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Well, the fact that you are reading this either means, 1) you love reading, or 2) my title for this feature successfully caught your attention, and the fact that I am coming to a close of my first sentence, hopefully means that you will accompany me on my little venture. Any relationship takes time, it takes patience, it takes commitment, dedication, determination, and Mother Nature and I are the perfect married couple, now that I have fully transformed into a mean green ecofriendly machine. Preserving and protecting a world I care

dearly for, doing my bit for the planet as it were. My next door however, doesn’t, and it drives me barmy! Recycling for example, seriously, what is so difficult about putting glass in one box, plastic in another, and bog standard rubbish in a bin. The packaging practically spells out to you what can and can’t be recycled anyway! I like to make an effort to buy my food ethically too. My bank account doesn’t, but I relish in that sensation of feeling morallysuperior,

knowing that I am investing in Fairtrade and the best of British, saving those precious air miles, supporting our farming communities, because check me out, I not only bought organically, i bought locally too, so nerrr. When the cashier offers me plastic bags, I laugh off the suggestion, whipping out my very own trusty shopper’s bag, which I keep in my

handbag for exactly these sorts of eventualities, saying with smug pride, “Thank you, but I’m trying to do my bit for the planet you know.” I love how I’m going through all this effort to silence the endless nags of the powers that be, bleating on about how we should all be doing our bit to protect the environment, yet power stations are burning coal like it’s going out of fashion; politicians splashing out on private flights to far off foreign conferences, which are lets face it, glorified holidays; London lit up like a giant Christmas tree every night, and here I am, scrabbling in the dark with my feeble excuse of an energy saving light bulb. Doesn’t seem entirely fair, but at least I’m entitled to that moral high ground. I’m so anal about what affect I have just within my day to day living; making sure i recycle, driving a low emission

car, food shopping responsibly, but why don’t I have this same attitude towards my clothes? *** I will not lie; I do love to indulge in a bit of retail therapy. Only too familiar memories of me picking up a tantalising garment

“the garmentnow envelopes the curves of my figureand i feel fantastic!”

in my outstretched fingers, feeling the smooth contours of the fabric, I relish in the thought of humouring my guiltiest pleasure, that and the musical phenomenon that is Glee. “Why don’t you try it on?” I hear my inner voice say. I enter a brightly lit corridor lined with cubicles, like

individual confession booths willing me to indulge in my darkest desires. The garment has miraculously slipped off the hanger and now envelopes the curves of my figure. I bring myself to look into the eyes of the person being reflected before me. I register what I see, and acknowledge how I feel, and I feel fantastic! I sway, allowing the fabric to sway with me, convincing myself that this was destiny. A quick flash of the price tag causes a small flutter of nerves; and I smile, congratulating myself on the amazing bargain I have just found. I merrily take myself to the till with smug, arrogant pride; a swipe of the magic plastic, a pleasant farewell and I leave, awaiting my chance to show

off my new purchase. Me? Envious of those who are cashing in on this billion-dollar industry? Completely! Seriously big bucks methinks, just think of how many designer purchases I could make. I was in stitches when Michael McIntyre shared his view that “nobody should spend this amount of money on something that you can’t drive”, but thinking about it, strangely for me, designer purchases are not completely out of my reach, and I’m on a student budget, I repeat, a STUDENT BUDGET! As I tour from store to store, ogling retailer’s windows showcasing the latest trends that have to be bought, it slaps me. I’m on a STUDENT BUDGET! Here I am, contemplating a Vivienne Westwood necklace, WHAT IS GOING ON?!? Looking down at my ‘amazing bargain’ and wondering, was it actually as amazing as I originally thought? *** 4474 miles away, a 7-year-old Indian child is nursing his sore hands. Work has been brutal that day. The sun had been hot, and the fields had been dry as they prepare them for the cottonseeds. His 15-year-old sibling, who worked in the neighbouring factory, was also tending to their own wounds; their ears still ringing with the

hum of the sewing machines, and eyelids heavy from the arduous day. Their pay had been cut that day as they had failed to meet the target of that week’s order; it was never a good sign. Together, the children had barely scraped enough money to buy rice for that day’s meal so that they could feed themselves and their mother. They can only afford to eat once a day. Mother was yet to finsh her 18-hour shift at the factory, and there was still their doctor’s

