Fashion muse, visionary stylist and owner of one of the world's most outrageous wardrobes, the late Isabella Blow wore a lot of hats, both figuratively and literally. But in the juicy and heart-wrenching new biography "Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion," author Lauren Goldstein Crowe digs beneath the surface to explore how the charismatic and daring style influencer went from lending her Midas touch to the likes of Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy to battling a depression that culminated in her 2007 suicide. Crowe spoke with StyleList about Blow's legacy, eccentric style and influence on modern-day stars like Lady Gaga.
StyleList: It seems that Isabella's relationship with the late Alexander McQueen was more complicated than reported. Was he resentful of her role?
Lauren Goldstein Crowe: He wasn't resentful of her influence. He loved being influenced by her. What he was resentful of was that she told people that she had discovered him. He had been working for nearly a decade when she saw his graduate collection at Central Saint Martins and certainly would have made it without her help -- it just would have taken longer.
StyleList: How would you contrast that with her more familial relationship with hat designer Philip Treacy?
L.G.C.: Both relationships were defined by the personality of the men. McQueen, we all now know, suffered from depression, so he could be temperamental. Theirs was a passionate love-hate friendship.
Treacy is a very calm and stable person. Isabella often relied on him to advise her, and he would try to curb her more outrageous behaviors when they were becoming dangerous. For instance, he refused to go to Turkey when she spent 35,000 pounds to hire a yacht, because he knew going would be an endorsement of her behavior and she didn't have that kind of money to throw around.
StyleList: McQueen selected a multicolor beaded coat trimmed with ocelot fur and an embroidered pale-green dress for Isabella to wear in her casket. What significance do you think that had?
L.G.C.: I think it was the most regal of her gowns, and he wanted her to go out looking like a queen.
StyleList: Isabella has obviously been linked to McQueen and Treacy, but she really had a hand in nurturing people like Sophie Dahl, Stella Tennant, Julien Macdonald and Jeremy Scott. Why was she so influential?
L.G.C.: Isabella was passionate about a great many things. If it was an art exhibition in London, she'd tell everyone she knew to go and see it. So when she met people who were talented it was in her nature to promote them.
StyleList: What do you think drew Isabella to the fashions she wore? What is just about provoking people, such as her habit of not wearing underwear?
L.G.C.: Isabella always said her style was classic with a twist (or once, Duchess of Windsor on acid). She recognized talent and quality and was drawn to people who produced it. Part of the reason she dressed as she did was certainly about attracting attention, which she needed to do to fight her feelings of inadequacy.
StyleList: What were some of her most unusual style quirks?
L.G.C.: Lipstick on her teeth, Manolos clacking because she would never get the heel taps replaced, hats in flames, dressing with no regard for occasion... She was doing evening for day long before it became chic.
StyleList: What were you most surprised to learn about her?
L.G.C.: How bawdy and funny she was.
StyleList: There seem to be a lot of similarities between Isabella and Lady Gaga -- the daring fashions (both wore lobster hats, for instance), the association with Philip Treacy, the love for Rigby & Peller. Do you see Blow's influence in her style?
LGC: Absolutely. Philip made Gaga's hat as a tribute to Isabella (although he did not make the one Isabella wore). Many people including Philip and David LaChapelle have told Gaga about Isabella, so she's aware of who she was.
StyleList: Where do you think Isabella would be today had she lived?
L.G.C.: Many of her friends think she would have thrived in the age of reality TV. A camera on Isabella 24-7 would make compelling viewing.
StyleList: Can you tell us about the controversy with Isabella's husband, Detmar, who also has a book coming out about her?
L.G.C.: Detmar was always unhappy that there was another book coming out about Isabella, and I always thought that a biography should be written by an objective outsider. If you want to read a book about her marriage to Detmar and their complicated relationships with both their families, then you should read Detmar's book. If you want to read a book about Isabella and her life in fashion, then I think mine is the better choice.
StyleList: You mention that Detmar listed two causes for the breakup of his marriage with Isabella: Alexander McQueen and hats. Do you think it was her passion for fashion that wreaked havoc on her love life and made her depressed, or do you think it was her messy love life that did the damage?
L.G.C.: I think that both were manifestations of an internal unhappiness that may well have been in part genetic.
StyleList: How has your impression of Isabella changed since writing the book?
L.G.C.: I had no idea how smart and funny Isabella was. I only knew her from sight and thought she was, of course, creative, but actually her dress sense was one of the least interesting things about her when I finished.
Speaking of style icons, check out Tina Turner's fashion evolution.