One evening in March 2007, Mexican artist Stefan Brüggemann was hanging out with the late fashion editor Isabella Blow in her Eaton Square home in London, cooking pasta, drinking wine, and playing dress up — a regular night in. Two months later, on May 6, Blow ingested the weed killer Paraquat and died the next day in the hospital, where the coroner ruled her death a suicide. Brüggemann gathered 32 snapshots from that evening the two spent together for the book "Isabella Blow."
Blow — who manycredit with discovering the late Alexander McQueen after buying his entire Central Saint Martins graduate collection in 1994 — and Brüggemann were close friends; Brüggemann was the first artist who exhibited at the Blow de la Barra gallery, which she founded in 2005 with her husband, Detmar Hamilton Blow, and Pablo Leon de la Barra. (The gallery later closed in 2008 after her death.) Incidentally, Brüggemann's May 2007 exhibition at the gallery, "Obliteration Series," was the last one Isabella saw before her suicide.
The book's foreword, written by her husband, describes Isabella's relationship with art. Detmar credits art for Isabella's success in the fashion world. "Her achievements and fame in fashion were based in part on her knowledge of, interest in, love for, and inspiration by fine art — both historic and contemporary." He highlights her outings to the Russian Tea Room in the '80s with her friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol to eat salmon fish cakes, and that "towards the end of her life, she felt increasingly alienated and let down by the fashion industry and turned increasingly to art and artists."
Although many of the pages within Brüggemann's book are inexplicably blank, his photographs provide an intimate view into one night of Isabella's everyday life. Throughout the images Blow wears the garments of her friends, McQueen and milliner Philip Treacy. Most notable is a constant cameo appearance by a woodcock feather headpiece designed by Treacy for McQueen's autumn/winter 2006-2007 collection, which also appeared in the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty."
Isabella made a reputation for herself by constantly predicting fashion's next big thing. According to her husband, she "regarded art and fashion as interlinked." In her late teens, against her father's wishes, Isabella moved to Florence, where she would visit the Uffizi in her spare time and immerse herself in the works of "da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Titian, Raphael, Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt." She moved to New York to study ancient Chinese art at Columbia University, dropping out after only a year. She went on to work as an assistant to then-fashion director at Vogue, Anna Wintour, before going on to assist editor Andre Leon Talley. It was while working at Vogue that she became a partof the '80s art scene, befriending Warhol and Basquiat.
Unfortunately, the darkness always cast a shadow on Isabella's life eventually killed her. The death of her younger brother as a child, a strained relationship with her father, homelessness, and infertility were among the hardships that plagued her.
Any fan curious about the fashion editor's life would appreciate Brüggemann's images, of which Detmar says, "show both the positive and the negative sides of her character."