“it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of cotton-”

bill, which needed to be paid. Their father had died last year, the doctor had said it was poisoning of the blood, due to prolonged exposure to insecticides. Father had been a cotton farmer. *** Sifting through a WWF report published on their website, I was shocked to learn the demands of cotton farming and It takes around 20,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of cotton; that’s barely enough cotton to make a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans. The £40 shirt, which I was admiring in a shop window

earlier, only 70p of that would go towards the cotton farmer who harvested that crop. I'm feeling slightly sick, how many people have I stolen from in order to get my Westwood necklace, and fund those luxuriant lives I see top fashion designers living? How many rivers have poisoned, so I could get my pair of jeans? My conundrum is, that I want to make a change, but I don't want to dress like a stereotypical tree-hugger! Me, in long floating skirts, hippie t-shirts, and tie-dye? NO thank you. However, as it turns out, I don't have to! Whoop whoop! Fashion forward, and optimising über cool styles, the new cool kids on the block have to be EDUN, Honest By and Stella McCartney. All examples of brands that support ethical and sustainable fashion. It's sad that there isn’t more like them, as I wouldn't describe these fashion labels as particularly wallet friendly, but if we could encourage businesses to be more ethically savvy, just think how better off we would all be! *** My feeling of moral superiority has almost been entirely extinguished, given what I have learnt, but know I can make those necessary changes, and reclaim my green-fingered title.


Isabella Blow By Diego Uchitel, 2002.


visionary, a muse, a seer among the fashion world. Isabella Blow is a marvel, an individual ahead of her time, an extravagant spectacle; but sadly ISABELLA BLOW: FASHION GALORE! was not. Somerset House, is rapidly becoming the hub of all things fashion-y, but the bleak and dreary desk with dank black cloth hung behind the entrance, did not lift my spirits; far from capturing the extrovert creativity of the famed English eccentric, it felt more like a funeral parlour, rather than a celebration of the fashionista’s life. Before attending the exhibition, I thought it would be worth doing a little bit of digging, and delve into the life of this intriguing stranger, but also to find out a bit more about the exhibition itself, and I was thrilled by my discoveries. *** The treasure hunting fashion extraordinaire, born to an aristocratic family, graced our world in 1958, and became renowned for her gregarious dress sense, with her staples being nothing more than a fur coat, vivid red lipstick and a hat, literally, that was it! She cared greatly for new and upcoming British fashion talent, who she took under her wing and nurtured into staples of British design. Her extraordinary skill for being able to recognise and pinpoint upcoming geniuses in their specialist fields is a skill Blow described herself as being able to “truffle for talent”. Given Blow’s amazingly eccentric English lifestyle, which has seen her build lifelong friends and confidantes with the designers whom she helped launch their careers, plus her own extensive CV in the fashion industry, Blow’s life has been far from perfect. After the death of her brother,

John, who drowned at the age of two, her father and mother divorced, with Blow being left with the memory of her mother leaving her with nothing more than goodbye handshake. *** The tragic disintegration of her family at such a young age was a catalyst for her lifelong battle with depression, and ultimately led to a number of suicide attempts before she finally lost her life on 7th May 2007, after drinking weed killer. At the time of her death, Blow was also having to deal with the crippling emotions and difficulties of ovarian cancer.

