Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
NameDetmar Hamilton Lorenz Arthur BLOW , 397
Birth2 Oct 1963
OccupationStarted as Barrister Middle Temple
EducationHarrow and LSE
FatherJonathan Oliver Tollemache BLOW , 1864 (1919-1977)
Birth19 Nov 1958
Death9th May 2007
OccupationFashion Editor
EducationHeathfield and Columbia University NY.
FatherSir Evelyn DELVES BROUGHTON 12th Bt , 267 (1915-1993)
MotherHelen Mary SHORE JP , 268 (1925-1988)
Marriage19 Nov 1989, Gloucester Cathedral
Notes for Detmar Hamilton Lorenz Arthur BLOW
Director of the Blow de la Barra gallery in London's Mayfair, founded with Isabella Blow and Mexican curator and artist Pablo Leon.

Designer's muse Isabella Blow and her husband Detmar blazed a delightfully eccentric trail through the world of fashion. In a frank and poignant interview only days after her death, he talks to Rachel Cooke about life with a true style original

Sunday May 13, 2007
The Observer

Bereavement makes people behave strangely, and Detmar Blow is no exception. At Hilles, the Arts and Crafts house which was built by the architect grandfather after whom he is named, the wind rattles the windows and the rain taps at the glass like ghostly fingers. The house, built into the side of a valley so that it feels like the prow of a ship, looks over thousands of acres of Gloucestershire and, in spite of the squally weather, this is where we are heading right now - out into the dripping green. 'I need a walk,' he says. 'I need to get outside for a bit.' He has just made me a cup of Earl Grey tea - I am straight off the train from London - and he now decants it from china cup to stout mug. 'You can take it with you,' he says. 'Yes?' In a flagged hall, he picks out two coats: a red mackintosh for him, a lead weight of tweed for me. 'I won't give you one of Issy's coats. That would be too macabre.' So, off we go: me, Detmar - four days into his grief and still far from acclimatised - and Detmar's pug, Alfie, who rasps like an old steam iron. The air is as bracing as a slap.

