Middlesex Jewellery student Natalie Ball has won the annual Isabella Blow Scholarship with a striking snake headpiece.
The £5,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a first year Middlesex student who, working to a brief, produces a piece that embodies the influence Isabella had over the fashion world. Natalie, who studies on the BA Jewellery and Accessories degree, used Isabella’s iconic headwear as an influence to create a unique and truly striking piece.
Middlesex invited two fantastic judges to make the final decision on the winner - Louise Gray, one of the freshest new talents to emerge in recent years with her signature vivid colour and mixed print collections, and Daryoush Haj-Najafi, the style editor for edgy and contemporary online Vice magazine. They chose Natalie’s design from a strong shortlist of entries because it referenced Isabella’s passion for headwear in a way that was original and had great wit.
Natalie chose to study Jewellery and Accessories at Middlesex because of the highly rated course and great reputation of the Art and Design department. She said she had loved jewellery from a young age as she believed everyone could wear and enjoy it regardless of age, size or shape. After her A-Levels she joined the iFAD (intensive Foundation in Art and Design) at Middlesex before becoming a student on the BA Hons Jewellery and Accessories course.
She was influenced by the animal imagery used by her two favourite designers Alexander McQueen and Sir Philip Treacy.
She said: “Isabella Blow said ‘you must have fantasy’ in fashion ‘to encourage people to have another feeling. It’s about emotions, it’s about love.’ The use of numerous snakes creates the idea of Medusa, a mythological Greek goddess who turned her viewers to stone by one look, and a fantastical feeling within the piece.
"Traditionally Medusa has been depicted and thought of as an extremely ugly ‘gorgon’ but in more modern times artists and designers have portrayed her as a beautiful creature. I have created two feelings using this imagery: one that displays the way Blow may have felt about herself, being ‘ugly’ using the motif of Medusa as a metaphor, and another creating the idea of power, as Medusa is believed to be the original mythological queen, reflecting Blow’s own power and importance within fashion. The book Philip Treacy by Fondazione Nicola Trussardi explains that ‘a hat replaces a jewelled crown,’ showing Blow’s legacy as the queen of fantastical hats.”
Natalie wants to develop her own style and unique identity while studying, so she can leave with a clear idea of who she is as a designer. She loves fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano because of their theatrical influences and extravagant clothing – this is what she hopes to embody within her designs over the next few years.
Gillian Charles, Director of Fashion Programmes at Middlesex, said: “We have always been very proud of the Isabella Blow Memorial Scholarship as Isabella’s beautiful, innovative and eccentric creativity personifies much of what fashion at Middlesex is all about. Each year it’s so exciting to see the raw talent exhibited by these first year students. They are still so new to us but their potential is so well evidenced by what they produce.”