Bella Freud on The Artists Series

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How fashion can play a part in making positive change

The Artists Series is a limited run of eight t-shirts featuring works by artists John Giorno, Francis Bacon, Ellen Gallagher, Beatriz Milhazes, Annie Morris, Ugo Rondinone and Lucian Freud put together by Bella Freud and Karla Welch. Each of the artists, or their estate, chose the work that appears on their t-shirt. It seems a natural project for Bella Freud to be involved with, as she’s not just a renowned fashion designer, but the daughter of Lucian Freud, one of the artists featured.

Bella’s collaborator in the project is Karla Welch, who’s been called one of the most powerful stylists in the fashion world by both The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter. Among the names on her client list are Cindy Crawford, Justin Bieber and Felicity Jones, while her editorial work has appeared in Vogue, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Bazaar.

All proceeds from sales of the t-shirts will go to two charities supporting victims of domestic abuse, a problem which has become even more pronounced during Covid-19 lockdowns – Southall Black Sisters and East LA Women’s Center. Southall Black Sisters is a not-for-profit, secular, inclusive organisation that highlights and challenges all forms of gender-related violence against women, while the East LA Women’s Center aims to ensure that all women, girls and their families can live in safety, free from violence and abuse.

We talked to Bella about The Artists Series and how fashion can play a part in making positive change:

Where did the idea for The Artists Series come from?

It came from a friend called Brian Boylan, he said he thought it would be a good idea and I ran with it (with his blessing).

Was it a Covid-inspired project?

It was very much a Covid inspired project. I heard a lot of reporting on the rise of domestic violence when lockdown was implemented. I wanted to do something, and this seemed right. The wearing of the art on the t-shirts seemed like a good way of drawing attention to the fact of people experiencing terror and violence in their own homes – especially during such an isolating time. 

How did you choose the artists and the works to feature?

I chose artists whose work I love and who I thought people would love to wear, and be asked why they were wearing it.

How do you know Karla Welch?

Karla Welch is one of the great LA stylists, she is famous in the fashion business. We have only met by zoom so far, I am looking forward to giving her a big hug one day.

What made you decide she’d be the perfect collaborator?

Karla makes things happen. Everything she turns her attention to has purpose and a zing to it. She has her own printing set up which means she understands how things are made and how to get things done. Also she is great fun to work with.

Do you have further runs of The Artists Series planned?

Maybe…. 

Are there other artists you’d like to work with or whose work you’d like to feature?

So many artists! I have other plans..

How did you choose the charities that will benefit from the proceeds?

We chose East LA Women’s Centre and Southall Black Sisters because they both offer practical and phone support. They are both small charities that do not receive a lot of funding, so a modest donation would be a help. We are only in a position to do a limited run of t-shirts. 

Do you think it’s important for the fashion world to play an active role in making positive change?

Yes! I think the fashion world has a huge amount of influence in this area. Good design is another way of drawing peoples’ attention to things. There is a gentle way of showing things to people who care just as much but don’t always know how to show it.

Do you have a personal favourite among the eight t-shirts?

I love them all equally. I bought them all and feel very attached to them because of the generosity of the artists who donated the images, and the feeling of doing the tiniest thing to help my fellow citizens going through this nightmare.

Have the events of 2020 changed the way you think about the future role of fashion in the world?

I’m always learning.

Artwork credits: Francis Bacon (top), Lucian Freud, Beatriz Milhazes, John Giorno, Ugo Rondinone, Ellen Gallagher and Annie Morris