Bella Freud: The wind in the woolies - Features - Fashion - The Independent

Bella Freud: The wind in the woolies

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The designer brings her signature whimsy and a particularly English eccentricity to a countryside-inspired collection for Barbour. Rebecca Gonsalves meets the witty knitter

Fashion is a funny old business: celebrating a knitwear collaboration between Bella Freud and Barbour on one of the hottest days of July is just one quirk of an industry that traditionally clears out its swimwear stock in August to make room for winter coats. But while the surprisingly seasonal warm weather makes the arrival of knitwear feel a tad premature, it's inevitable that winter is coming. And when it does, those early adopters of this range of covetable, comfortable, collaborative sweaters will have more than a sense of smug satisfaction to keep them warm.

In designing a collection for that venerable British brand Barbour, Freud has instigated a coming together of two great dynasties – she is the daughter of the painter Lucien Freud who, in turn, was the grandson of Sigmund Freud – but it's not something that she has particularly considered. Freud, who launched her eponymous clothing line in 1990 to great acclaim, is something of a serial collaborator having brought her talents to bear for Jaeger, Miss Selfridge and Biba but she is perhaps best known for her slogan knits declaring “Ginsberg is God” and “Je t'aime Jane”.

When asked by Barbour to create her latest collection, Freud had to ask herself “what does Barbour represent and how can I do my version of it?” she explains. Straightforward enough one would imagine – surely everybody has a fondness for one of the biggest British labels that has undergone something of a transformation in recent years.

“There are a lot of affectionate associations with Barbour, which is always a good hook with people. Lots of people have resonance with it – which is helpful when you're trying to distil how something feels.

“It's one of those classic English brands,” she continues. “It's got so much heritage, and is so linked to the countryside. It reminds me vaguely of growing up, not that we particularly lived a very Barbour lifestyle. We had such an unconventional upbringing – it didn't involve any clothes like Barbour.”

Although Freud's upbringing in East Sussex may have been unconventional, there are certain elements that many of Barbour's legions of loyal customers will no doubt relate to: “I grew up in the countryside and I was obsessed with horses and wildlife,” she says. This has evidently informed her designs this season, featuring as they do a whimsical array of flora and fauna: “The rabbit and lambs [designs] are my favourites,” says Freud. “They make me laugh. I like to think about how people will relate to you with that image on your jumper – they'll end up having their own take on it as well. Everyone has a feeling about a lamb – their green hooves were inspired by Andy Warhol.

“It was important to me to try to find some common ground that I could do something I would definitely wear, rather than the token nod towards something that leaves one feeling quite cold. What I like doing is imagery that can be interpreted in any particular way by the person who wears it.”

It is notable that while almost everybody will coo over things small and furry, it is the “moonscape” motif that is one of the most evocative of the collection: the black and white silhouette telling a romantic tale of “tramping through the woods at night and coming across a country house”. While Freud wanted the separate illustrations to have “some sort of relationship” to each other, her drawing style for each takes inspiration from different schools of art.

“I looked for things that had resonance with Barbour, then tried to make them my own version without it being alienating to them, or their customers.” Ah, the Barbour “customer” once so easily defined, although not necessarily flatteringly so, the 119-year-old label was a firm favourite with the country set – farmers, landowners and gentry.

But a few years ago, a fascination with all things bucolic intersected with celebrity fans such as Kate Moss and Alexa Chung adding some rock'n'roll credentials to the brand. Since then, waxed-jacket sightings have been plentiful in cities, too. It's no happy accident that Barbour has crossed over to have such mass appeal. Freud is the latest in a long list of collaborators who have helped to invigorate the brand. Indeed, Alice Temperley, Paul Smith and department store Liberty have all brought their own irreverent, distinctly British style to past collaborations.

For Freud, this collection – which also features hoodies, sweater dresses and oversized knits crafted from merino wool and luxury blends of cashmere and angora – is a chance to appeal to a new customer base.

When she tells me she sees “rebellious young girls” wearing her designs, I can't help but feel she's imagining her animal-obsessed, unconventional younger self.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week