Arabella Pollen

Katy Conover

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA056

Arabella (“Bella”) Pollen was one Britain’s rising stars of fashion in the 1980s and early 1990s. Born in 1961, Pollen was raised and educated in New York City until the age of thirteen and then in England. She is the daughter of Peregrine Pollen—one-time chairman of Sotheby Parke Bernet auction house. In 1985 she married Gilberto Algranti, with whom she had two children. Then in 1995 she married David Macmillan, with whom she also had two children.

Following her schooling, at the age of nineteen she started sewing and designing simply to make money; by the time she was twenty, the newlywed Diana, Princess of Wales, had started wearing her designs. Originally known as, in journalist Roger Tredre’s words, a “bold colorist of British fashion,” she designed classics with a twist and succeeded in mixing traditional social season fashions with quirky touches.

In 1984 she signed her first licensing agreement with the Japanese-based company Renown. After being nominated for Designer of the Year in 1989, in 1990, Courtaulds Textiles bought a minority shareholding in Pollen’s fashion house, increasing to a majority shareholding (75 percent) in 1992. Originally focused on more tailored clothing, by 1990 Pollen was shifting to include more sportswear. However, due to underachieving export sales, Courtaulds stopped its funding and Pollen officially closed her fashion house in 1993, considered “an Eighties success and a Nineties casualty.” She was named as a design consultant to Courtaulds. Pollen disappeared from the fashion world following the collapse of her company in 1993. In an interview in 2004, Pollen remembers “Notoriety as a fashion designer was more of a trap than a triumph.”

By 1997, she had turned to fiction with the publication of her first novel, All About Men. It was considered an autobiographical account of her years in the fashion industry and received positive reviews. She has since continued to forge a successful publishing career with Hunting Unicorns (2003) becoming the first of several bestsellers, the most recent being Summer of the Bear (2011).

Arabella Pollen, Spring/Summer 1993 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Almond Kevin (updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass). ““Pollen, Arabella”.” Fashion Encyclopedia, n.d. (accessed 24 June 2013).

Bella Pollen. Website. (accessed 7 July 2013).

Find in Library Collier Andrew. ““Pollen’s Body English: A British Designer Puts Her Own Twist on the Classics. (Arabella Pollen)”.” Women’s Wear Daily , 4 September 1990. .

Find in Library Conti Samantha. ““Bella Enchanted”.” W Magazine , December 2008. .

Find in Library De la Haye Amy. The Cutting Edge: 50 Years of British Fashion 1947–1997 . London : V&A Publications, 1996.

Find in Library Tredre Roger. “A “Designer Prepared to Meet Her Maker”.” The Independent , 11 August 1990 .

Find in Library Vergani Guido , ed. “Arabella Pollen.” In Fashion Dictionary , p.1005. New York : Baldini Dastoldi Dalai editore, 2007 .