This was definitely one of those…”did that really just happen” moments! And a huge inspiration for my EarSass business…
At the time I was studying fashion at Cardonald Collage in Glasgow and had enrolled in a millinery course as well. I just loved hats and the way they were constructed and how you could literally make anything to put on your head. That was exactly what drew my attention to world renowned hat designer Philip Treacy. The way he was designing, constructing and executing hats totally blew me away. So I decided to do my college project with his influence in mind.
So the Isabella Blow and Philip Treacy connection you might be wondering about is that Isabella discovered Philip! He was studying at the Royal College of Art and took one of his headpieces to Tatler magazine, where Isabella was the Style Editor.
I love this quote about her from Philip;
"I just thought she looked amazing” said Philip. “She was unlike anyone else - a flamboyant dresser and she loved hats. I made so many for her and she wore them all the time, yet treated them terribly. She sat on them, lost them or her dogs chewed them, but she inspired me to make amazing things for her. I wanted her to love them, to love me, really."
He truly did love and adore her and they were best friends. But tragically, Isabella took her own life in 2007. She had a very complicated, but also wonderful, life. I have read her book, called Blow by Blow, so many times, it’s a brilliant read all about her life.
So back to 2004 - there I am, age 17 and I walk into the bar at my parents hotel to be greeted by truly the most stylish woman I have ever seen. She was wearing clearly one of Alexander McQueen’s creations, another absolute fashion legend Isabella had founded. She attended his final show and no seats were left, so she ended up sitting on the stairs watching the clothes go past. She told me she then returned home enraptured, his clothes were, she told me, unique - he could cut material like a god and they moved like birds. Alexander would later tell that his mother had told him "There is this crazy woman who keeps ringing up about your clothes." They then had a meeting. Isabella asked how much a jacket was. He said £300. She said "That's a lot for a student." But she ended up buying the whole collection - one item a month, paying him £100 a week. He would bring her each outfit in a bin liner and then accompany her to the cash point. There are so many mind blowing stories, I was fascinated by her and 100% she sculpted my style sense and love for fashion and interiors.
So, we are talking in the bar and she says “Your Mother tells me you are using Philip as a muse for your course in fashion and millinery… shall we try on lots of his hats and have some fun?!” Ermmmmm yes please!!
And that is where it all started.
The second image below was the exact one she brought with her and when I tried it on in her bedroom at the hotel. It instantly became my favourite hat, I had so many photos of us trying them all on, but in a flood storm at our house I lost them all as they were destroyed, gutted!
In the morning Isabella needed someone to blow dry her hair, to which I happily offered . So with her head dipped over the bath I washed her so soft and thin hair, which is perhaps why she wanted a blow dry, to give it some life. She then just came out with it….”Would like to assist me at Philip’s hat show at the V&A museum in a few weeks, where they are launching ‘The Ship’, the incredible hat he designed that is a black ship?” This is the hat he placed on Isabella‘s coffin at her funeral. If you have not seen this hat, I suggest you do, it is magnificent!
So I got the train with all the excitement in the world to London then on to Waterloo where she lived, knocked on her door and she appeared wearing a full black veil on her face holding a towel over her chest, it was like she was putting on her makeup when she put on a hat. She did once quote “I don't use a hat as a prop. I use it as a part of me”.
She ushered me in showing me around her house which had sort of little spaces you had to climb through to get to each room, there were doors as well but these were so unique, like she wanted two different ways of getting from room to room. The whole floor of her house was made of glass and you could see her incredible basement where she kept her clothes and most of her hast, although her hats were also dotted around the house, hanging off doors and backs of chairs, and even in the kitchen. I waited while she got dressed and then she appeared, ever so gracefully and always with a beautiful red lip along classically with some on her front teeth! “If you don’t wear lipstick, i cant talk to you” another hilarious quote of hers!
We got in a taxi and she just said “Claridges” to the driver, she then turned to me and said I’m going to take you to meet Sophie Dahl.
“Sophie, this is Sophie” - this is a moment I will never forget! Sophie was so completely, naturally and gracefully beautiful. My job was to take her to have her nails done ready for the show.
17!!… 17 years old and I was entrusted with this absolute beauty... I got this!
I then went on to experience the most memorable time ever to date - Philip Treacy’s shop 69 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London. I remember arriving and just seeing all of his hats in the window and the beautiful gold and black theme he uses, I’m sure this is where my gold obsession came from! There was a bell, but Isabella was already opening the door for me, “ how did you get on my love?”.
I could hear some real cackling laughing coming from somewhere in the small shop and then up a spiral staircase appears Macy Gray wearing a leopard print coat! She must have been there sorting out her hat for watching the show. She was so happy and just laughed all the time. She and Isabella kissed cheeks and she went on her merry way... another wow moment. Isabella had left something at her house she needed, so I got back in a taxi and went on another exciting mission. She had requested her Alexander McQueen coat (she forgot to put one on when we left) but it was summer. I remember bursting for a pee but just could not find the toilet at all. When I did finally find it, her bathroom was just fascinating! She had a massive solid glass rectangle bath, just so unique and I remember staring at it for so long with my jaw dropped. Finally I found the toilet which was hidden behind another fascinating wall, she had so many intriguing interior designs within her house, it was honestly like a museum. My own home is very much the same, I love to hang my favourite party dresses up as art fashion on my walls, it brings them to life and when you put them up you see them in such a different light. I don’ see the point in them being hidden away in cupboards.
I was 17 years old and I was assisting one for the most iconic woman in fashion who had founded Sophie Dahl, Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy, Stella Tennant and Honor Fraser just to name a few, she was also Fashion Director at Tatler!
I arrive at the show and it was incredible. Model, singer and actress Grace Jones strutted down the catwalk in some amazing designs singing her lungs out! I was helping to coordinate the models getting them ready and in line for when they would be going on next, and then helping to put on a different hat when the came off. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Valentino, Naomi Campbell, Boy George, Philip Treacy, Grace Jones and so many more inspiring people. But is was most definitely Isabella who absolutely guided me into the world of being a creator and gave me my love and obsession for interiors and fashion.
Thank you Issie, you are the reason I dress up!