Bella Freud AW22

The Bella Freud Autumn-Winter 2022 (AW22) collection evokes an inquisitive and daring youthful spirit. Bella returned to the statement ‘Why should I’, which she printed on a t-shirt design made in collaboration with her friend the artist, Sarah Lucas, in 2020. Yoko Ono and her song Why (released as part of her 1970 Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band album) were a source of inspiration for that season. It is by asking ‘why?’ that a child learns about the world, Bella also sees curiosity as an antidote to fear; a way of pushing the boundaries of Bella Freud while continuing to offer what the brand is known and loved for. As Bella says: “It is important in fashion that you don't relax into being repetitive.”

Tailoring is at the heart of the AW22 collection. The shapes are boyishly petite with their delicately set shoulders; boyish being the operative word – closer to girly than the more distinctive notions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. Between the sharp edges and cuts there is room for softness and self expression. A characterful Rimbaud-style tie a la Charlotte Rampling is loosened at the neck to frame a beautiful ingenue face – our most valuable asset as it houses our mind. The Bentley green velvet suit and blue of the pinstripe three piece are colours that simultaneously soothe the wearer while captivating the onlooker. Taking sartorial cues from the Beatles and jazz musicians, sweaters are worn underneath blazers and matching trousers cut from Savile Row fabric, stripping back the formality so it is altogether more playful and sexy. This philosophy of juxtaposing structure and spontaneity has consistently run through Bella’s tailoring since she launched the line as a means of counterbalancing the textures of her knitwear designs.

Key pieces from the collection include a slouchy two piece set composed of a sweater and cardigan in car tyre knit – an extension of the designs Bella explored in her early collections. As a student in Rome, Bella was influenced by the work of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel and read every book she could find on the revolutionary designer. A photo of Chanel in a pleated skirt, as well as her general approach to styling the Duke of Westminster’s knitwear was of particular inspiration. As were the wider contributions Chanel made to fashion in creating clothes that were infinitely more free than the designs popular at the time.

AW22 sweaters are worn over shirts with a tie, reminiscent of the way writers and intellectuals cosy up in the winter, again playing into the idea of balance and contrast – this time between freedom and constraint. Stripes, like those on school rugby shirts or worn by characters in the Beano comic, are emblazoned across jumpers, dresses and scarves. School and punk go hand in hand for Bella, as it was her gateway to the movement and establishing a more questioning, rigorous and individual image. Long hand-hiding sleeves play with ideas of self consciousness; the want to hide oneself in garments, and of clothes being a place of safety and protection.

Word sweaters, which have become a pillar of Bella Freud, including the ‘Ginsberg is God’, ‘Situation’ and ‘1970’ designs, are realised in hand laid intarsia or an embossed knit. A slightly cropped sweater in block coloured green features the word 'Nature' – good nature after all is what matters in the world most right now.

There are t-shirts illustrated with the punk rock drawings of the late New Zealand artist Tyrone Smith. Bella was struck by the beauty and intriguing nature of Tyrone’s artworks, especially the cartoon images of a charismatic mouse wearing a ‘Fuck You’ and ‘Eat Shit’ top. “I could almost imagine being friends with Tyrone at school,” Bella says.

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