Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow
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Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  286 ratings  ·  52 reviews
The news of Isabella Blow's suicide in 2007 shocked the international fashion world for whom she was a legendary figure. As a true patron of couture, she is credited with having discovered and fostered the careers of famed designers Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, among others, and was recognized the world over as their great muse, friend and confidant. While she also...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by It Books (first published September 2nd 2010)
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CiderandRedRot
3 stars for the too-brief story of Isabella Blow: talented, outlandish and infuriating. 1 star for the terrible writing by her widower Detmar Blow aided by family friend Tom Sykes, neither of whom can seem to make a chapter last more than two pages. The result is a frustrating glimpse into the life of a true upper class eccentric, which often reads more like a list of events than an insightful biography. It's an uneven mess, with plenty of space given over to family history and lineage, and lots...more
Jules
I have always been impressed with the unique style of Isabella Blow and this book has contributed in some way to a greater understanding on my part of this larger than life yet vulnerable character. Written (possibly subjectively) by her husband Detmar after her tragic death, this book traces the life of Isabella from a childhood lived between privilege and tragic events and documents aspects of her career progress as well as her mental instability and ultimate demise and untimely suicide via in...more
Barbara Lehman Smith

After a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year to see the late designer Alexander McQueen's exhibit, my interest was piqued about his relationship to style iconoclast Isabella Blow. This book, written by her husband, paints an intimate portrait of a woman plagued by manic depression throughout her life. That said, childhood events and the character of both parents may have sent the sanest child into a life coated by imagined inadequacies and fear. How Isabella made up for all this with...more
Saturday's Child
What I thought I would read in this biography was how Isabella Blow made a name for herself in the world of fashion and helped launch the careers of people such as Sophie Dahl, Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy. What I found was her husband Detmar using her as an excuse to write about himself. To complain about how unfair life had been to him, how poor he was and "name drop". Issie the apparent love of his life tells him "it's over" but then he opens the door of his gallery to Princess Rosario...more
Jennifer
I liked the story more than the writing in this book. I feel terrible - since it was written by her husband - but it seemed so disjointed and clumsy. There were so many parts of her life that I would get caught up in - and then he'd end it all with a cumulative sentence, trying to wrap up something as serious as suicide with a noun and a verb.

On a positive note, a fast, easy read!

Oh - and I liked the pictures.

Yeah, I'm reaching here.
Michelle
Fashion icon Isabella Blow (1958-2007) was known for taking her creative vision to the top of the world wide fashion industry, while generously promoting/endorsing the work of other artists/designers. Isabella's (IB) husband of over 18 years Detmar Blow has authored "Blow by Blow" a stunning and thoughtful memorial tribute to his beloved late wife. Family photos are generously included.

IB was born into the British aristocratic Delves Broughton legacy, dating back historically over 600 years. Joc...more
Kate
3 stars for interesting fashion tidbits. that said, Detmar Blow is one of the most insufferable people ever to walk the earth. I could not get behind all his selfish excuses. the whole story is so sordid. two damaged creatures floundering through the world desperately needing psychological help and intervention. i pity Isabella, but am disgusted by her actions at the same time. a truly sad story.
Cynthia
Sadly this book provided little if any insight into who Isabella Blow was. It reads like a laundry list of events in her life, but not much about her motivation, beliefs, or passion. For example: an unpaid expense for a shoot is discussed, but nothing about what the shoot was or why the ruin was needed in her eyes. She was amazing--so it is worth a look.
Maureen Flatley
A touching, personal memoir by Blow's husband.
Susan
This book is poorly written and atrociously edited (I lost count of the typographical errors). However, if like me, you were fascinated by Isabella Blow, muse and mentor to some of the most innovative and inspirational talents the world of fashion has ever seen (McQueen and Philip Treacy, to name the most obvious), it's still a good story. Isabella Blow was a true original with a gift for understanding the intersection of high fashion and art and for not giving a damn what anyone else thought ab...more
Jane Turner
“If you’re ugly like me…you need clothes,” says Isabella Blow in her husband’s biography, Blow By Blow.

Clothes figure famously in Issie’s life, as she dons outrageous lobster hats or resorts to stripteasing to gain the kind of attention given to the pretties. But Issie aspired for a life of upper crust financial security and a family, despite having veins pumping with blue blood, electric shock, and anger over the betrayals in her life, including those by:
1.Her mother for putting 5-year-old Iss...more
Louise
This biography, written by the subject's widower, tells of the ups and downs in the life of his fashionista wife, Isabella Delves Broughton Blow.

"Issie" at 5 years old witnessed her brother's drowning. Her need for parental love and support was met with a coldness implying blame. When her mother divorced her father, she left the household with handshakes for her children. Her father gave even less affection. I believe this sort of treatment was a major factor in producing Issie's self-absorption...more
Missy

I truly enjoyed this biography by her beloved husband and dear friends. I knew of Isabella Blow only by her off-the-hook hats and outfits along the runway. This book covered her devotion to her wilting aristocratic roots, her shameless individualism, her skill for pushing the fashion envelope (which needs to be pushed or the '80'd revival will never go away), and her passion for supporting others even when she could not support herself. I also thought it was a touching story of loving someone wi...more
Eliza
Poorly written, but heartfelt. Still a fascinating read if you're remotely interested in fashion, contemporary history/social documentary, celebrity and really, life!

