It was a question Tatler editor in chief Geordie Greig muttered regularly to his staff while hunting for his elusive fashion director, the late Isabella Blow, he recalled Tuesday during a memorial service for Blow.
The answers — not surprisingly — came in all shapes and sizes: She was busy buying underwear — 1,000 pounds worth — or on a beach in Mauritius wearing a velvet hat or holidaying with Alexander McQueen. Over the years, Greig gave up and accepted "the agony and the ecstasy" of working with Blow.
Some 800 family, friends and colleagues including Valentino, Bryan Ferry, Daphne Guinness, Tracey Emin, David Adjaye, Anna Piaggi, Stella McCartney, Joan Collins, Princess Beatrice, the Duchess of York, Mario Testino, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Joan Burstein and Tom Parker Bowles, gathered at the Guards' Chapel near Buckingham Palace to remember Blow, who died on May 7 at age 48.
Ferry did a special arrangement of his song "When She Walks in the Room" — one of Blow's favorites — for the service. His son, Otis Ferry, a fox-hunting enthusiast and one of Blow's godchildren, sounded a mournful hunting horn at the end of the 90-minute ceremony.
There were bagpipes, performances by the Regimental Band of the Irish Guards — Blow's father, Sir Evelyn Delves Broughton, had been a member of the regiment — and a short speech by her husband, Detmar Blow, who remembered falling in love with Isabella at first sight and proposing almost immediately. He recalled having a discussion with her father, who said: "Issy isn't every man's cup of tea, but you and she are a match made in heaven."
Greig, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and International Herald Tribune fashion critic Suzy Menkes all recalled Blow's talent for talent-spotting, her alternative approach to living and her larger-than-life wardrobe: The burkas at fashion shows, ballgowns at the office and the lobster hat worn while waiting to board an easyJet flight.
"Dressing up was about making her job into an event," said Wintour, who worked with Blow at Vogue, and recalled her once wearing a sari that unraveled as she strode out of the magazine's New York offices and later got caught in the door of her taxi."Issy had the most wonderful ability to take even the most basic of tasks and turn it into something memorably thrilling. She had no time for anything humdrum, banal or mundane — to the extent that the task of cleaning her desk every night had begun with a bottle of Perrier water and Chanel No.5," Wintour said.
Menkes called Blow a smart, original woman who "wore her erudition lightly," yet who also had an earthy sense of humor. "She once told me I was the only person in the world of fashion who didn't have to suck ass," said Menkes.
While there may have been a lot of laughs, the service had its sober moments. "All of us failed to say how much we loved and admired her — until it was too late for her to hear our sweet words," said Menkes of Blow, who committed suicide by swallowing the weed killer paraquat. A coroner is due to issue a final report on her death next month.
Indeed, Blow never received any awards or public recognition for her work, said Greig, adding that all the posthumous accolades were "too late and more than a little shaming."
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