After 20 minutes, we return to the house - Wuthering Heights on a withering budget, as Issy always used to call it - where we sit in the gloom in front of a smoking fire which Detmar periodically attacks with a pair of creaking bellows. He tells me that he feels a bit better, now. 'I wanted to make it lovely for you,' he says. 'Light a fire! Get a few lights on!' But it's not really working. When someone has died, there is nothing you can do to make a room cheery and, on a day like this one, it is probably not even worth trying. Better to get on with The Arrangements. Detmar has spent the morning with the Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, where the funeral for his wife, the fashion stylist, Isabella Blow, will be held on Tuesday (it's the only possible place; he and Issy were married there in 1989). It will be only for family, but there will be a memorial service in July. 'Conde Nast [the owners of Vogue and Tatler, where Blow used to work] want it to be in Hanover Square, but that church is too small. I'm thinking of the Guards Chapel. Philip [Treacy, the milliner] says it should be the Abbey.' He laughs.
It's exhausting, I say, all the stuff you have to do in the days before a funeral. 'Oh, I know what to do,' he says. 'My father died by his own hand when I was boy. I know what to do.' The service will include Faure's Requiem; a rousing chorus of 'To Be a Pilgrim', which the Blows always have at weddings and funerals; and a reading from the Book of Matthew: 'Why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.' It was Isabella's niece who put her on to these verses - the same niece whose photograph she sent to Sarah Doukas, the model agent who discovered Kate Moss, days before she died. That Isabella loved these verses tells you, I think, a lot about her obsession with fashion. She adored clothes, from the moment she saw her mother trying on a pink hat when she was a little girl. But perhaps they - perhaps everything - came to matter to her too much.
Detmar told the world that Isabella had died of ovarian cancer. But everyone knows that she had been battling depression, and that she had told people this was a war she did not believe she could win. Two years ago, she jumped from a London bridge, breaking her legs and smashing her feet so badly that she could no longer wear her beloved high heels. (I used to work with Blow and what I remember about her more than anything was her shoes: her favourites then were by Jeremy Scott, and were shaped like a cloven hoof, so that she resembled no one so much as Mr Tumnus the faun.)
Later, she took an overdose. An inquest into her death, which opened last Friday, revealed that traces of the weedkiller Paraquat had been found in her body, and some newspapers have reported that she told her weekend house party guests that she was going shopping, but that they later found her collapsed. Detmar, however, is sticking to his official line, and I don't blame him. 'I've steered people away from the prurience,' he says. 'She had cancer. That's it. She's dead now. We can't change it. But we can celebrate her life, and our love for her.' In the hours after her death last Monday, Detmar spoke to Geordie Greig, the editor of Tatler, where Isabella had been fashion director. 'He was talking about all the obituaries, who would do what. I couldn't understand it at the time. But he was right. They're so comforting. I lie in bed and stroke the pictures. Poor Issy. I am going to be so lonely.' He picks up a book, the diaries of Wallis Simpson. Inside, his wife has written her name and the date: 1 May 2007. 'Look. So poignant. This is the ninth, and she's dead.'
Detmar Blow met Isabella Delves Broughton (her grandfather, Sir Jock Delves Broughton, was accused of the White Mischief murder of Lord Erroll; he was acquitted, but later killed himself) on 24 September 1988, just a week before his 25th birthday. She was five years his senior. They were at a wedding. 'She was with my sister [Selina Blow, the designer]. They walked straight past me. I noticed Issy talking like a little bird; that lovely voice. We came out of the cathedral. "I love your hat," I said. And she said: "I love your coat and I wish I was wearing my violet shoes for you, but it's muddy", which was so unlike her.' Did she ever put practicality before fashion? Didn't she wear wellies when she was here at Hilles? 'Of course not.' He looks at me as though I'm mad. 'Anyway, we went to the reception. She had 100 people round her and, of course, I had no one. So I waited for my moment, and then I leapt in: "Please come to Hilles," I said. Cheeky boy! And then: "Can I have your phone number?" Only her work number. But cool! I was having palpitations. On the Thursday, I rang. I said I was going to cook lamb and marinade it with apricots. She lived round the corner from me in London, in a house belonging to the literary executor of Tennessee Williams. So she came for dinner.
'Silver skirt, little bandana: the Pam Hogg look. Amazing figure. I thought: phwoar! I'd a girlfriend at the time, bit older than me. She was flashing daggers at Issy. Then Issy went upstairs to the drawing room. I rushed after her, closed the door and ...' He throws himself dramatically on top of me, so we're both lying prone on his creaking sofa (I told you grief makes people act strangely). What did she say? 'She said: "Get off me you silly Sri Lanki [Detmar's mother is of Sri Lankan extraction]." So then we went off to the second dinner of the night because, you know, getting Issy at short notice was tricky. When we got there, there weren't enough chairs, so I said: "Do you mind if Issy sits on my lap?"' His relationship with his girlfriend, who spent the evening slamming doors, ended that night and, the following weekend, he enticed Isabella to Hilles (Detmar, a barrister turned art dealer, does not own the house; his mother does, but he pays the bills, and is the sitting tenant). 'I asked her if she liked it. She told me afterwards that she said "yes", thinking: this will pay off my overdraft. Ha. I didn't have any money! On the Monday, I rang her. I said: "I'm coming to London to have my hair cut, and I've got something to tell you that I've never told anyone else before." When she came round, I was very nervous. I said: "I don't want to have an affair with you. I want to marry you."' Did she say yes immediately? 'Of course she did.' Blow pulls his upper lip over his teeth. He looks like the cat that got the cream.
