magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Life, Look and Cosmopolitan. In 1950, he was the highest paid Photographer in the world. This cute and stunning exhibition focused on some of the archives that were found in his studio, he left hundreds and hundreds of old original transparencies. Deteriorated and faded from time, the images were digitally reconstructed for the exhibition and printed in colours believed to be the same as the originals. Amazing.

His work wasn’t something I was over familiar with before my visit, although on seeing his work you realise just how many iconic photographs from fashion history were down to him. I adored the exhibition, I especially loved seeing the old images close up and seeing women without airbrushing, a real refresher. Blumenfelds work was beautiful, I saw a humour and an abstract surreal element to them, they seem utterly timeless but yet startingly modern. A super, sunny afternoon at Somerset House. 


  1. Jean Patchett, circa 1954
  2. Grace Kelly for Cosmopolitan cover, 1955, dress by Oleg Cassini
  3. Exhibition view
  4. Variants of a photograph published in US Vogue, 1950, dress by Jaques Faith, model Evelyn Tripp
  5. Exhibition view
  6. Advertising photograph for Elizabeth Arden, undated, model Evelyn Tripp
  7. Variant of ‘Do Your Part For The Red Cross’ Vogue cover, 1945
  8. Published Red Cross Vogue cover, 1945
  9. Variant of Vogue cover, 1953, dress by Traina-Norell, model Nancy Berg
  10. Published Vogue cover, 1953

The exhibition has now ended but visit Somerset House for details of other exhibitions.


Fashion Fantasy

‘Really, I only photograph what I love’ ~Tim Walker

Tim Walker’s fashion photography is stunning. The sheer beauty of his work fascinates me endlessly. I got to Somerset House just in the nick of time to catch his Story Teller exhibition at the end of its run. And boy am I glad I did. Absolutely gorgeous. Known for his surreal, fantastical and fairy tale imagery, Walkers work leaves me drooling. He never fails to play with our concept of scale and imagination. Over sized props, doll like models, dreamlike surroundings, childish, fragile and softly eerie, the narrative in all his work is what makes it stand out from other fashion photography. His work has an echo of the photographer Cindy Sherman, whose work I also love. This exhibition was like escaping into a wonderland for a while, room after room, plain white with wooden floors, filled with magnificent props and the most perfect display of his work. A much better space than the Valentino exhibition which I visited elsewhere in Somerset House.There were also a few short films of photo shoots, the most adorable was the doll one, with a fuzzy dreamy haze and Jewellery box music soundtrack. When I try to choose my most favourite images of Walkers, I can’t, there are way too many, and he has photographed Miss Moss many times too which makes choosing even harder. Here are some images of his that I love the most, and some shots of the props that were at the show. Divine.

Tim Walker, Kate Moss, 2012

Tim Walker, Spitfire, 2009

Tim Walker, Swan, 2002

Tim Walker, Giant Doll, 2012

Sugar crystalized roses and cream, photographed by Tim Walker, 2010

Tim Walker, Giant Snail, 2009Tim Walker, Mechanical Doll, 2011

Tim Walker, Pastel Cats, 2000

tim Walker, The Dress Lamp Tree, 2002

Tim Walker SpitfireTim Walker Swan CarriageGiant Doll


  • Kate Moss by Tim Walker, 2012
  • Blue Spitfire by Tim Walker, 2009
  • Swan by Tim Walker, 2002
  • Giant Doll by Tim Walker, 2012
  • Sugar crystallized Roses by Tim Walker, 2010
  • Giant Snail by Tim Walker, 2009
  • Clockwork Doll by Tim Walker, 2011
  • Pastel Cats by Tim Walker, 2000
  • Dress Lamp Tree by Tim Walker, 2002
  • Spitfire prop at the exhibition
  • Swan chariot prop at the exhibition
  • Giant doll prop at the exhibition

Visit Somerset House for details of up and coming exhibitions.

