Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

"Blow by Blow" Detmar Blow's Book on his Iconic Late Wife, Isabella

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

An excerpt from Blow by Blow, Detmar Blow and Tom Sykes' upcoming book about the late great fashion icon Isabella Blow, who tragically succeeded in taking her own life in 2007 following seven previously failed suicide attempts, was published in the Daily Mail this weekend. In it, Detmar Blow details select examples of Isabella's brilliance—and professional madness. "She has the distinction of submitting the highest expenses claim in the history of Condé Nast—for a dilapidated building," he writes. "Issie wrote on the expenses form, 'Just £50,000 for a very small ruin that really was a must'. It went unpaid."

Detmar also explains that Isabella was plagued with a hereditary clinical depression possibly triggered by a series of events beginning with the death of her infant brother, followed by the divorce of her parents during Isabella's adolescence.

A year after his divorce, in 1973, Evelyn married again, to Issie's stepmother Rona, who also had three young daughters. When 15-year-old Isabella came home on holiday from school, soon afterwards, she found she'd been evicted-from her bedroom in favour of her stepsisters and moved to a guest room.

She now felt unwelcome at Doddington in the school holidays, and this can be pinpointed as the moment she began to feel as though she belonged nowhere. This demon developed over the years into an obsessive fear that she would end up a homeless bag lady - a belief that haunted her and contributed to her suicide, despite the fact that, at the time of her death, with a flat in Eaton Square, we were manifestly not destitute.

There has been plenty of speculation in the fashion industry about reasons for Isabella's untimely death, and, to be sure, seven attempts at suicide in 14 months is a clear signal that she fully, willfully, intended to end her life. But while Detmar's new book pegs Isabella's unhappiness entirely on residual feelings from childhood, it was, and is, common knowledge in the industry that Detmar was a philanderer—in 2004, it's alleged he left Isabella to father a child with someone else, and eventually entered into a relationship with Stephanie Theobold, an editor at Harper's Bazaar. It was during this time that Isabella was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and underwent a series of electroshock treatments. After her death, it was revealed that Isabella left nothing to her husband in her will, choosing to bequeath her estate to her sisters instead.
· Fatally flawed fashionista: Isabella Blow's husband reveals how beneath all the glitz, the maverick who discovered Sophie Dahl and Alexander McQueen was crippled by depression [Daily Mail]
· Isabella Blow left nothing to her husband in her will [Telegraph]
· Fashion victim [Times UK]