Sixteen days from first meeting to marriage proposal; they married the following year, Issy in - of course - a Philip Treacy hat. Detmar was certain of his wife's talents as a stylist and muse, and determined both to give her a platform (Hilles where, effectively, she could run her salon) and to be her patron. She was notoriously bad with money and he was now on hand, so far as he was able, to bail her out. 'I saw Issy as a supertalent, but also as very nervous and insecure. I put a stop to that. But she was naughty.' He giggles. 'When she was the fashion director of the Sunday Times, she would get an advance on her expenses for the shows. But no sooner would we arrive in Paris than the designers would appear, the money would all be gone [spent on clothes]. So then it would be: "Is my credit card OK?"' What was it like being seen with her? Answer: he loved it. 'This is my mother,' he says. He shows me an old photograph of an extraordinarily beautiful woman in a coat with a collar that is straight out of Blake's Seven. 'We're theatrical. My father used to dress up in armour and stuff. This is my life! This house is a theatre set!'
Their marriage was, he says, incredibly happy and close, though Issy deeply regretted the fact that they had not been able to have children ('We were like a pair of exotic fruits that could not breed when placed together,' she once said). Then, three years ago, it all went wrong. 'I was heart-broken when we separated. I couldn't understand it.' So why did he allow it to happen? 'It was all Issy. She got fed up with my mother.' Detmar's mother was engaged in a battle to winkle him out of Hilles, a battle he has since won (according to Detmar, she wanted Selina, who has children, to live there). 'Issy said: "We should just go." But I said: "No, I'm staying and fighting. This is my home." She couldn't do it. She didn't have the stomach.' Isabella had faced parental rejection before. In 1994, her father disinherited her, leaving her only £5,000 of his £6m fortune; her husband believes that the idea of going through something similar again was too much for her. So, she left. 'I wrote her these letters saying I was heartbroken: I love you so much, I can't bear it, blah, blah, blah. But her reponse was [he adopts a mafiosi voice]: "You just don't get it. It's over."' Her sisters reported that Issy had told them she had not received his letters, so the next time he wrote, he took the precaution of photocopying his note, sending one to Isabella and one to her sisters. 'When I told her this, she said: "Same old shit, huh?" So naughty of Issy!'
So, in London, Detmar moved to Shoreditch, and had a 'really good time'. Among other things, he had an affair with the lesbian writer Stephanie Theobald. 'I used to be envious of all those boys who had all those girls. But then I realised: oh, it's not so hard. Everyone seems to like me. I'm very loveable!' Was Isabella mad and jealous? 'Oh, Ye-es! But then she got depression and her psychiatrist rang me and said: "You're the key to her."' There was a rapprochement. 'Issy was the sexiest, you see. Of all the girls I've made love to, Issy was always the best. She was super-sexy! She had the most beautiful knickers! One of my great aunts, Aunt Minette, said to me: "You have to have brains as well [to be sexy]." She was my soul mate.' Two tears roll down his cheeks. 'I had my bachelor time; I know what's coming now. And the people I love are always with me: Issy, my grandparents. But I am going to be so lonely.' He wipes his face, and seems to make a conscious decision to pull himself together. 'I am a bit addicted to drama,' he says. 'But let's carry on. I'm talking about the person I love.' Isn't he worn out? Grief is exhausting. 'No, I'm all right. People ask me: what can we do to help you? Well, give me money, or give me sex! Otherwise, just write to me, and let me grieve.' He laughs, naughtily. This is known, I think, as putting on a show.
I ask him if Isabella felt let down by the designers that she supported; a free frock, after all, is not the same thing as a job. 'Yes, she did. Though it wasn't about money for her, even if she did have fantasies about private jets. But Alexander [McQueen, probably her biggest discovery] paid her hospital bills, and he never made a fuss. Did you see the film of her on Channel 4 news? She was wearing a black and white Dior coat. John [Galliano, the designer of Dior] gave her that. She said: "I love it, but I can't afford it." They told her she could have it. "When we had no money you helped us. Take whatever you want."' A coat, though, doesn't put food on the table. In the midst of her depression, Isabella became convinced that she would end up as a bag lady. She knew how it felt to be seriously hard up. When she and Detmar first met, she had accounts at Fortnum's and Berry Bros, so that when the money ran out, she would still be able to eat - and drink - at least for a while.
It's time for me to leave now; a taxi is waiting, and Detmar has a thousand things to do. We go out through an immense panelled hall - ordinarily, I bet it's perfect for parties, but today it is so dank, it's a place to be dashed through - and into the kitchen, where Isabella's sister, Lavinia, sits at a table, looking poleaxed at the shock of it all. Issy's niece is here too, and a handsome young man who, I'm guessing from the look of his trousers, works in fashion or, perhaps, as a photographer (Isabella tried to turn every handsome young man she met into a photographer and, sometimes, she succeeded). On the floor, Alfie and two pug puppies have formed a kind of dog-knot. Detmar looks disdainful; he has eyes only for Alfie, now his best companion.
Time slows down in the days before a funeral, and here it feels like everyone save for the pugs is moving through invisible jelly. Or perhaps this is just the timeless power of Hilles, whose architect - like his grandson - went through life aiming for a certain kind of effect. Hilles helped Detmar to bag his bride, and now it will help to send her off in style. We go outside. I get into my car. The last thing I see as I drive off is Detmar. He's hopping up and down (he always did remind me of a penguin) and waving and trying to tuck his shirt into his trousers. 'Good luck finding Swindon!' he shouts. 'It's over there somewhere! Ha ha ha!' He is laughing wildly, which is exactly what Isabella would have wanted.
Blow by blow: Detmar's story
Born 1963
Family Sri Lankan mother; historian father killed himself by drinking weedkiller; grandfather was the Arts and Crafts architect Detmar Jellings Blow. Direct descendent of the composer Purcell.
Career A former barrister turned art dealer, Detmar is the director of the Blow de la Barra gallery in London's Mayfair, founded with Isabella and Mexican curator and artist Pablo Leon.
Isabella The couple met at a friend's wedding in 1988, became engaged 16 days later and married the following year at Gloucester Cathedral. Separated in 2004; Detmar had an affair with novelist Stephanie Theobald and Isabella with a Venetian gondolier. Reconciled 18 months later. Doted on their pug, Alfie.
She said 'I'm having my body cut up when I die and I'm leaving my heart with Detmar in a heart-shaped box.'
He says 'She was a substantial person. She was extraordinary, dynamic, beautiful and loyal.'
Natalie Idehen

