HOW WE MET - SUSIE BICK AND BELLA FREUD
The fashion designer Bella Freud, 35, was born in London. She is the daughter of Lucian and the great-granddaughter of Sigmund. In 1977, she started work at Vivienne Westwood's shop Seditionaries; by 1991, she had created her own collection. She lives in west London with her boyfriend
Susie Bick: I'd met Bella briefly on a couple of occasions, but the most significant time was in 1990 at her studio in Notting Hill. I'll always remember everything about that day; there was a feeling of it being special. I had had a fabulous dream the night before about a perfect pair of shoes and a box of chocolates.
The shoes were a beautiful pair of black suede slingbacks. I told a friend of mine who suggested that we go out and look for them. At that time it was impossible to find a decent pair of shoes anywhere, so I didn't expect to find them. The first shop we went to was Bella's - and there were the exact shoes that I had dreamt of. It was such a lovely day, it was like the dream was real, or that I was still in the dream, very strange and hilariously funny. I didn't tell Bella at the time in case she thought I was a bit weird. Then Bella and I got talking and she asked me to work with her - and that was when our friendship began.
Over the years she has become the most amazing friend I've ever had. In this business particularly, it's very hard to make sincere friends. I have travelled around a lot since I was a child, leaving school and leaving the country and then having a career since I was 16; so I never really knew what it was to have a good friend. I've got brothers, but I'd always wanted an older sister. I remember the first time I told Bella something very personal - and the look on her face told me how much she cared about me. I'm always amazed at her dedication to friendship. I find that she understands me even when I say very little.
To work for, Bella is focused and dedicated; she is very concerned with the detail in her clothes. She notices all sorts of things that I never would. There is a real psychological element to her work. A skirt must be a certain length, to show a little but not reveal too much. I would want to wear it ridiculously short, but Bella is far more subtle. She understands that there is more in suggestion than total provocation. I have worn her clothes for years, and I love the way they make you feel safe, even though they have an extremely feminine quality. They don't make you vulnerable, like other clothes can do. They are slightly restrained, yet luxurious and beautifully made.
Bella is partly responsible for my calmer lifestyle. I used to be very naughty, and I've got a reputation for being a bit wild. My life has changed a lot since I met her, partly due to her influence and partly to do with my growing up. She has introduced me to different people and I've met several of my good friends through her. She has never criticised me and she rarely gets cross.
She can make me feel a little flighty sometimes, though. She came to my house once and saw that Hoover, my dog, had taken all his bones to my room and was chewing them on my bed. My bed was covered in bones; and I hadn't even noticed. Bella didn't think that was very nice - I was so embarrassed.
Bella and I have fun together, too. When I was young I always felt that I was a bad influence on my friends. We used to get dressed up and I'd say, "Why don't we wear this?" and, "Why don't we wear that?" I'd cut up trousers and make them skin-tight, and make little mini skirts, and then we used to get dressed up in feather boas and go for walks... and this was when I was about seven. It's a great excuse with Bella to do that all over again. We really appreciate all those "girls' things" - even though our friendship goes far deeper than that. I want to know her all my life. She's a genius and very glamorous, in a real way. I love being around her.
BELLA FREUD: The first time that I saw Susie, I was assisting on a shoot that she was working on and I saw her getting changed in the back of the coach. She was taking her clothes off incredibly slowly. I thought that she must be very cool and confident; when I get changed I take my clothes off as fast as possible, but she was just peeling hers off, piece by piece. It was very captivating.
The first time that we properly got to know each other was in 1990, when this mutual friend of ours said he wanted to bring her over to buy some shoes that she had apparently dreamt about. I was really excited, as I'd just started my own line and I wanted to get to know her; I was hoping that she might even model some of my clothes. Susie liked all the clothes, and so she agreed to be in the video for my summer collection. As soon as she started modelling for the video, everybody gathered round her excitedly. They were saying, "Now put this on, Susie; now do that; how about this, Susie." She was such a great actress that everyone was drawn to her. One of the things about her that is so disarming is that although she is this amazing model, she's so sweet to everybody.
She's got all the qualities of a 1950s star without being retro or old- fashioned. She looks like how one would imagine Guinevere to look with this amazing Arthurian profile. I also like the way that sometimes she looks terrible. She's not ordinary; not just a boring old bonny face. She's like the girl at school that everyone will always want to hear about. The singer Prince is always sending her roses, and all sorts of people fall for her. To have Susie modelling in my show is a wonderful advert.
She is famous for being able to change her image while keeping the thing that makes her Susie. I was in Paris with her four years ago and I was trying to pair her off with somebody who became my current boyfriend. We all had dinner together and then went on to this party, and Susie disappeared into the loo and when she returned she had put her hair up and made her skirt long, and the same man didn't even recognise her. Susie phoned me some months later to try to contact him, and I had to tell her that he was my boyfriend. She wasn't bothered; in fact, she thought it was funny.
We've got closer over the years, and we talk three or four times a week on the phone. I feel like her big sister. She's no egomaniac; she'll often be more interested in taking her dog to the vet than going off and doing a Dolce e Gabbana show. It's a liability looking the way she does. I sometimes feel more like her bouncer when so many creeps try to talk to her. She always handles it very gently, whereas I want to go up and bash them. There are times when she doesn't stand up for herself. I remember once when she was shooting in France and the organisers hadn't bothered to take care of her. She phoned me and said she was hungry, freezing cold and miserable. I said, "Put your foot down. Refuse to do any more until they get you some heaters and some food." So she did, and they treated her better from then on.
Susie brings my work to life in this electric way. She brings out the subtleties in the clothes; she'll put the raunch into the demure that is so essential; the thing about a really good model is that they bring out the magic in the clothes. The fashion business is 20 minutes of glamour twice a year and the rest is relentless hard work. Susie's arrival calms me down if I'm stressed and she's full of good ideas. She also encourages other models to work with me. During my first show Susie was doing a show with Naomi Campbell and Susie suggested to Naomi that she come to do a show with me, and she did. It was fantastic.
Susie's got this wild-child reputation which has only occasionally been manifested in front of me. People always expect her to go out on a limb and be flamboyant and take her clothes off or something. Sometimes I've gone to pick up Susie to take her to breakfast, and she's been wearing something completely transparent. She's not shy about her body; she's used to doing semi-naked catwalk shows. She was also in the naked catwalk show in Robert Altman's film Pret-a-Porter. It is that picture of her that has always stuck in people's minds. !
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