It was in 1989 that London-born Bella 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.
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."
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.
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.
Madonna, Kate Moss, Courtney Love, Saffron Burrows, Marianne Faithful, Jerry Hall, Anita Pallenberg, Lucy Ferry, Chloe Sevigny, Jasmine Guinness, and Jane Birkin amongst others.