My View of Valentino

London’s Somerset House in December; positively idyllic. Beautiful chilled crisp sunshine, perfect views, ice rink full of skaters, warm tea in my tummy and a fashion exhibition too. Oh my. I love an extravagant evening gown or two and with Valentino being known for amazing dresses, I got to the exhibition ‘Valentino- Master of Couture’ as soon as my little feet could carry me there. It had only been open a few days when I went so I was expecting long queues, as were the people at Somerset House it would seem. Roped off queuing lanes were laid out ready for the demand, but alas, those lanes were empty and the exhibition was surprisingly very quiet.

Is Valentino one of the most sumptuous, glamourous, fantastical and talented dress designers of modern times? Absolutely.

Is this slightly cramped, strange and small exhibition a bit of a let down? For me, unfortunately yes.

The exhibition has been curated by Alistair O’Neill for Somerset House with Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda and is split into 3 main sections. Firstly we have ‘Valentino’ where we see personal photos of the designer himself and unseen intimate letters from the many women he dressed. The way this was styled was great, glass boxes atop of raised chairs mounted on the walls, a catwalk theme from the offset. This section was done really nicely, great unseen and unknown information, I love to get a basic insight into the subject of an exhibition.

The next and main part of the exhibition was ‘The Catwalk’. The concept of this is great, we, the viewer walk down the catwalk and the mannequins are the audience, seated and standing among chairs. To demonstrate the way couture collections are traditionally showcased to press and buyers, each mannequin had a number on their wrist, which we could match up with the list in our booklet to read about the dress. So, the concept is a good one, but sadly, for me, it didn’t work well in its realization. The lighting was really dark, I know that with clothing the lighting needs to be sensitive, but the overall feeling was of dim light making it hard to see the dresses in detail. The mannequins were awful, they were the most garish shades of terracotta, lime, parma violet and mustard. This was done to identify the era of each outfit, but my goodness, the colour choices made them look like characters from Jim Henson’s The Muppets and clashed horribly with the dainty beauty of each dress. The mannequins also had really bad and dated wigs, in all honesty I felt like I was in a dark deserted 1970’s department store. It felt far from high glamour. The long corridor shape that had been built to form the catwalk space seemed to ignore any of the gorgeousness of the location we were actually in. I would have much preferred to see these amazing dresses, these stunning works of art, in a bright, clear, open space, with room to walk around each outfit. The dresses here, had no room to breathe, the mannequins were stood and sat really close to each other. I fully understand that in order to show, say, the back detail of a dress, you need to turn the back towards the viewer, but as a result we only saw certain parts of the dresses, I was left needing a little more.

Then we had a behind the scenes look at the work of Valentino’s Ateliers. This was most probably the part that was best executed. Clear, bright and visually amazing. We got to see up close detail of couture techniques and watch short videos of the incredible work that goes into each aspect of a dress. In a glass case at the end of the exhibition was a stunning light pink organza cape made up of discs and discs of fabric, incredible. This was the one item I felt I could get a proper look at.

That was it. Although there were around 140 dresses on display, this exhibition felt very short and brief. At £12.50 each it’s not cheap either and I genuinely left feeling disappointed. The dresses are unequivocally awesome. I was mesmerized by their beauty, but it all felt cramped, dark, dated and kinda creepy with those strange mannequins. I peeped into what I assumed may be more of the exhibition to find it was a small gift shop to signal the end of the show. The fact that pretty much the only thing on sale at the shop was an awful cow print canvas shopper bag priced at £350, gave a final blow of disappointment. £350!! Just because Valentino put his label on the inside? Surely this devalues the whole notion of paying for bespoke, unique, couture pieces. These shopper bags, cheaply made, mass produced and covered in a dated animal print design insulted me as a Valentino fan. Having just paid to look at his stunning creations, to peek into a glamorous world, to witness the talent that goes into his exquisite gowns, to realize why they cost the earth…for it then to be suggested that I may like to pay an extortionate amount for a canvas bag that required no skill or expense to produce left me gobsmacked. The entire message of the show is that when you pay a high price you get superior skill and design. The bags in the shop completely debased that idea. I wouldn’t discourage any fashion lover from going to this exhibition, it’s a great chance to look at amazing dresses, and it’s a great retrospective on Valentino’s long career, but overall, it had the atmosphere of a dated cruise ship, and I don’t feel the dresses were given the exposure they demanded, which is a real shame.

The exhibition runs until March 3rd 2013

For more information visit