Born: London, England, 21 June 1961. Education: Self-taught in design. Family: Married Giacomo Algranti, 1985 (separated, 1992); children: Jesse, Sam. Career: Worked as a personal assistant in advertising and on film scripts in France, 1979-81; established own business, Arabella Pollen, Inc., 1981; introduced Pollen B diffusion range, 1992; ceased trading, 1993; freelance hosiery designer, Courtaulds Textiles, for Aristoc, Rech, and Lyle & Scott, 1993. Address: 8 Canham Mews, Canham Road, London W3 7SR, England.
Wansell, Geoffrey, "Buzz about Miss Pollen," in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), 5 June 1983.
Modlinger, Jackie, "Bella la Bella," in the Daily Express (London),14 July 1985.
Jobey, Liz, "Designing Women," in Vogue (London), July 1987.
Samuel, Kathryn, "Pollen: A Success Story Not to Be Sneezed At," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 14 December 1987.
"Soul Sister," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 6 May 1990.
Haggard, Claire, "Getting an Education in the Borders," in theIndependent (London), 26 May 1990.
Smith, Liz, "In Her Own Image," in the Times (London), 3 July 1990.
Tredre, Roger, "A Designer Prepared to Meet Her Maker," in theIndependent, 11 August 1990.
Collier, Andrew, "Pollen's Body English: A British Designer Puts Her Own Twist on the Classics," in WWD, September 1990.
Smith, Liz, "Putting New Faith in Pollen," in the Times [Saturday Review,] 27 October 1990.
Armstrong, Lisa, "Stuff the Purple Satin Tabards! It's Pollen B,Honey!" in the Independent, 20 February 1992.
Morris, Bernadine, "A Reality Check for British Designers," in theDallas Morning News, 25 March 1992.
Flett, Scarth, "Arabella Pollen," in the Observer Magazine (London),23 February 1993.
"Textiles Giant Axes Designer Fashion Firm," in the Independent, 20May 1993.
Samuel, Kathryn, "From Cheers to Tears for Arabella Pollen Label," in the Daily Telegraph, 20 May 1993.
Fallon, James, "Arabella Pollen Closes Business," in WWD, 20 May 1993.
"New York: A Delicate Balance," in WWD, 16 February 2001.
"Arabella Pollen," available online in the Vogue Archives, www.cntraveller.co.uk, 20 August 2001.***
Arabella Pollen established a reputation as the bold colorist of British fashion. She became known for her snappy, classic, and wearable suits that were always trimmed with witty and unexpected touches—braid, velvet, or combinations of vivid orange, turquoise, and pink on a black jacket shape. Her special occasion wear was described by Harvey Nichols' buying director Amanda Verdan as "brilliant, perfect and never fuddy duddy." Traditional gold laces were made into slinky, long-sleeved tunics teamed with matching hot pants; short shifts of scarlet sequins were edged with pink velvet and wrapped in hooded velvet robes.
Pollen entered the world of fashion without formal training in design. She had hated drawing and sewing as a child but started making clothes for herself and friends at the age of 19. She found that she could survive on the money her clothes were making and began to expand. After designing and making a collection of clothes based on the hunting styles of the early 1900s, she showed the clothes to the wealthy publisher Naim Attallah, who was impressed by her enthusiasm and talent and agreed to provide financial backing.
Pollen's customers have tended to be like herself: young, energetic, with a relaxed style. She realized quickly to survive she had to find an identifiable look that was innovative but not too daring. She recognized there was a niche for chic elegant sportswear, telling the Sunday Telegraph Magazine in June 1983, "I try to do clothes that you can more or less slum around in, but that look elegant at the same time." The look instantly appealed to a particular group of upper-class women and their daughters christened by the press as "Sloane Rangers." Diana, the late Princess of Wales, was one of Pollen's first customers, wearing a number of her well-cut tweeds and dresses from her early collections. This proved a great publicity coup for the young designer and convinced Attallah he had made a wise investment.
Pollen was often her own best advertisement for the clothes, inspiring an affinity between designer and customer by incorporating many of her designs into her own personal wardrobe. This image was strengthened when she agreed to be photographed in the clothes she designed for the fashion manufacturers Windsmoor. The company recognized in Pollen a designer with a strong identity who could adapt her style to updating the Windsmoor image. Although Windsmoor suffered from its overly genteel reputation in the early 1980s, Pollen's youthful styles sharpened the company's identity and boosted sales.
In 1990 Courtaulds Textiles bought a minority stake in Pollen's business, a link that gave her the resources to make a huge international impact. Unfortunately, while sales grew rapidly in the UK, this was not the case in other parts of the world. After reviewing the situation, both parties felt it was inappropriate at this stage to provide further resources, and Arabella Pollen Ltd. announced that it had ceased trading in May 1993, though Pollen retained her link with Courtaulds as a design consultant.
As a woman designing for women, Pollen proved she had no preconceived ideas about what women wanted to wear. Wearing the clothes herself gave her insight into how women actually felt about them, their likes and dislikes—a major contribution to fashion that was accompanied by close attention to detail, quality, cut, and fit. An independent spokeswoman for women, Pollen had summarized her outlook years before in Vogue, stating: "I think modern women are tired of being dictated to by faddish whimsy. Fashion should be alive, expressing, not swamping, personality." From designing for the Princess of Wales and earning £1.2 million in 1990 at the top of her form, Pollen departed the first phase of her career to serve as design consultant for Courtaulds, including hosiery by Aristoc, Rech, and Lyle & Scott.
updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass