Photography Benjamin Madgwick Fashion Direction + Words Katy Lassen Model Mouchette Bell at Models 1
Mouchette Bell is back. Also talks to the stylist and model about diversity, creativity and the importance of being nice.
How did you get into modelling and fashion – the first time around?
I have always loved expressing myself through clothes. I was always trying to find out who I was and transform myself and explore using clothes as my medium. The result caught the eye of photographers and I was often photographed on Portobello Road or at clubs back in the day.
My first agency was Lucy Clayton in London. Later I went to America and joined Model Management and later Ford Models. I did very well in the US but I soon realised I preferred being on the other side of the camera and was very fortunate to become Fashion Editor for a magazine called Mademoiselle. I went on to work for Vogue and as a freelance fashion editor for Vanity Fair, Elle, Tatler and Bazaar throughout the last 30 years.
And how did you re-start your modelling career recently?
Iain R Webb a professor at Kingston asked me to do a couple of talks and a presentation for the MA students at Kingston and Bath university. The talks were about my life in the fashion business. Louise Pickles another teacher at Bath university asked me to walk in the show for the final show and Greg at Models 1 happened to be there. He asked me to go and see Uwe in the “Classics” department and I was very lucky that they took me on straight away. It’s been one year now, and things are going great. I have worked for many wonderful clients including Clarins and Gap to name but a few.
How do you feel about the industry now and how much has it changed?
I love the fashion Industry, it needed to change. It use to be quite closed in a way but now its opening up. There have been pioneers throughout the industry fighting for fairness of representation. In the 90s John Paul Gaultier did a fashion show where he used only black models and just one white model to show the imbalance. He did many things. Yves Saint Laurent also championed diversity so its not a new thing. I remember when Anna Wintour put a black model on the US Vogue cover it was such a big deal which seems so strange now but it was a statement then. We now have Edward Enninful at British Vogue and not forgetting the issue of Italian Vogue where he and Franca did a black edition to prove it would still sell, well it sold out and they had to reprint.
‘Diversity’ is having a moment – hopefully more than just a moment!! – how do you feel being cast in stories that are fashioned around the idea of diversity rather than just as a great model in a cool editorial?
I am delighted to recently have been part of the Grazia diversity edition.
We need much more. I admire young people they really are going all out now to sort out the imbalances and injustices and stereotypes. It makes things more interesting anyway. So I feel very positive. I’m not ashamed of loving beauty and style it comes in many forms. It is a form of human expression tribal even.
It will be interesting, things change all the time. It will all become balanced and hopefully get to the point where we just cast all different people and ages and genders just because we see their beauty and appeal.
The model and the stylist both have a crucial and creative role to play in the success of a shoot. How do you feel being on the other side of the camera? Do you miss it?
Being at the other end of the camera has taught me how much models have to project and it really is not too unlike acting. You are being transformed into the vision of you that the photographer and stylist have.
I am so fascinated watching everything again from the model’s eye that I don’t feel that I am missing out. I’m sure I will style again at some point, I would love to do some guest editing. I love telling stories through clothes. Either on myself or others.
Having nailed both careers, what advice do you have for any aspiring models -or stylists?!
It is so important to be nice to one another. We are all a team. Respect what each person does. Things are so fast now its important for creativity to observe whats around you, take time to think things through and prepare. In the old days we had the luxury of fittings but there are so many great things now, its also wonderful to see fast results.
I would say always take the time to do your absolute best no matter how small or big the job is. Weather you’re modelling or styling a paper bag make it great make it the best. Then you will have a great result.
This sound very zen, well I am a buddhist ……….