Byline: Agnes Cammock
NEW YORK — Alicia Bell is the archetypal young designer. Ten years ago, when she was just 13 years old, the Chicago native decided that designing was for her, and she’s never looked back.
“I took painting and drawing at the [Chicago] Art Institute, but I really enjoyed sketching figures,” she says. Bell continued with her art classes right up until she enrolled at the Parsons School of Design here in 1994. While a student at Parsons, Bell set her sights on working for Vivienne Westwood, a designer she’s always admired. She began interviewing for a position in her junior year, and before she graduated from Parsons in 1998, she was hired. She packed her bags for London just two days after finishing her classes. “I even missed graduation,” she recalls.
While she’s had her own collection for only one season, Bell is no novice. During her studies at Parsons, she landed internships with such designers as Yves Saint Laurent, Isaac Mizrahi, Anna Sui and Christian Lacroix.
Her stint at Westwood was brief — just seven months — but during her tenure there, she was exposed to many sides of the business. She helped to open Westwood’s New York shop, for example, and sometimes worked as a saleswoman and merchandiser.
“When I decided to start my own line, I felt it was really important to learn about as many aspects of the business as possible,” she said. After leaving Westwood, Bell took a similar position at Chloe, which was just opening its New York store. The designer’s next stop was Tommy Hilfiger, where she worked as a fabric sourcer for about one season. Finally, she felt ready to start her own line, which she launched for the fall 2000 season. Called Bell by Alicia Bell, the collection, which has a Victorian feel, pays homage to Westwood in subtle ways. Skirts with bustles retail from $300 to $500, pleated blouses are $395 to $460 and a cotton denim coat with pleated details is priced at $350. The collection is currently sold at Louis of Boston and Henri Bendel.
While things are going well so far, however, the designer isn’t quite ready to abandon her Chicago roots. She designs and produces her line there and plans to stay in the city as long as possible. She is repped here in New York by Mao.