“I don’t use a hat as a prop, I use it as a part of me. If I am feeling really low, I go and see Philip, cover my face, and feel fantastic. Although, if I’m on a real low it requires going to the doctor for a prescription-” Isabella Blow The exhibition itself is meant to be a time capsule, encapsulating Blow’s extraordinary wardrobe, featuring pieces from Alexander McQueen’s radical graduate collection, the architectural wonders from Philip Treacy, and artistic creation’s of Hussein Chalayan. After Blow’s sad passing, the collection was to be auctioned by Blow’s sisters, Lavinia and Julia, and included a staggering 90 McQueen dresses, 50 Treacy hats as well as the photographic works of Mario Testino and Karl Lagerfeld, featuring portraits of Blow. However, the auction was

cancelled after Daphne Guinness, a close friend of Blow, bought the collection in its entirety, in order to protect and preserve Blow’s extensive collection, and as Guinness said herself, prevent “carnage, as souvenir seekers plundered the incredible body of work Issie had created over her life-”. *** In her quest to create and share a space, so that public spectators could marvel into the incredibly creative and miraculous mind of Blow, Guinness called upon the aid of Alistair O’Neill and Shonagh Marshall, to co curate the exhibition with Guinness’ input included. Both O’Neill and Marshall should have been the perfect pairing to archive the collection in an aesthetically and intellectually engaging approach, given their extensive experience in the fashion world. O’Neill is Senior Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins and specialises in Fashion history and theory. Marshall is a London based Fashion Curator and Archivist, who relishes in the exploration and presentation of story telling through objects full of character and life, and Marshall successfully gets the visitor to ponder and submerse himself or herself into the purpose of the exhibition itself. *** Given that Guinness had worked so hard to capture her friend’s extraordinary life, it was clear to see that no expense had been paid in order to spur some sort of excitement, as I purchased my pathetically drab paper ticket, which was more of a cheap receipt rather than an acceptance into what was supposed to be an exhibition of ‘Fashion Galore!’ as stated in the title, not even a pamphlet, I was disappointed. *** >>

LEFT PAGE: Isabella Blow in a Philip Treacy Octopus Hat by Mario Testino, Paris, 1998. RIGHT PAGE: Isabella Blow portrait by Phil Poynter, 1992.

Nevertheless, my hopes were raised, as I was informed that no photography or filming was permitted within the exhibition space and that my bag would have to be locked in a secure area, for security reasons. “Ooooo, what exclusive treats am I in store for? Amy, there is hope yet!” I heard my inner voice say. Yet, my excitement was swiftly quashed and I was immediately annoyed to find that the ‘secure area’ was firstly, no where near the exhibition entrance, but in a separate atrium altogether, and secondly, it was more of an empty room with a hinged table top placed in the doorway. Not not only that, but I would have to pay £1 for my bag to have a tacky raffle ticket surreptitiously placed in one of the pockets and then casually tossed to a pile on the floor, not a single locker in sight. Not only that, but the real nail in the coffin was, I wasn’t allowed to take in my camera, but I was allowed to take in my phone, which clearly had a camera on it; I think the whole ‘no photography or filming’ thing is flawed somewhat. With my feathers considerably ruffled, and my optimism fading, *** I returned to the front desk and stepped behind the black curtain, that had been obscuring my view of what lie ahead, all natural daylight blocked from sight and replaced with eerie lighting, and soft whispers of the voices of others. I would describe myself as a ‘glasshalf full’ kind of girl, so in light of what I had just experienced, I thought to myself that, they used a curtain to block my view, the lighting is slightly creeping me out, what are they hiding? With this notion in the forefront of my mind, my fascination with what was ahead of me ignited a gleam of anticipation spurring me on.

I enter a dimly lit room, and my eyes are immediately drawn to the impressive sculpture by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, which is a tangle of 15 taxidermy animals, including birds, a rat and a snake, wood and fake moss, plus a heel from one of Blow’s own Manolo Blahnik shoes and her iconic red lipstick, which when spot lit onto the wall, created a striking portrait of Blow herself. The sculpture was first exhibited in the National Gallery in 2010, and is an imposing spectacle of sculpture, installation and light projection. I entered the exhibition with Blow a stranger and I left the exhibition with Blow a stranger

“Fashion is a vampiric thing, it’s the hoover on your brain. “When I die… McQueen says he wants my head, because he wants to wake up one morning and see my lips move, saying: ‘Where are my clothes?” Isabella Blow