They blamed me for her suicide: Style icon Isabella Blow's husband tells how he was snubbed at her funeral after she poisoned herself with weedkiller - even though she had tried to kill herself seven times

PUBLISHED: Mail on Sunday 22:19, 16 June 2012 | UPDATED: 22:30, 16 June 2012

Amid the imposing tapestries and portraits of long-dead royals which adorn the walls of Hilles, Detmar Blow’s gothic Arts and Crafts home in Gloucestershire, is a black-and-white photograph of his late wife, Isabella.

Her huge, sad eyes stare out from underneath an extraordinary hat with plumes and netting springing out every which way. The impression is more of a rare, exotic bird than a flesh-and-blood woman.

The picture is one of Detmar’s favourites of Isabella, the internationally renowned style icon who discovered some of the fashion world’s most important figures, from the late designer Alexander McQueen to the milliner Philip Treacy and model Sophie Dahl.

‘That’s the hat she was wearing when we met,’ he says, smiling as he gazes at it. ‘I thought she was fabulous, extraordinary. I haven’t got many pictures of her here, as I don’t want the house to feel like a shrine, but this one is special.’

It has been five years since Isabella’s death at 48, during which the influence of her extravagant style, including those trademark hats – featuring, variously, a lobster, a dead seagull and a Japanese temple – has continued to grow.

Lady Gaga has acknowledged the debt her sartorial choices owe to the stylist, who elevated wearing clothes to performance art. Treacy, whose creations she often showcased, has become the Royal Family’s milliner of choice.

Detmar, an art dealer who was married to Issie, as he calls her, for 18 years, has had to learn to cope without his passionate, creative and darkly witty soulmate. Yet although her spirit continues to play a major role in his life, he has also found a new sense of fulfilment by becoming a father.

He and Isabella could never have children together, but a relationship with Portuguese-born artist Mara Castilho, which began months after Isabella’s death and ended last year, resulted in a son, Sasha, almost four, whom he adores.

‘I know Issie would be very happy for me to have a child,’ says Detmar, now 48. ‘I remember us talking about what she’d do if anything happened to me, and she said she’d get a boyfriend. I said, “Oh, Issie,” but she was adamant she wouldn’t want to be on her own.

‘She’ll always be part of me, but for her, life was to be lived, and she’d want me to move on. “Go for it” was her motto. She wanted everyone to fulfil their dreams. She’d be thrilled that I’ve been given the gift of Sasha. My love for him has helped me enormously. It has given me a sense of purpose and contentment.’
An effusive man with a flamboyant fashion sense undoubtedly encouraged by his late wife, he laughs often as he remembers her, although sadness occasionally clouds his eyes.

He is fervent in his desire to celebrate her life, not only because he loved and admired her greatly, but also because he knows she would relish her posthumous status as an icon.

He is delighted Isabella’s contribution to fashion is now acknowledged, and her legacy is being celebrated with a foundation the heiress Daphne Guinness is establishing in her name to support emerging talent. A film is also being made about her life, based on Lauren Goldstein Crowe’s biography.

‘When she was alive, not everybody understood how much she did,’ he says. ‘She was so generous and courageous. She wasn’t afraid to believe in people before anybody else did and push them to become successful.

‘I’m so happy she’s continuing to make an impact – although she’d be infuriated by Lady Gaga because she didn’t want anybody to look like her. For Gaga, the clothes are a costume, but Issie wore them all the time.’

During the immediate aftermath of Isabella’s death in 2007, it was unimaginable for Detmar that he would ever find peace. In the preceding 14 months, his wife had tried to kill herself seven times, and had been treated at numerous psychiatric hospitals and clinics in an attempt to alleviate her terrible depression, to no avail.

On May 7, she drank weedkiller and died two days later in hospital.

From the moment Detmar met her at a society wedding in 1988, he was all too aware of her demons.

