Bella Freud: My life in art

Every word of Bella Freud’s famous knitwear is a different flavour, from ‘Ginsberg Is God’ to ‘Solidarité Feminine’ – and the signature dog is authored by her father, the eminent artist Lucian Freud. Indeed, Freud wears her ancestry with playful irreverence through her fragrance Psychoanalysis, a nod to the pioneering work of her great grandfather, Sigmund Freud. (Google it and a solitary perfume bottle appears amidst many pictures relating to the unconscious mind. Quite genius). Cutting tailoring dedicated to Marlene Dietrich and Bianca Jagger, like most designers Freud lifts from culture but crucially, unlike the majority, she gives something back to the broader conversation – you could say bagging a job at Westwood and McLaren’s Seditionaries, when she was just 16, was a great start. Over the years, Freud has collaborated with everyone from John Malkovich to Anita Pallenberg and Susie Bick; it was Malkovich who created three films for her collections, Freud claiming the format in fashion early on. Her latest project, overseeing art direction for W10 members’ club Laylow, sees her create uniforms with a ‘loyal pirate’ feel, all blood brotherhood (the boys) and Tinkerbelle (the girls).

Bella Freud Portrait © Mary McCartney

The art that impacted me.
When I was 12, I remember seeing Picasso’s paintings of Sylvette, the girl with the ponytail. I was intrigued by those images, they seemed very teenage like I was – almost. It was hard to know what I liked at first, but I knew I liked these.

The art that influenced my collection.
When I first started designing my own collections, I would go to the Courtauld Institute and look at the painting ‘A Bar at the Folies- Bergère’. I felt like I copied the outfit exactly but of course it was completely different. I like the shape of women in Manet’s paintings, quite demure almost but with a superb silhouette.

The exhibition that captivated me.
I went to an exhibition of Francis Bacon and my father’s in 1995 at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. It was the most incredible show, so interesting and full of electricity. I often look at the paintings from that show. I went over for the opening with some of my sisters, there were lots of people and it was quite wild. We all went to a lunch the next day hosted by Madame Pompidou, she was charming and very stylish and had a twinkle.

The art of my dog logo.
I asked my father to write my name for my logo as he had very distinctive writing. We were sitting in his kitchen on a break from him painting me and he was drawing, which he didn’t normally do on a break. He suddenly showed me a little picture with the dog drawing with my name either side, in a box. It was so perfect.

Philippe Parreno Speech Bubbles (Violet), 2015, mylar balloons, helium. © Philippe Parreno. Courtesy of the Andrew Xue collection and the artist.

The art that I’ve sat for.
I think I’ve been in eight paintings, plus lots of etchings and a few drawings. It is such a pang of joy every time I see them. I remember exactly what was going on, the atmosphere of my life at that time. Nothing makes me happier, actually.

The art that I’d most like to own.
I quite like the idea of a huge Ingres, I suppose it would give you such a shock of pleasure to see that every day. I would have it in my bedroom, bedrooms are a great place for works of art.

The art of words.
I believe language is the most important thing in the world, language can change everything. I became really interested in words when I heard Bob Marley, the way he put things made such an impression on me. I love the language of protest, it has to be brief, that’s the point, and carry feeling. When I’m looking for a word for a jumper I want it to have an independence so that it can mean anything to the person, not be prescriptive.

The art of together.
I love collaborations, it is such a buzz seeing what someone else brings to an idea and how far it can ripple out. I like coming up with an idea and then whoever I am working with takes it to the next level – however bizarre – and it turns into something amazing between us. It’s the unknown quantity, I love that, a chance to learn new things. I would’ve loved to collaborate with Prince. He was so wildly stylish.