I did find the author and subject's complete removal from anything resembling reality whilst pleading poverty amusing in a rather disingenuous way.
Danna
Detmar Blow, Isabella's husband, writes the story of Issie's life. He starts with her childhood and goes, "blow by blow", through her life. I love how pictures were inserted into the story throughout, rather than just in the middle of the book. I actually wish there were more! It was fascinating to learn about Isabella and the number of fashion designers she influenced. Hearing of her escapades and fashion ensembles was intriguing. Short chapters and a quickly moving story made this a fast read....more
Laura
This is bittersweet biography of his wife, who committed suicide in 2007. She was famous in the fashion world, and it is an interesting story, with lots of betrayal, parties, English society, etc. However, it is kind of sad that Isabella ultimately couldn't get things together.

I thought the writing was uneven - he wrote with Tom Sykes, but it didn't feel like there was always a professional at work here - there are several short, very choppy chapters. And at times it was a little tough to keep t...more
Anne
This book does have many typos, but it is an authentic record of an icon's spiral into mental illness and the toll it takes on all around them. The story is accessible and offers an interesting back story about aristocratic families in England.
Carl
Aug 03, 2011 Carl added it
Recommended to Carl by: Detmar Blow (the author)
This is probably the first memoir I've read that was written by someone I have met. Detmar makes a loving and apparently forthright biographer of his late wife, the fashion icon Isabella Blow -- his understandable frustration is as evident as his sympathy and adoration.

With tiny chapters, often two pages or less, the book clips along nicely, although it does have the feel of a mere list of events. Overall, though, it is effective: it is the sympathetic unraveling of a sad, even doomed life that...more
George Ilsley
A more sensitive account of the ups and downs of being Isabella Blow than the other biography I read recently. Written by her husband, the background stories were less shocking (since I had just read most of them) and the personal details much more convincing. Towards the end, there is mention of a psychiatrist who later treated Alexander McQueen . . . I'm sure the doctor does not advertise those connections on his resume. Isabella Blow was, in some ways, a genius, and thus also partly inexplica...more
M Elizabeth
Way too much time is spent by Blow's biographer/husband talking about who they knew and his own family saga, taking away from any pace the book manages at all. This is hardly an in depth look at Isabella Blow from someone who knew her best, but -- as the title suggests -- a simple blow by blow timeline of her life. It is a framework for a book rather than a fully-fledged book, and there is very little to be learned from this book that you cannot find in the obituaries, retrospectives, and in mem...more
Ara
I thought that the lesson I learned from this book is: Do not read biographies written by the spouse of the person who the book is about. But then I remembered reading Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," and I realized that this was just a badly written book. The author would have served Isabella Blow's legacy better if he had let a real writer pen this story. Instead, it feels like a vanity piece, which is a shame because I was very curious about Ms. Blow.
Julia
Jul 10, 2014 Julia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: julia
I'm not sure Detmar Blow is the most reliable commentator on his wife's life, career, mania & suicide. Still, Isabella Blow's life was rather extraordinary and tragic - and the book is an interesting look at a woman who lived, breathed and died for fashion. It's a quick read - kind of like a Vanity Fair article - but in the end, left me feeling sad & empty (like a Vanity Fair article) for this tragic figure.
Farrell
I didnt even finish it. It was so boring and poorly written I barely got to page 100. I skimmed a lot. I would think Isabella's whimsical life would be more interesting but the set up was boring. Her life in New York City was pretty boring. She had such amazing friends but it just was not executed well. I understand her husband wanted to share her story and honor her, but it did not turn out well.
Pestozesto
Since it is written by her husband, it's not an entirely objective biography. Or at least, it's not only a biography of Isabella Blow; it's partly a story about Detmar, too. Easy to read and well-paced, with short vignette segments; it's well-edited. I enjoyed it, but her life was a little too devastating and tragic to call this an enjoyable read. Just know what you're getting into.
Claire
A devastating look into the life of one of fashions top muses. The fact that it is written by her husband makes the telling of Issy's suicide even more tragic than from the voice of a stranger, and he manages to tell her life beautifully even through moments of pain. A very good read, and an essential one for anyone interested in the fashion world.
Cyndie Todd
This is the kind of biography that makes me like reading biographies best. Written by her husband, it gives the reader a deeply personal insider's viewpoint up close and personal of a bright shining but deeply troubled personality. This is a must-read for anyone who appreciates fashion design and style as well as grandiose personalities.
Katie Dent
Five stars for the subject matter; two stars for the writing. Isabella Blow ha a fascinatingly tragic life and one which kept me enthralled throughout this book. However, the self indulgent, and at times boastful, manner in which the biography was written by Detmar, Isabella's husband, was off putting, and sometimes felt a little distasteful.

Jodi
Isabella Blow was a fascinating and tragic woman. Which is why she deserves a better book than this badly written tome. The style is plodding and the whole thing is poorly edited, which takes away from what could have been an interesting book. I couldn't even finish it.

I'm hoping the competing bio written by Crowe is better.

Michelle
This was an entertaining read more than anything else. There was very little meat about who Isabella Blow was or what she did with regards to fashion, so if you're new to her or her story then this isn't the book to start with. However, if you enjoy biographies in general then this is a quick and entertaining one.
Sara Cochran
I love fashion, I love eccentricity, I love Britain and I love Izzy Blow. This biography was difficult to get through, because she killed herself. And it's written by her husband. But, it does a good job of showing how troubled and talented she was and it makes you fall for her.
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