A total space, about the size of a public toilet cubicle was dedicated to the early years of Blow, and it wasn’t even at eye level! Being a tall lass, anything being showcased below my waist, is challenging, but the fact that a small collection of photographs and a book that looked like it had been checked out of the local library, lay in a glass fronted cabinet that didn’t come higher than my knees, and I daren’t crouch to have look, for fear that I may be kicked by a buffeting of other exhibition visitors. Even the small screens, that featured small clips of catwalk

shows that included some of Blow’s collection, were barely the size of an A5 piece of paper, so any more than three people crammed round one screen, was an uncomfortable squeeze. I have a bubble, and I am very unwelcoming to uninvited guests within my bubble. *** As I moved on forwards, I was able to get a close up to five of the garments Blow had possessed, and I was able to see minute evidence that these garments had once lived. Concealed burn holes, where cigarette butts had been carelessly extinguished, thread bare patches, evidence that not only had these garments been worn, but that they had been worn regularly. Sad to say, this was the only part of the exhibition that gave the exhibition any character. Arguably, the mannequins that were used to display the numerous garments could also be seen as a depiction of Blow’s personality. Worn and tired tailors busts, donated from Central Saint Martins, box displays with limbs wearing Blow’s very own Manolo Blahnik shoes, containing personal mementos of Isabella’s life such as, kissed napkins, notebooks and even a lipstick stub. *** Otherwise, that is as close as I got to getting a glimmer of Blow’s being. It was hard to see what the rest of the exhibit was about. The rooms were cold, the space dark and dingy, and although the exhibition was entitled ISABELLA BLOW: FASHION GALORE! it seemed to be more focused on the designers Blow founded rather than a dedication to the prodigy herself. With no clear guidance as to the path I was to follow, there was no clear chronological journey through the exhibition, and with hidden rooms that were tucked away, and which I only discovered >>

by accident, not because I was clearly led in their direction. Frankly, I could not wait to be out of there! *** The only area, which seemed to have any thought process behind it, was on the ground floor, and featured a 1990’s television set playing Alexander McQueen’s graduate show. The space where this television set had been set up was so narrow, that the huddle of people who lined the corridor could have resembled a live catwalk show, with many faces leaning forwards to watch a narrow runway. I thinK I am probably clutching at straws, desperate to find some sort of artistic setup to what is an extremely

unimaginative exhibit. It’s normal practice to get ripped off in the gift shop, but I need not have feared, as there wasn’t a single souvenir dedicated to the exhibition itself, and to be honest, I don’t think I really want to remember it. *** I am standing outside Somerset House, the fresh air a breath of relief, reflecting on my experience. I look at the exhibition title printed on the glass front doors, and think to myself, ISABELLA BLOW, a bit; FASHION, yes; GALORE, not really. The most exciting thing was the discovery of half-price Mondays! Somerset House, I expect better in future. \\

*ISABELLA BLOW: FASHION GALORE! 20 November 2013 – 2 March 2014 Embankment Galleries, Somerset House

Isabella Blow Silhouette, ByTim Noble and Sue Webster, Donated to the National Portrait Gallery as part of their ‘Late Shift’ programme, 2002.

BILIOGRAPHY BUMF: AUBSU MAGAZINE, NO. 4, pg. 18-19. Ellis. S, Last Shot: How Isabella Blow midwifed the rebirth of Goth, DAZED & CONFUSED, VOL.3, ISSUE 27, NOVEMBER 2013, Waddell Limited, pg. 160. (ACCESSED 12TH FEBRUARY) (ACCESSED 12TH FEBRUARY 2014) (ACCESSED 12TH FEBRUARY 2014) (ACCESSED 12TH FEBRUARY 2014) Knight. I, To BB or Not to BB, THE SUNDAY TIMES: STYLE, 2ND FEBRUARY, pg. 44. Madsen. S, Virgin McQueen, DAZED & CONFUSED, VOL.3, ISSUE 27, NOVEMBER 2013, Waddell Limited, pg. 106-107. Sciortino. K, An Honest Woman, THE SUNDAY TIMES: STYLE, 2ND FEBRUARY 2014, pg. 26-27.

Writing For Fashion 2014  

Writing For Fashion: Magazine feature and exhibition review that I would (hypothetically) print in a fashion publication like Vogue or InSty...

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