Angela Bell, co-founder of luxury cashmere brand Queene & Belle talks to Drapers about her passion for tradition and her own knitwear heritage.
Luxury knitwear brand Queene & Belle was founded in 2000 by former Pringle of Scotland designers Angela Bell and Doreen Keen. Inspired by vintage stylings, the brand creates luxurious cashmere knitwear with unusual and eye-catching graphics. Today, Bell runs the business from her husband’s rural sheep farm in the Scottish Borders, with 42 stockists such as Matchesfashion and independent stores The Cross and Jane Davidson. Most recently, the brand has collaborated with stylist and Vogue editor Bay Garnett on a capsule collection. Wholesale prices for the main collection range from £65 for shirts to £400 for cashmere jumpers.
How did you become interested in knitwear?
I grew up surrounded by the local knitwear industry in Scotland. Most of my family worked in it, and during my school holidays my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and sew. I loved designing and making my own clothes, so it was a natural thing for me to gravitate towards.
Joshua Tree cashmere sweater
When did you launch your own brand?
I initially launched the brand along with my former Pringle of Scotland colleague Doreen Keen in 2000 [she retired from the business in 2009]. We had always wanted to start something up on our own and work only with the best yarns and niche producers. We wanted to make beautiful, special pieces locally here in Scotland.
Where does the brand name come from?
The name comes from our surnames Keen and Bell but we changed Keen to Queen and added the “e” on the end of the words to make it unique.
Your family has historically been very involved in the knitwear industry. How does this inform your work?
My grandfather was a hand intarsia specialist, and from the beginning I wanted to include that look in my work. I had also been surrounded by the best quality cashmere and lovely timeless classic shapes – my parents always came back with lovely cashmere pieces from the factory Sales. I love the combination of the intarsia with the classic silhouette but tweaked and updated it to reflect current trends.
How would you describe the aesthetic of the brand?
Cool, quirky understated luxury.
Santa Fe cashmere wrap
How do you keep yourself creative and inspired?
I try to travel as much as I can. This summer I’ve been in Japan, visiting Tokyo and Sapporo, I also went to the Venice Biennale and to New York. I love going to art exhibitions, and I also find Instagram inspiring as it’s so instant and visual.
As a brand you support Scottish heritage and traditional craftsmanship. What are some of the things you’re doing?
The mills we work with still use all the traditional hand-finishing skills, some hand knitting and lots of hand sewing. We also do a lot of hand embroidery and finishing in our studio.
You run the business from your husband’s sheep farm. Do you ever get involved in the farming?
I sometimes help with the sheep, but my son started working on the farm this year, so I’m not needed as much as I used to be.
How did the collaboration with stylist Bay Garnett come about?
I was introduced to Bay through my PR, Alex Shah. I had always really admired Bay’s work and we have a shared love of vintage and luxury, so it was a lovely fit for us to collaborate. I love that her vision comes from being able to find the ‘cool’ in the simplest things and it was great to see her passionately re-imagine an 1980s cotton cut-and-sew sweatshirt into an uber-luxe six-ply cashmere version.
Is there anyone in the industry you particularly admire?
I’ve always loved and admired photographer Tim Walker. His work is so inspirational and he always creates dream scenarios with a very British slant.
What’s the best piece of business advice you have received?
Deliver on time. And we always have!
Favourite clothing brands
Golden Goose, Visvim, Balenciaga
Favourite places to shop
Matchesfashion and Envoy of Belfast
Last fashion purchase
Golden Goose track pants
Last book you read
Everyone is Watching by Megan Bradbury
Last film you watched
The Sea of Trees
Pringle of Scotland
It would be amazing to work with Tyler Hays from the American furniture company BDDW. I just love everything he does with fashion, products and interiors.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I like to go to see an exhibition or paint, draw, sew, dream up new projects.