Since establishing her namesake label in 1990, Bella Freud has moved between the mediums of clothing design, interior design, perfume making, filmmaking and publishing – redefining what it means to be a designer. Along the way she has collaborated with leaders in these respective fields, shooting three films directed by the actor John Malkovich; printing a magazine entitled Memo with the late Anita Pallenberg; realising a penthouse at the Television Centre home and office complex in London with architect and interior designer Maria Speake, the co-founder of the Retrouvius, and designing limited edition knitwear with singer-songwriter Nick Cave. Her own clothing designs meanwhile have garnered a cult following amongst the likes of Kate Moss, Little Simz, Juliette Lewis, Zadie Smith, Sienna Miller, Olivia Wilde and Rebecca Hall.
For Bella, design is about distilling an emotion into a single statement. Her iconic word jumpers reflect her intelligent yet playful approach, and demonstrate the personal narratives that run throughout her collections. For instance, when Bella made the short film Hideous Man (2002), about a group of Beatnik girls waiting in a club for their favourite poet to arrive, she wanted the main protagonist to be wearing a top reminiscent of a band t-shirt, which demonstrated her devotion to literature and art. And so the ‘Ginsberg is God’ sweater was born. Bella’s assistant at the time made the malapropism ‘Godard is Dog’, and she liked it so much she incorporated it into the back of the design.
A frequently asked question is about the meaning behind the ‘1970’ jumper. The image evolved when Bella noticed the date in the corner of a catalogue while messing around on her photocopier – the year conjured up images of the early New York punk scene and Patti Smith. Even the Bella Freud logo is designed by her father, the painter Lucian Freud (1922-2011), who drew it during a break while Bella was sitting for him. Bella has documented these anecdotes along with many other outtakes from her world, such as the first time she saw Kate Moss through the window of a taxi in Paris, or the story of a night out in New York with Diane von Furstenberg. These stories can be read on the ‘Happenings’ section of the Bella Freud website, which is as much an illustrated notebook as it is an ecommerce platform.