Friday, May 11, 2007

Blow by blow

Isabella Blow, avante-garde dresser and English eccentric, died last week in an extraordinarily dramatic fashion: by drinking paraquat - the weedkiller beloved of garden nihilists everywhere (not least by Jim, our next door neighbour when I was a kid. Jim had his own supply and a natty little spray canister device to boot. It had its own strap which looped over the wearer's shoulder, allowing easy access to the toxic nozzle. When he got bored of walking around other people's cars kicking desultorily at the tyres, or listening to the collected works of Jim Reeves, or shouting at the neighbours' children, or eating mince and tatties in his cabbage-smelling house, or just needed a pick-me-up, he'd liberally spray paraquat hither and thither). Paraquat has a unique and quite disgusting smell - the strength of will required to drink it would be quite considerable.

She deserves to be remembered, amongst other things, for sporting a lobster hat (everyone said it wouldn't work!) and for wearing a Joan of Arc dress complete with heavy, oily chain (for that added authenticity!) which she dragged across the pristine white carpet of Jean Paul Gaultier's apartment ("Sacre bleu! C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre!", he may have cried at the sight).

True originals are doomed never to be part of the mainstream and she was reportedly disheartened by the fact that despite having brokered Alexander McQueen's highly lucrative contract with Gucci, she got "nothing but a dress" out of the deal; but she also had a particularly nasty form of cancer. She told the assembled party at her husband's country house (and you could take another fascinating detour around the family history of her husband, Detmar Blow) that she was going shopping, but instead she stayed home and drank her poison.

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