He was a trainee barrister aged just 24, the grandson of the architect of the same name and a descendant of the aristocratic Tollemache family, when he spotted Isabella Delves Broughton, five years his senior, walking into the church wearing that show-stopping hat.

He plucked up the courage to speak to her and they spent the rest of the day bonding over the tragedies which blighted both their backgrounds.

Detmar’s father had killed himself when Detmar was 14, with the same brand of weedkiller, paraquat, that Isabella was later to use. Her grandfather Sir ‘Jock’ Delves Broughton, the subject of the book and film White Mischief, also took his own life, and her two-year-old brother Johnny died in an accident.

Five reasons to visit Isabella Blow's fashion retrospective

There's so much more to this display of the late style muse's wardrobe than a bunch of crazy hats

Jess Cartner-Morley The Guardian, Tuesday 19 November 2013 18.47 GMT

It is a history lesson in hats

Did you know, for example, that in 18th-century France there was a fashion for elegant women to wear model ships in their hair, to celebrate French victories over the English at sea? I didn't, until I learned from the caption accompanying the "galleon" hat that it was this story, told by Isabella to Philip Treacy, that inspired it. Blow had a wealth of knowledge about history, and about the countryside and nature – she was a great lover of gardens, and roses – and a knack for plucking out colourful titbits with which to feed her proteges. Blow told her own story in hats: her fondest memory of her mother, who famously offered her 14-year-old daughter a formal handshake on the day she left the family home, was being allowed to try on her pink hat. The story she liked to tell about meeting her husband Detmar Blow began with him complimenting her hat.

It is a story about the power of fashion – and its limitations

The exhibition is a biography, in clothes, of a woman who once said that the mood-altering effect of hats was better than antidepressants, but who took her own life. Fashion was the great love of Blow's life, the focus of her passion and talent – but towards the end, she felt that the designers she had nurtured had left her behind. This is an exhibition with a very clear agenda: to give Blow the place in fashion history that she deserves. Driven in large part by her friends Daphne Guinness and Treacy, the show gives Blow a posthumous third act. In other words, this is not just hats, it is the backstory of modern British fashion being rewritten.

It is very funny

One of my favourite non-hat exhibits is a fax sent to Blow by an exasperated assistant during her time working at the Sunday Times, which conjures up a vivid picture of the thankless and impossible task of pinning the stylist down to budgets and RSVPs. Blow was very funny – she had a honking laugh, which Alexander McQueen said reminded him of a Billingsgate fishwife – and was uncowed by the worry that she might be thought mad. (Andy Warhol befriended her at a party, because she was wearing mismatched shoes.) At her funeral, her friend Rupert Everett described her as "a one-off ... your own creation in a world of copycats" and that bumptuous originality shines through here. The overall mood is bittersweet, but never maudlin.

This is an eyewitness account of the Cool Britannia era

Blow was instrumental in pushing into the limelight many of the key talents who defined Britain's renaissance as a creative powerhouse in the 1990s. Never a bandwagon-jumper, she was there right from the start. At Hussein Chalayan's graduate show, she sent him off to find a roll of bin bags, helped him pack the clothes in them, and marched him over to Browns boutique, where Joan Burstein put the collection in the window. At one point early in their careers, she had both Treacy and McQueen living and working in her Belgravia house. There was a kind of magic in the air: as Blow puts it, Treacy's incredible hats were appearing in his little basement studio "like muffins popping out of toasters". Blow "wasn't just providing money or opportunity, she was grabbing people by the collar and leading them into their future", says curator Alistair O'Neill. "I look at fashion now and I don't see who those people are."

Clothes that someone has worn are much more fun than an 'archive'

When O'Neill and the curators first examined the collection, they were hit by a wave of Fracas – the scent that Blow always wore, and with which McQueen perfumed the venue for his La Dame Bleue collection after her death, which was dedicated to Blow. "There is a very physical presence of Isabella in these clothes," says O'Neill. "We've got an exquisite McQueen hawthorn jacket which has a huge cigarette burn in it. Her hats were endlessly getting damaged where she would lean forward to light a cigarette off a candelabra at dinner." Sedately displayed on a pedestal are a pair of Givenchy haute couture mules, their silk-wrapped heels ripped to shreds at some party or another. There is a kind of innocence to this way of dressing, a storybook joie de vivre. Unfortunately, like all the best fairytales, it ends badly.

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! is at Somerset House, London WC2 from 20 November 2013 to 2 March 2014
Last Modified 23 Nov 2013Created 4 Mar 2023 using Reunion for Macintosh