Fashion designer, icon and true-Londoner Bella Freud talks to Art is Alive about her current projects, David Bowie’s music, her dad’s paintings, and her new perfume.
Favourite David Bowie song?
Andy Warhol or Queen Bitch. When I was 12 and lived in Sussex I used to babysit for my neighbours – a very nice Dutch couple, they had Hunky Dory in their record collection and I couldn’t wait to get to their house and play it incessantly. I didn’t know what Bowie was talking about (who did?) but I was mesmerized.
Your favourite poets?
My father knew lots poems off by heart and when I was sitting for him he sometimes used to recite Kipling’s ‘The Mary Gloucester’ and Betjemans ‘Invasion Exercise on the Poultry Farm’ among others, but those stuck in my head. I’ve started reading John Berryman’s poems which I like so much, also Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg. And TS Eliot. I find poetry very useful for work, it puts words in my head and I need that.
If not yourself, who would you be?
I would like to be Nick Cave, I admire him so much.
Best memory working with Vivienne Westwood?
I remember once we got hysterics about a rather bad photo of me wearing a straw hat with fruit on that she had designed, we had to go into separate rooms where we both literally cried with laughter for about 20 minutes.
Your idea of misery?
War. The most horrific thing that can happen to any people, and that politicians seem to resort to with such pride.
Best thing a cabbie told you?
I was wearing my Last Poets jumper and the cabbie said he had seen them play. He also told me about a shop where I could find good album covers.
Who are your heroes?
People who stand up to the establishment, like Camila Batmangelidjh who did and still does so much to protect vulnerable children, and was the victim of a shocking smear campaign.
Your favourite virtue?
Secret place in London?
Your favourite painter?
I love my dad’s paintings. I love Francis Bacon, and I am fascinated by Picasso, the biographies by John Richardson are riveting. I like Ingres, Velasquez, Goya, also Andy Warhol. I cant ever get sick of Warhol. My favourite now artist is Sarah Lucas, she’s a genius.
Pieces you’ve designed that was the most difficult?
Prefer not to think about them.
Your favourite hero in fiction?
Thats so hard. I am crazy about the boy in Dickens’ Dombey and Son, he is the most beguiling and enchanting boy – and then he dies half way through the book! Such a daring thing to do as a writer, kill your hero in the middle of the story. I have an eternal place in my heart for Rastignac from the Balzac novel Pere Goriot. I also really fancied that heroic nutter John Self in Martin Amis’ ‘Money.’ Then of course there is Lyra from Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’. And Rochester from Jane Eyre. And on and on.
Your favourite Lucian Freud painting?
The ones of me. And the ones of him.
Has anyone ever confused you for Charlotte Gainsbourg?
Amazingly, it has happened.
Would that be a compliment?
Yes, I worship her.
Latest album you’ve bought?
Gil Scott-Heron’s last album ‘I’m New Here.’ Killer beautiful.
What do you collect?
What irritates you the most with people?
Bullying, but that is more than irritating, it is heinous and unacceptable.
Favourite museum in the world?
The National Gallery in London. And the National Portrait Gallery.
Latest exhibition you’ve visited?
From Freud to Van Dyck at the National Gallery.
Your next weekend away?
I’m going to Paris for the fabric trade fair Premier Vision, but not for the weekend.
Who would you love to dress / collaborate with?
I would love to do something with Amanda Harlech or Phoebe Philo, they are so gifted and playful.
Your ideal place for a holiday?
I’m in love with Portugal, I would consider moving to Lisbon, it is such a fun place.
Rolling Stones or Beatles?
A new perfume called Close to my Heart, and pop up shop at Fenwick’s of Bond Street. An exciting collaboration in the pipeline. There is always something happening.