The Fears and Dreams of Bella Freud

Thursday 26th September 1991

It is still a fortnight until the London Designer show, but I’ve had to get together my spring collection early so that we can shoot a promo video. I can’t afford to do a catwalk show, but this is just as good a way of showing buyers what the clothes are like. We shoot the video tomorrow, but this morning our knitwear samples still hadn’t arrived from Italy. So Martin, who handles most of my administration and selling, did a dash to Venice with an empty suitcase. The rest of us were working flat out all day to finish the other samples. Jo Levin , who is styling the collection, came round in the evening with all sorts of ideas about how the different pieces should be put together. We worked until one in the morning, with Martin turning up at midnight after hours getting through customs. Then four of us stayed up all night : Sandy was sewing, Julie was cutting, Edward, my boyfriend and the video producer, was making a see-saw which we want to use tomorrow. I was drinking coffee all night and trying on samples as they came off the sewing machine.

Friday 27th September 1991

It’s been frenzied and frantic, but oddly enjoyable. Everything is suddenly coming together at last. The day’s shooting went very smoothly because Kate Garner, the director, was very calm. She understood what I wanted; a snooty, Riviera kind of feel. Actually, I didn’t see much of what was going on because I was scurrying around on the balcony at the studio putting the models into their clothes. The only person who didn’t enjoy it was Pluto, my father’s whippet. She spent most of the day looking reproachful.

Wednesday 2nd October 1991

I saw the finished video at last after spending two-and-a-half hours with a colour machine painting in a sand colour on some of the jackets that had come out green on video. In the afternoon, I went for a steam bath with a friend to try and wind down. I should be able to relax a bit now, but there’s one big blot on the horizon My autumn collection, which should be delivered to stores in England by now, still hasn’t arrived from Italy. Stores expect some problems but from a designer who is just starting, I hate letting them down. The factory has promised me so many times, but because the quantities they are making for me are relatively small, I’m not very high on their list of priorities.

Saturday 5th October 1991

The autumn collection still hasn’t arrived. I’m in Paris for the weekend, to visit Premiére Vision, the big fabrics exhibition, where I can choose fabrics for next autumn’s collection. It’s a relief to get away from the problems at the office and think about something stimulating and new. Everyone at the exhibition looked ill and tired; maybe they all have the same dilemmas. I spent all day peering at hundreds of swatches. One little luxurious interlude: tonight I’m staying with a friend of mine, Luigi, who’s just married Inès de la Fressange. Inès went to bed early, while I went to a Chinese with Luigi and his children, who are ten and six and do very funny impressions of Jessica Rabbit.

Monday 7th October 1991

I got. Back from Paris on Sunday night and went straight to bed, although I couldn’t get to sleep for hours. I tried doing deep-breathing exercises, but I had so many things on my mind. In the morning I went to see Martin, who was in bed with ‘flu. He had some bad news for me: the deliveries still hadn’t arrived from Italy, although we were promised them today. I phoned the shipping company, who said they hadn’t received the clothes from the factory. I could feel my hair turning grey, and then afterwards the day just sort of collapsed around me because I pulled out from behind a car in Ladbroke Grove without looking properly and hit another car. White-faced and shaking, we swapped addresses. There was even more bad news for me at the office : 11 pieces were missing from another autumn delivery, my own personal stock order, and the factory was telling me after sending out the order. I was sobbing with anger and frustration. What a day.

Wednesday 8th October 1991

Two days to go to the London Designer Show. I spent the day with a model trying on bits of the spring collection, and working out how we will arrange the stand at the exhibition. Some of the blue samples are a shade different from what I wanted, which is disappointing but I know how difficult factories find it to get the colours exact. The lack of sleep has been very disorientating. And when I have slept, I’ve been having weird dreams. I dreamt I was in Buckingham Palace gardens in the eighteenth century, and there were various amusements going on. This is going to sound strange, but, in one corner, there were 15-inch women being ravished by giant snails. That aside, everything’s looking good for the weekend.