MY CULTURAL LIFE: BELLA FREUD

A style icon on what they’re reading, watching, listening to and more

Fashion designer Bella Freud photographed by Mary McCartney
Bella Freud, by Mary McCartney

London-born Bella Freud launched her eponymous fashion label in 1990, and has since brought her bookish brand of cool to collaborations with heritage British labels from Biba to Barbour. Now, she is turning to interiors: Freud recently transposed the slogans that adorn her cult jumpers – song lyrics, catchphrases and the perky-eared whippet drawn by her father, the painter Lucien Freud – onto cushions, blankets and candles. This year, alongside Retrouvius’ Maria Speake (who worked on Freud’s home and her brand’s London store), she has designed a penthouse in the Grade II-listed BBC Television Centre in White City. ‘It feels natural and exciting,’ Freud says of working on the apartment.

Bella Freud fashion store
Inside the Bella Freud store

My all-time favourite piece of music is probably Nick Cave’s No More Shall We Part. It is exquisite, so sad and so uplifting. Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up also springs to mind. When I first heard it at 13, it was like an inspiring call to arms.

I’m now listening to Richard Russell’s Everything is Recorded – the album has a lot of minor chords, which I love, but have to watch out for if I’m feeling melancholy.

A track that makes me feel instantly happy is Walk This Way by Run DMC, which I often play in the morning. It peps me up and reminds me of my best self.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc

The book that has influenced me the most is Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. When I read it, aged 14, it was like an electric shock. I was entranced by the rhythm of his words. Reading Malcolm X’s autobiography had a very profound effect on me, too. It made me excruciatingly aware of racism and my self-righteous prejudices in a way thatI hadn’t previously appreciated.

I’ve been reading The Andy Warhol Diaries for ages, which is great for when I’m feeling anxious as it’s both bland and interesting. I like to have a few books on the go – I’m finishing Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, which is the opposite, almost too disturbing, and have just started Chelsea Girls by the poet Eileen Myles.

Still of Marilyn Monroe singing in Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder

My top five film list goes as follows: Apocalypse Now, Some Like It Hot, The Producers, Freaks and La Grande Illusion. They are like part of my DNA. Oh, and I must add Ken Loach’s Kes. I saw it when I was ten or 11 and was so moved that I have never dared watch it again.

The Courthauld Institute at Somerset House
The Courthauld Institute at Somerset House

My favourite gallery is the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House, where I always look at Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. The last exhibition I saw was the Picasso 1932 show at Tate Modern, all about his passion for Marie-Thérèse Walter and the amazing portraits he painted of her. It was horribly crowded, though – everyone obviously wanted to get in on the love.

Pablo Picasso, Young Woman with Mandolin, 1932, oil on paint on board
Pablo Picasso, Young Woman with Mandolin, 1932, oil on paint on board,Picasso Dacs London

My formula for a fun night... If I get a chance to dance my head off, preferably with a gay man, then I know I’ll be happy.

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