Designer and illustrator, Bella Singleton, is as unique and inspiring in character as she is in her work. Her creations offer a feast for the eyes and a trip for the imagination. Dynamic colours, intricate illustrations and diverse patterns combine to create pieces of art which hang, not on a wall but on the body. After studying Printed Textiles, Singleton has built her own business, printing her designs onto silk scarves, allowing a classic item to become a contemporary accessory. Her work has been described as a celebration for personal expression, encouraging the way to dress be an extension of ourselves.
Bella Singleton talks with Sassy about her journey so far, the highs and lows of building an independent brand and what’s in store for 2018.
You’ve recently launched your third collection, Vagar. What inspires and motivates this continuation of making?
My general inspiration comes from places and natural sources. Although my work is very stylised, most of it involves elements of the natural world whether it be animals, flora and fauna. Vagar is inspired by Central American travels. But because my work is all about being visually appealing and making people feel good sometimes there can be no obvious concept, what you make of the artwork is up to you.
For me to make good work it is important that I spend time on my own, which I think is why I don’t miss London. I have the time now to enjoy being a bit slower and not be with people 24/7.
You’ve single-handedly built Bella Singleton as a Brand. Has it taken time to become confident in its identity and in your own designs?
It is very important to develop an identity for the brand, but the hope is that this can be an organic process as my work is quite obviously mine. I feel confident in my work for some reason, maybe because I design what I would like to wear. I love any print design with plenty of bright colour, florals mixed with geometrics, sportiness mixed with femininity.
You’re in the 3rd year of running your company. You’ve been from Leeds to London, and recently moved to Norfolk. Does your location effect your mindset for working?
Location. Good question! In Leeds I was studying, having lots of fun and drawing pretty patterns not ever thinking I would work for myself, pretty dreamy! London, in hindsight, I associate with no sleep and really hard work to get me at the point I’m at now. That entailed lots of free internships and many part-time jobs whilst I started to think about growing the brand and then launching it in 2015. This year (2017) I quit the part time jobs and moved to Norwich so I feel more focused and am able to plan ahead and have proper goals. So I guess it’s not about location but the associations with each place and what point I was at.
Working independently and running your own business is an achievement in itself. How have you found the experience?
Whereas I am confident in my designs, learning how to run a business has been tricky. I don’t mind the challenge, but it is the fact you do everything on your own which makes you go slightly insane at times. Super supportive friends and family who do a very good job of caring about it being a success really is the ticket!
You’ve had scarves commissioned by the Tate Modern, been part of London Fashion week for the last two years and now you’re running pop-up shops around East Anglia. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
My intermittent insomnia has definitely been a challenge. When you’re really really tired you doubt yourself and what you are doing. Thinking you’re rubbish and losing the plot slightly when actually you just need a good snooze (but can’t get one, goddamnit!). I used to get much more stressed about it whereas now I embrace the situation a bit more and sometimes when I’m really tired it makes me a bit obsessive about getting my work tasks done, so silver lining is I am more productive.
So finally, what are your plans for the future?
I am looking forward to the New Year where I’m heading to Paris, Premiere Classe trade show with AW18. You’ll see me at retail shows all over the place as being online is good but for such tactile products it helps to have them in front of you.
SS18 comes out in January, so keep your eyes out for lots more bright colours and crazy pattern! I need to start designing SS19 in the Spring…someone hit the pause button please. But I aim to keep bringing out new collections, to be the brand to turn to for an interesting piece of really wearable art. There is a print and colour to suit everyone.
Or visit her pop up venue www.studio20norwich.co.uk
Illustration by Bethany Burgoyne