On Tuesday, Detmar Blow’s new book, Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow, a biographical tribute to his late wife, Isabella, who committed suicide in 2007, launches. As you might imagine, the book is a chronicle of the tragic life of his late wife—while the book certainly talks about her later years, which were spent discovering, inspiring, and furthering the careers of young fashion talents such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Stella Tennant, it also looks at her heartbreaking childhood (her two-year-old brother, Johnny, died after falling into a shallow pool in the garden while Blow was supposed to be looking after him) and her early days in New York as the assistant to Anna Wintour (“People would stop by my office just so they could see what Issie was wearing that day,” Wintour recalls. “One morning she might be in full East Village punk regalia…the next dressed like a Maharaja, dripping in jewels and sari silks.”). Here are a few excerpts:
On Blow’s early personal style: “Aged 18 and at secretarial college in Oxford, she developed a reputation for wearing evening dresses during the day, dressing as a sexy 1920s-style temptress and performing infamous stripteases.”
On Blow’s role as Anna Wintour’s assistant: “It rapidly became clear that although Issie was not a great administrator, she was highly creative, and hard-working – on things that interested her, at least – and second-to-none at spotting new talent. Wintour says, ‘Every day she’d leave Vogue as if her working day was only beginning; the next day she’d come in and relate with breathy excitement about the new artist, the new designer, the new photographer, the fabulous girl we absolutely must work with.'”
On Blow’s friendship with Andy Warhol: “Issie met Warhol at a party where she was wearing one silver and one purple shoe of the same style by Manolo Blahnik. Warhol came up to Issie and said, ‘Gee, you had to buy two pairs of shoes to get that look.’ Their friendship was to last until his death in 1987.”
On Blow’s editorials for Tatler: “Soon she was shooting four fashion pages of her own every month which, though a creative success, often put her at odds with ‘the suits’. Issie solved this problem by spending vast amounts of her own money on props for shoots, then struggling to claim it back in expenses. She has the distinction of submitting the highest expenses claim in the history of Condé Nast – for a dilapidated building. Issie wrote on the expenses form, ‘Just £50,000 for a very small ruin that really was a must’. It went unpaid.”
For all this, and more, Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow ($19.80) will be available at Amazon.com and other leading book stores on November 9—every fashion fan should have a copy of this book. On a side note, if you’re in New York, you can score a copy today at select Anthropologie stores.