Few things look better with a pair of jeans than one of Bella Freud’s signature jumpers, bearing tongue-in-cheek slogans for the cultured set like “Ginsberg is God” and “Je t’aime Jane.” That’s one reason among many that the Los Angeles denim label J Brand tapped Freud for a limited-edition capsule collection this autumn. (That Freud’s designs are beloved of London It-girls like Kate Moss and Alexa Chung surely didn’t hurt the selection process, either.)
The 17-piece capsule combines Freud’s insouciant Seventies vibe with the wide-leg and boyfriend-style jeans she herself likes to wear. Her popular “Boy Girl,” “Pretty Baby” and “Gangs of Love” jumpers have been reimagined in lurex and cotton. Oversized denim jackets decorated with silver snaps along the front and sleeves have a biker toughness – and look terrific with matching minis. Freud’s favourite from the collection is a sexy black denim jumpsuit that zips down the front. Ella Richards, granddaughter of her long-time muse and former collaborator Anita Pallenberg, fronts the accompanying campaign.
Freud, 56, launched her namesake label in 1990. Her slinky knitted dresses and micro-tailored suits earned her the Most Innovative Designer Award at the London Fashion Awards in 1991. After some recession-related setbacks, she set about expanding her label again five years ago with a focus on her now-famous slogan jumpers. She brought on an investor, Peter Dubens, and in 2015 opened a flagship store on London’s famed Chiltern Street. Today her collection spans women’s tailoring, men’s, home and fragrance, and often pays tribute to her family legacy: her father, the artist Lucien Freud, designed the logo; and a perfume, Psychoanalysis, is a nod and a wink to great-grandfather Sigmund.
We met Freud at her London flagship to talk about the evolution of her label and her advice for those seeking to follow in her footsteps.
How she got started
“I started with a small collection of knitwear inspired by a book that I really loved by Colette, called Claudine. Claudine was this very clever, very naughty, very sensuous girl, an interesting mixture of innocent and worldly. She lived in the early 1900s, and I imagine her for now. So instead of having an ankle-length skirt, [I designed] a micro-mini skirt, and instead of the very formal clothes that people wore in those days, I made her wear knitwear. Since then I’ve built up the knitwear at the centre of my collection and I became interested in putting words on jumpers. I like the expression ‘you wear your heart on your sleeve’ so for me I wear my heart on my chest, on my jumpers.”
On the evolution of her label
“In the last five years I’ve developed my fashion label into candles, perfume and homeware – blankets, cushions. I don’t see that as not being fashion – I like the idea that I take the fashion into different worlds. There is a lot more to fashion than just clothing. Your interior life is the most important thing of all and it’s how you show people that, it’s what you let people see.”
On her collaboration with J Brand
“I’ve made 17 pieces in all. I made two pairs of jeans – the ones I’m wearing, which have a high waist and a wider leg, and are like the kinds of jeans I used to love wearing at school. And that has a matching denim jacket. I like this double denim thing, but I wanted the jacket to be like you borrowed from your boyfriend, a bit Eighties biker, but then the jeans are kind of sexy, based on the wives of Seventies rock stars, glamorous. My favourite piece is the jumpsuit. It’s more like a girl in a Formula 1 pit stop, really sexy, you unzip the whole thing. It’s dark and it’s got a bit of stretch, but not too much because I hate the look of stretchy denim. And then there’s the jumpers, the ‘Pretty Baby’ t-shirt, ‘Gangs of Love,’ and then ‘Boygirl’ because I find boyish girls very feminine.”
Advice for young designers
“Most importantly, don’t give up. Learn how to make things. It’s really important if you understand how things actually work and how to put something together yourself. And just explore.”
See below for images of Freud’s collaboration with J Brand.
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