In 2016, Bella (centre) launched her own ‘Cocktail of Jackets’ collection, and her brand has grown rapidly since, launching a ‘create your own tracksuit feature’ and collaborating with brands such as Kingdom of Badmen.
Can you talk through your inspirations? On your website you have named pieces after people – is that from people you know?
I’m less inspired by particular things than a collection of personal experiences – how I’m feeling at the time and different environments. But I would say the freedom of fashion in underground rave culture has inspired my confidence to design as wacky or as tame as I want, with regards to style and fabrics. Music too – I often create my textile prints under the influence of loud music reflected to the particular environment that the print/clothes may be worn in. I like to give clothes a personality – carried from the design to marketing, as I believe how clothes make you feel is equally important as to how they look. So, I name the clothes either after someone I know or a non/ fictional character and write a bio about the person to bring the clothes to life. I always pick characters to reflect the particular garments.
You do a lot of collaborations within your label. How important is it to you to provide a platform for new designers and creatives?
This is where the ‘X’ part to Bellisa comes in to play. The X stands for collaboration on every level from the customers, suppliers to photographers and other brands etc. I think a journey is better shared – and it makes more sense to work together to create something really special with all our ideas rather than compete from afar. This means we’re always working with new models, photographers, brands and now also stock independent accessories labels on our website as well. It’s not particularly easy building a brand up from scratch so a helping hand doesn’t go amiss.
You left your fashion course at university due to its effects on your mental health and creativity. Did you panic at all when you left your degree?
Imagine you’ve been in a sauna for way too long and you’re sweating, passing out, dehydrated, panicking because you can’t see a way out, you’re exhausted and feel 10x older and then you finally realise there’s actually a door. It felt like a massive relief and start of something new, which is more exciting than something to panic about.
Did you ever doubt yourself on your design course and question your passion?
Yes. Studying fashion at uni made me hate everything about the current fashion industry. I realised they were training us to work in big fashion companies, which is fine if you like that, but I could never see myself there.
Can you describe the difference between designing while on a university course as opposed to doing it for your own business?
Personal opinion here: at uni you are essentially designing for a numeric grade, guided by your lecturer’s experience, which is so important to value, but it’s very restricted and you’re in constant battle between perhaps designing what you actually want vs what will get you a better grade. Creatively, you are pushed a lot more at uni, which is a good and bad thing, but can leave you unconfident in your ability. Bellisa X is kind of like my dream wardrobe with influences and personalisation from customers to suit them. There’s more freedom, but you always have to keep in mind what your customers would like, and also convince them that they will like it too. I could create something I really love, but if no-one else does, then it’s not going to sell.
How is it to be a young person and be running your own business? Can you describe some of the struggles you encounter and how you’ve dealt with them?
The main realisation I had is that if I want something done, then it’s down to me and only me to make that happen. That can cause a lot of stress from responsibility and managing time. It feels like there is never enough time to complete all your tasks. Also, the isolation of running a business on your own. Imagine being in a studio perhaps up to 12 hours a day on your own every day – it gets lonely.
What would you advise other young people to do if they have dreams of starting up their own business and what precautions should they take?
Just do it. You don’t know until you try, but if you sit there and plan it out and talk about it for years that’s not going to actually make it happen. You have to do it. Start small and realistic so it’s easy to manage, and everything should fall into place and grow from there. But it’s a lot more hard work than you think to start and maintain growth, and if you’re not feeling the burn from working then you’re probably not working to the best of your ability. Be careful not to burn yourself out – it will happen – but from this point learn to balance your time more efficiently and healthily.
How do you feel about fast fashion?
It’s horrible and people really need to start thinking about how their clothes are made and the ethics behind them, since fashion is the second most pollutive industry in the world. What I try to do as a brand is work against fast fashion (through custom clothing), spread awareness and use our growth alongside other people to positively influence our audience.
What are your plans for the future? How do you want to extend Bellisa X?
I have just launched a digital ‘Create Your Own’ platform on the website where you can visually design your personalised garment using our fabrics on our staple pieces. I love custom products so would love to keep it this way. However, with collection pieces, I am aiming to pre-make partial stock for the next collection to minimise production and wait times. Plus more physical events such as markets! Also, I’m currently joined by my intern, Jade once a week, so as orders grow I would be looking to take on someone else.
By Rosabella Allen