bella doyle for 'women's series', studio nicholson — art direction, words


bella doyle for 'women's series'
for studio nicholson

For the last of the ‘Women’s Series’, we focus on Studio Nicholson's very own Bella Doyle who is the Womenswear Designer. Photographer Jessica MacCormick and I caught up with Bella at home on the houseboat she shares with partner Matt, son River, and cat Peter.

How did you come to work at Studio Nicholson?
Nick and I have a mutual friend Momosan who was selling one of our shirts for Wright and Doyle at her store on Wilton Way. After a little gossip, Momo slipped Nick my number and three years down the line, we haven’t looked back.

From where do you draw inspiration?
I like to get out of the studio. To start our new Autumn Winter ’19 collection, I started the day in Neave Brown's Alexandra Road Estate, then onto the Gagosian to see Howard Hodgkin's ‘The Last Paintings', and then to The Hayward to see Korean artist Lee Bull. At the end of the day, I felt completely refreshed and hugely inspired. I am always inspired by women I see daily - the people I work with, friends of all ages, women who don’t dress to live but whose clothes work for them.

Do you have days where you won’t feel inspired, and if so, how do you overcome this?
I never try to push the creative process. Some days I feel it’s just better to go do something else. There are many other elements to my job such as cutting the collection and fitting etc. In saying that, if I take a fresh piece of fabric and drape it on the stand, that never fails to inspire me.

Describe yourself in three words.
Driven, logical and adaptable.

What’s your biggest weakness?
Food, I can always find an excuse.

What does a 'typical day’ for you look like?
My mornings are a bit of a marathon starting at 6am, getting River, my two-year-old son up, dressed and fed. It's often a challenge but in part, some of the best bits of my day. We have a huge breakfast which we normally make together, so it can be a messy affair. Then on to work, which feels like another world. We are always working on three collections at once, no one day is the same. Meetings with Eiley (Product Developer) and Nick (Founder and Creative Director) are vital and keep us all abreast of where we are, as well as fittings, pattern cutting, designing and draping. I live for my 11 o’clock coffee, it keeps me sane. Then home for River's bath, books and bed, then hopefully Matt (my partner) and I have some time together to cook and eat before falling into bed.

Do you have a ‘uniform’ for work? Perhaps your wardrobe is for both work and play and there is no separation?
I wear a lot of what we design at Studio Nicholson, mixed in with at least one treat a year of Commes des Garcon, and then a couple of pieces of Simone Rocha for when I want to feel a bit more special. I don’t believe in keeping things for special occasions though, I think it’s important to feel good in what you wear every day, it’s not about dressing for other people, it’s about dressing for yourself.

Is there an item in your wardrobe that you cannot live without?

You live on a boat with your family. How long have you lived on the boat for and how did you come to live on one?
We commissioned and designed this boat 5 years ago. After living in London for the best part of 10 years and what with the constant moving that comes with the territory, it felt like a relatively logical way to live. In something of our own, in the city, but at the pace and lifestyle of the countryside.

Your houseboat is always so cosy and inviting. How do you like to spend your time there?
With the fire lit, the Sunday papers, a gathering of friends to eat and drink together for a long lazy afternoon.

What has it been like working and being a mother to River for the last two years?
It’s a constant juggle. I always thought I would have a career before having kids, but I found having River hasn’t changed my career, it's only made me more driven and efficient and I think, in part, more creative. Some days are ridiculously tough, you feel like you’re being bowled over by a wave, you get to work with 3 or 4 hrs sleep but then you dig deep, get stuck in and suddenly the day has flown by and normally something unexpected and positive has evolved from the day.

Do you think women can ever find the right balance between life and work, and if so, how do you find yours?
I think the balance lies in not trying to be good at it all, it’s not humanly possible. Allow oneself some forgiveness when it doesn’t all go according to plan. Just think on your feet, try to laugh it off and have another go when it doesn’t.

What are your favourite places for…

The Towpath and when it’s closed in the winter, it’s Coleman Coffee.

The Gagosian.

Devon, Ireland to see my sister and Kea in Greece.

What are you currently...

Listening to?
‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’ by Donal Ryan.

Not enough, I just finished 'The White Book' by Han Kang that I loved, and ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’ by Donal Ryan.

Interested in?
What on earth is going to happen with Brexit!

Most looking forward to?
This weekend away in Devon with family and friends, not to mention our cat Peter, who comes with us. To eat, sleep (if River allows us), go for blustery walks, brave a freezing dip in the sea, cook together, and enjoy an afternoon in the pub.

Name three women who inspire you.
My mum who was a racehorse trainer, an artist, a sculptor, who also wrote children’s books and generally marched to the beat of her own drum, Rei Kawakubo who needs no explanation, and Patti Smith for her books and photography as much as her music.

What’s next for you, any exciting projects or collaborations?
Lots but I think I might be fired if I revealed anymore!

Words — Chi San Wan
Photos — Jessica MacCormick