Bella Freud - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

British designer

Born: London, 17 April 1961. Education: Attended Michael Hall School, Forest Row, East Sussex. Left school at 16 to work as shop

Bella Freud in ca. 1980-90. © Mike Laye/CORBIS.
Bella Freud in ca. 1980-90.
© Mike Laye/CORBIS.
assistant to Vivienne Westwood, London, 1977. Studied at Accademia di Costume e di Moda, Rome, and tailoring at the Istituto Mariotti, Rome. Career: Design assistant to Vivienne Westwood, circa 1980-83; launched own label, 1989; showed collection for first time at London Designer Show, October 1991; capsule collection for Stirling Cooper, Bella Freud for Stirling Cooper, 1994; consultant designer to Dewhirst, manufacturers for Marks and Spencer Plc, 1994. Exhibitions: Court Couture exhibition, Kensington Palace, London, 1991. Collections: Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Awards: British Fashion Council Innovative Design New Generation award, 1991. Address: 21 St. Charles Square, London W10 6EF, England.




Casadio, Mariuccia, "Bella Freud," in Interview (New York), August 1991.

Baker, Lindsay, "Freud's World of Dreams," in The Guardian (London), 16 September 1991.

Tredre, Roger, "The Fears and Dreams of Bella Freud," in The Independent (London), 10 October 1991.

Brampton, Sally, "Joined by the Hip," in the Times Magazine (London), 28 December 1991.

Lender, Heidi, "A Freudian Clip," in Women's Wear Daily (NewYork), 8 January 1992.

Ferguson, Stephanie, "Living with Labels," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 5 April 1992.

Woram, Catherine, "Freudian Analysis," in Australian Collections Magazine, Autumn/Winter 1992.

Harris, Martyn, "The Art of Not Coming Apart at the Seams," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 8 October 1992.

Kay, Karen, "Me and My Style by Bella Freud," in the Daily Mirror (London), 20 October 1993.

Armstrong, Lisa, "Safe Sex," in Vogue (London), February 1994.

Watson, Shane, "Freud's Kinky Years in Morocco," 31 January 1999, from the website ( ).

"Ring My Bella," from the Vogue Daily website, ( ).


Bella Freud is known for her whimsical designs which include somewhat kitschy elements, colorful knitwear, and modern tailoring. Essentially, her designs are recognizably British, but as one of Freud's friends described, "Chanel gone kinky." Bella, the great-granddaughter of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the daughter of painter Lucien Freud (who designed her logo), is now part of the London fashion establishment.

Freud's involvement with British fashion began in 1977 when, at the age of 16, she was offered a job by Vivienne Westwood at her World's End shop, then called Seditionaries. Freud decided to study fashion in Rome and left Westwood's shop for Italy where for the next three years she studied fashion at the Accademia di Costume e di Moda, tailoring at the Istituto Mariotti, and designed shoes for private clients in her spare time. Freud completed her fashion training under Vivienne Westwood (who is held in high regard for her tailoring technique) where she worked as an assistant in the Westwood design studio for four years.

It was in 1989 that Freud decided the time was right to launch her own label—a move many thought was foolhardy—with Britain in the midst of recession. Freud presented her first collection for fall/winter 1991 in March 1990, which consisted of tailored knitwear and accessories. Her "violin case" bags, typical of her slightly quirky style, were photographed by Vogue magazine in New York. The following season the designer added tailored pieces to the collection which were manufactured for her in Italy. Knitwear continued to play an important role in Freud's collections and became a Freudian hallmark, along with the bags and shoes which made up the total Freud look. Success and recognition came in October 1991, when she launched a collection at the London Designer Show exhibition for the first time, the very same month she was named Young Innovative Fashion Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards ceremony.

Freud's designs are an interesting combination of tailored pieces which have a somewhat prim air about them, teamed with short skirts and ultra-high-heeled shoes—blending an air of innocence with provocative appeal. The designer cites the Edwardian period as being a major source of inspiration, with its formal silhouette and what Freud describes as its "suppressed-looking" style. Other important influences include designers Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent and, not surprisingly, her mentor Vivienne Westwood. Westwood's influence is evident in Freud's decidedly English-styled tailoring, although it is somewhat less structured, which Freud admits she owes to the Italian influence during her fashion training: "Their tailoring is much more extravagant—and sexy—whereas English tailoring is much plainer." Eveningwear by Freud is more glamorous and has included floor-length satin sheaths and crêpe gowns with maribou cuffs in a distinctive 1940s-style air. Freud's little day dresses, which come in both stretch fabrics and as more tailored shapes, also possess the same balance of formality and quietly provocative sex appeal.

For spring/summer 1993 Freud introduced a range of denim pieces which included a jeans-style dress, jacket, and trousers, and these soon became an established part of each collection, produced in different designs and colored denims. Freud also works closely with milliner Philip Treacy who has designed the hats for her collections. Fashion journalist Lisa Armstrong, writing for the February 1994 issue of London Vogue , succinctly described Freud's style as being "…a bit like Sharon Stone wearing a St. Trinian's uniform designed by a Paris couturier."

Freud is typical of the new breed of young British designers who emerged during the 1990s; they concentrated upon building their businesses at a slower, more carefully-planned rate than their predecessors who, in the early 1980s, came and went at an alarming rate. Freud set up her business in what she described as a "humble way" and gradually built up a reputation that established her as a recognized name in British fashion.

In 2000 Freud became the fashion designer for Jaeger, a century-old label known for its reliably traditional clothing often associated with wealthy countrywomen and school teachers. Jaeger hired Freud to update its image and since Freud has always relied on traditional English fabrics and tailoring, the outcome should be interesting. Imagine Jaeger hiring a designer whose clients have included Madonna, Jerry Hall, and Courtney Love! According to Pat Burnett, Jaeger's chief executive, "Freud will add a bit of wit, fun and frippery."

In addition to using traditional British styles, Freud has also relied on the elements and style of dress that she was accustomed to while growing up in Morocco. As a child, she was "mad about uniforms" and even wanted her mother to dress in a kaftan with a veil "like all the other mothers." She became aware of the importance of clothes and wanted her own clothes "to be like armor," to make her feel like she could "forget about myself." Yet as an adult, in dealing with fashion, Frued contends that "when you look fantastic then you can stop worrying." Fans of Freud can learn more about her childhood in the video Hideous Kinky, a film based on her sister Esther Freud's fictionalized account of their early life in Marrakesh.


updated by Christine MinerMinderovic

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