Style icon: Isabella Blow

by Sylvia

style icon isabella blow

Isabella Blow was a true style icon. I have just finished reading the book Blow by Blow from her husband Detmar Blow and thoroughly enjoyed it. As you know I’m currently very attracted to strong women that dare to dress differently. Isabella did so in spades and also wore the most outrageous hats throughout her life.

outrageous hats

The book was a real page turner for me. You know how (sadly) it ends but you wonder how it happened and how she came to be this super influential person that discovered such great designers as Philip Treacy and Alexander McQueen and made them famous.

For those who don’t know who Isabella Blow is, here is a short story of her life.

style icon isabella blow

Born into an aristocratic family, Isabella grew up in luxury. However, her father was very frugal, and gave her a life long anxiety about money. Educated at boarding school, there was not a whole lot of parental love which was not helped by the divorce of her parents. She went to go to a secretarial college and had some wild student years. She ended up in the USA with some money from her father and a husband where she ended up getting a job as Anna Wintour’s assistant at Vogue.

Of course this didn’t happen just like that. Issie was a social butterfly who loved going to parties and being a bit of wild child. Party organisers loved having her and that is how she got to meet many famous people like Andy Warhol and Brian Ferry. Throughout her life, contacts and her ability to bring people together, were essential to her success.

isabella blow & philip treacy

Isabella with Philip Treacy

She ended up working for Vogue’s editor at large but her wild ways and unreliability soon got her fired, after which she returned to England. She divorced her first husband and managed to get a job at Tatler. Later she remarried, worked for the Sunday Times and styled many photoshoots. She was always on the road to discover new talent and when she saw the graduation show of Alexander McQueen, it was love at first sight. She bought his entire collection and introduced him to many influential people. She also discovered the famous hat maker Philip Treacy and was his muse for a long time, wearing many of his gorgeous hats. Later she worked as a consultant for Swarovski, had a lipstick made in her name by Mac and towards the end of her life worked for Tatler again.

Alexander McQueen & Isabella Blow

Photoshoot with Alexander McQueen by David LaChapelle

Unfortunately, she was also plagued by manic depression, which made her extremely productive during her manic days, but close to the brink doing her lows. In the end she had decided that she no longer wanted to live and after more than 6 suicide attempts, she succeed on 7 May 2007.

Isabella and detmar blow

Isabella with Alexander McQueen (photo by Richard young) and right with her second husband Detmar Blow

Isabella blow was a true original and I am totally inspired by her gorgeous hats and individuality! I loved reading about her life and seeing her pictures, and if you like to read it too then he book can be bought at Amazon.

Have you in any way been inspired by Isabella Blow?


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I did not know her yet, so tx for the introduction; very interesting.

I am fascinated by personalities and appearances like hers all my life.
I love to see aspects as quirkiness, eccentricity, extravaganza, humor, color and art expressed in….whatever, actually. May it be in how someone dresses, in home decor, architecture, personality, art…..

That’s why Haw Par Villa is my most favorite spot in Singapore;-).

Thinking (and behaving) outside the box is inspiring and uplifting, I think.


She’s just your type Anja. Definitely adheres to the more is more philosophy!

The Style Crone

Isabella has long been one of my favorites. I love her fearless style and her absolute devotion to hats. Thank you for featuring a style icon after my own heart.


You’re welcome Judith. Just curious: do you own a Philip Treacy hat?


I love Isabella. She was truly one of a kind – so creative and such a visionary. I enjoyed ‘Blow by Blow’ too. Such an interesting life. I do wonder what really happened between Alexander and Isabella in later years. Detmar made quite a big deal about how Isabella was wronged financially by McQueen. It would be interesting to know McQueen’s side of the story, but sadly we will never know. Truly two amazing talents that left us too soon. Great profile – I thoroughly enjoyed it!!


I know, such an exciting life! I believe what Detmar said about her ‘gritting her teeth’. It can be tough when a friend lets you down, yet you still want to maintain the friendship. She referred to her not being rewarded for all her introductions and ideas quite a few times in the press, and this kind of thing can really get to you, I believe. Alexander has said in the press that what was between them was not about money and all the critics should back off, but he may have underestimated how financial recognition was important to her too.


She must have been a truly fascinating person! I’m usually not big on biographies, but I might make an exeption when it comes to ms Blow:)


It was a very good read for sure!

Aleya Bamdad

You know, I was enjoying the pictures and then I read her bio and now I’m depressed. It’s a shame that a woman who accomplished so much and brought so much happiness and success to others passed away like she did.


Oh sorry about that. That was certainly not my intention. I think we just need to accept that she was ill. But in the end she still left us with so much inspiration. That will never go away.

Aleya Bamdad

Absolutely. She was a great talent.

Anja van der Vorst

Thats life; ups and downs belong to that. Cliche, but true, IMHO


I also like these fashion icons. Just finished Coco Chanel by Axel Madsen, which seems to me like a thorough and good biography. He “cuts through the falsehoods”.
Talking about an influential fashion lady. Wow.
Isabella was more of a rebel, a dare devil, which makes her very interesting as well. She always amazed me as she was not pretty as many fashion influentials are. Like the editors of Vogue are good looking. Having said that, I will make the exception for one or two. I always wonder how women who are not pretty survive in fashion world. Cannot be easy.


She made up for that with personality! Unfortunately, she also ‘suffered’ from her self proclaimed lack of prettiness. It’s also one reason her clothes were so theatrical. She once said something along the lines of: if you are not beautiful you need better clothes!


She is poetry!

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