fashion curator Shonagh Marshall, takes us through the new ‘Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!’ exhibition at Somerset House and talks about the year she spent archiving the late fashion eccentric’s over-the-top wardrobe and working with set designer (and
J.Crew collaborator) Shona Heath.
You’ve been working with the Isabella Blow collection since her close friend and philanthropist Daphne Guinness first purchased it. What is it like to see it come to life in this exhibition?
It is phenomenal to see the 100 pieces of clothing being presented in this way. I was first employed by Daphne Guinness to work on archiving the collection (I photographed, catalogued and stored each garment and accessory), and much of the collection’s contents were undocumented, so there was a great sense of discovery as I went through Isabella’s wardrobe. It was incredible to be able to share her collection with the public as a way of celebrating her life, work and style.
What has been the most interesting thing about working with Isabella Blow’s collection?
There is a record of Isabella’s life lived, from the lone heel once belonging to a Manolo Blahnik silver sandal (which she perhaps intended to get reattached) to the rips in the train of an Alexander McQueen lilac jacket from the autumn/winter 1996 Dante collection.
How is the collection presented?
The exhibition is arranged thematically, beginning with a section on Isabella’s family, which includes family albums and video footage. The exhibition then looks at the graduation designs from Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy, Hussein Chalayan and Julien Macdonald—all British designers whom Isabella discovered and supported early on.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
I don’t think I could pick just one piece, but I really adore all the McQueen for Givenchy couture pieces. Alexander McQueen was head of Givenchy for such a short period of time, so these were very rare to come across.What was it like to work with Shona Heath, whom J.Crew recently worked with in advance of our London store opening?
Working with Shona Heath was so integral to making the exhibition energetic and relevant. Shona designed bespoke mannequins for the exhibition, developing a different treatment for each section and working closely with us to respond to the clothing. Her involvement added so much to the display of the objects while capturing Isabella’s colorful character.
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!
runs through March 2, 2014 at Somerset House. For more information, click here