Creative Women at Work: Mouchette Bell returns to modelling in her 50s
One thing really did lead to another for freelance fashion editor/ stylist Mouchette Bell. A guest-lecturing position morphed into modelling the student collections at Graduate Fashion Week, where she was spotted on the catwalk by an agent from Models 1. ‘I modelled years ago in the 1980s, for some quite big people,’ Mouchette tells me modestly, going on to add, ‘Peter Lindbergh, Italian Vogue….‘ Now back on the books and excited about her new adventure, she’s delighted that her model card sits next to Twiggy’s at the agency HQ.
Like her former colleague Grace Coddington, after modelling (and a 30-minute interview with Anna Wintour) Mouchette moved onto working at British Vogue magazine. Eventually heading to New York to take up a role as a fashion editor on Mademoiselle – while studying fashion history at Parson’s School of Design. Her time in New York was unfortunately cut short, when she lost everything including an apartment near the Twin Towers in the 9/11 attacks. Back in London, Mouchette picked up her styling work, freelancing for magazines including: Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Tatler and Red. And eventually things turned full circle with the relaunch of her modelling career.
We caught up last week for a quick chat:
TNMA: How does it feel to be back on the other side of the camera lens?
MB: ‘Modelling now feels much better. I was very insecure when I was younger and I’m more comfortable with it now. It’s a new beginning for me and freelance styling is so precarious. I feel very excited and feel that my experience means I have something to give – I hope I can encourage other people. I don’t mind being older and I would never have injections; I’m proud I’ve got this far.’
TNMA: What do you think about Edward Enninful being appointed editor at Vogue – do you think things are changing?
MB: Edward Enninful is super-talented and there are many aspects to his hiring that are very exciting. I’m very glad. It’s important to have diversity and talent – and I think there is a change; I was actually the first mixed race person at Vogue in the 1980s and there was an element of resentment if you weren’t from a certain set. You had to be brave and strong and be able to get on with it.’
TNMA: How would you describe your style?
MB: ‘I love the transformative power of clothes. I’m a mixture myself and so can be a bit schizophrenic about style. (Mouchette has an Irish mother and a Nigerian father). If I could really spend I’d like to buy vintage Yves Saint Laurent or a piece of couture from Dior or Valentino. Day-to-day I do like comfort, I love denim. A lot. And Yuzuru Koga’s incredible indigo Japanese print designs. One of my all-time favourite designers is Paul Smith – but I’m very strict about clothes at the moment. I still pop into Gap and COS and buy a lot of thrift at Portobello Market on Friday mornings. I always go to galleries for inspiration – I’ve just been to the National Gallery to look at the Cranach paintings.’
TNMA: You have the best jewellery – talk me through it and how you accessorise.
MB: ‘I specialise in styling fine jewellery and watches and learnt a lot while working for Tatler – it was like working with pieces of art. The hammered gold earrings and ring are vintage Hervé Van der Straeten, the choker (second picture) is Jacqueline Rabun a designer who was around in the nineties and has recently made a comeback. The other necklaces are from my mammy. I always have to add. Even if I’m wearing something really plain, or stomping around in brogues. I’ll always wear jewellery, add a touch of something romantic or precious.’
Have a look at Mouchette’s portfolio including photos from the 1980s and more recent pictures HERE.