Friday, 14 October 2011

McQueen and Blow immortalised by LaChapelle

Today the National Portrait Gallery is exhibiting for the first time in the UK a portrait of Alexander McQueen and his 'muse' Isabella Blow by David LaChapelle.

Burning Down the House, 1996 by David LaChapelle © David LaChapelle Studio

'Burning Down the House', which has been acquired by the Gallery, was originally published in the March 1997 'Swinging London' edition of Vanity Fair and was shot at Hedingham Castle in Essex.

McQueen combined a creative and visionary mind with impeccable tailoring skills learnt at Anderson and Shepherd on Savile Row from the age of 16. Later, he graduated from the MA Fashion Design course at Central Saint Martins.

© Derrick Santini Source:

His genius is now part of fashion history, he's undoubtedly a legendary fashion designer, and Isabella Blow was there before anyone else, buying his entire postgraduate collection.

Blow was a leading figure in the development of British Fashion, credited with discovering and promoting careers of key people in the industry including the leading milliner Philip Treacy, Hussein Chalayan, the photographer Juergen Teller and models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant.

David Lachapelle managed to capture the strong bond between two brilliant minds who will always cause sorrow to the fashion world. Their talent was sadly cut short which is particularly tragic as both of them committed suicide.

"What I had with Isabella was completely disassociated from fashion, beyond fashion." Alexander McQueen

But despite this acknowledgement, McQueen never employed Isabella Blow and while at the time of his suicide his fortune was evaluated in £20 million, her death only left debts to settle.

It's extraordinary how a woman who brought fame and fortune to her protégés dies without any financial retribution. But both McQueen and Treacy honoured her with a fantastic fashion show. I'm sure she would have loved it!


And I don't think money would have made any difference, it certainly didn't help McQueen. Blow suffered from a severe depression that ended up claiming her life.

If you love fashion, you can't help but admire both of them, they were truly visionary each of them in their own intense way, McQueen's shows will always stay in our memory as emotionally charged narratives.  

McQueen will continue to be a leading brand, the fashion world adores Sarah Burton, you can see something of him in her collections and her feminine signature is exquisite.

Spring/Summer 2012 collection. Source:

David LaChapelle's portrait was purchased with generous assistance from Daphne Guinness, amongst others, who also bought the contents of Isabella Blow's wardrobe just as they were about to be auctioned at Christie's.

Whenever you have some time, go to the National Portrait Gallery and have a close look at this very special moment in fashion history.

If you like fashion photography please take a look at:
A decade of Fashion and Style
'Erotic Chic' images by Carine Roitfeld