International stylist Bels King Harman fell in love - in and with the islands, makes Seychelles White-tailed Tropicbird scarves
(Seychelles News Agency) - The next time you read an article about a musician you love or see your favourite movie star walking the red carpet, take a moment to ask yourself how many hours must have gone into attaining that perfectly professional camera shot and getting that flawless, trendy look just right.
This is the realm of fashion styling, and it’s a behind-the-scenes type of job that often goes unrecognized by the consumer. The career demands a passionate, creative personality that can deal with any kind of client and can handle bucket-loads of pressure.
One London-based stylist is allowing the Seychelles islands to be a source of inspiration.
SNA caught up with Bels King Harman to find out what inspired her to be a stylist and her ties to the tropical Indian Ocean islands ending up discovering an amazing journey of someone's passion and dream becoming a reality.
Bels, who was adopted into a working-class family in New Zealand, says growing up in poverty made the experience of owning her first dress a defining moment in her life.
“I grew up watching my adoptive grandmother sew on her old Singer sewing machine, mending all the clothes, sheets and curtains,” said Bels. “Money was very tight and I was usually dressed in boys’ clothes and always had to have my hair cut very short to save on bands and ribbons.”
“Two dresses entered my world at about the age of four from my grandmother who had made them for me out of remnants of colourful fabric she had been given,” she said.
“I can still recall how wearing a pretty dress made me feel so special.”
|Bels wearing the Coral colour she designed herself (Bels King Harman) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
Bels said that she remembers making a vow that she would always try to make things pretty for herself and for others to bring smiles to people’s faces and make them feel good.
“I ended up being a child whose weekends were spent cutting out and sewing up whatever fabric I could find, usually just calico or gingham, or, on really good days, whatever I could pester out of my lovely big brother Harry to buy for me!” she laughed.
Frustrated with high school and its rigid curriculum, Bels left school to get a job in a large department store, where she spent a year working and training behind the cosmetic counter as a make-up artist.
Not long afterwards, Bels started work as a model, further igniting her love of fashion and letting her escape to a world where designer labels, usually so far out of her budget, were hers for a few hours at a time. Her modeling career took her to England, where she joined a modeling agency and got to do a little travelling.
Falling in love… in and with Seychelles
During the course of her modelling career, a young Bels met and fell in love with a prominent British businessman called Mike King Harman, who lived and worked in Seychelles. Her first trip to the Indian Ocean islands was in 1978 and Mike, passionate about the wonders of Seychelles and its people, introduced her to its beauty and wonders.
In the early 80s, Bels started a fashion design house in London with a partner, the now internationally-recognised Amanda Wakeley, who has since gone on to clothe Oscar-winning actresses and members of the British Royal Family.
But only ten months into the partnership, Bels discovered she was pregnant with triplets. Overwhelmed by the news, she decided to give up her career and concentrate on bringing her children into the world and nurturing them.
Four children and 35 years later, Bels is still dividing her time between Seychelles and London where she now works as a fashion stylist.
Styling Miss Seychelles
Over the years, Bels has done a lot of charity work in the Seychelles, but says is most proud of the work she has done to style and train some of the recent Miss Seychelles… Another World contestants.
She also sponsored jewellery for all the 2012 Miss Seychelles contestants and contributed a stunning piece of jewellery for the winner, Sherlyn Furneau, whom Bels describes as “exotically beautiful”.
Bels also styled Sherlyn for the 2012 Miss World pageant in Stella & Dot costume jewellery and styled and trained one of the Miss Seychelles 2013 contestants, Francesca Lablache, who ended up winning the prize for the Best Gown.
Birds of Inspiration
“I hold Seychelles dearly in my heart,” said Bels wistfully. “Memories of love, joy, and romance are high on my list.”
The islands are also to thank for her latest creative inspiration – a unique collection of scarves designed by Bels and printed on 100% Italian silk.
|The Seychelles tropicbird on a Kingfisher Blue handmade silk scarf (Bels King Harman) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
“When our children were born 26 years ago, we bought a house at the top of [the mountains at La Misere. This house is surrounded by trees and gives off the similar feeling to living in a tree house and this is where, on calm, bright mornings the tropicbird (Paille en Queue) glides in and out on the soothing breeze, its long striking tail trailing behind it...”
Capturing her imagination, Bels visualized the bird on soft, sensual silk and gliding over the shoulders or around the body of a woman.
“I decided early on that one day I would capture it on silk,” she said.
Bels went on to achieve that vision and has reproduced the tropicbird on handmade silk in two colours, a Kingfisher Blue and a vibrant Coral. Bels commissioned young Bristol-based artist Sabina Savage to draw the tropicbird for the scarves.
|Bels Kingfisher coloured scarf worn by Sabina Savage in a promotional shoot in UK (Bels King Harman) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
“We worked together to achieve the colour selection which I knew would be best for my market and we tweaked together until perfect.”
“My scarves are pointed towards giving the local population a luxury product to feel proud about and to own as a treat to feel gorgeous in,” she said, adding that the scarves were also designed for tourists to take home a luxurious and beautiful reminder of their holiday in Seychelles.
The scarves will be available at selected five-star hotels in Seychelles and thus far at two outlets in the UK; at Equus in Kensington, London and at a popular gallery in the trendy town of Ashburton in Devon.
“I can't wait to do our next Sabina & BEL's design together especially for Seychelles,” said Bels. “You will have to wait to see what I am choosing next from the beautiful Seychelles to drape around the shoulders of glamourous women around the world and adorn them in beautiful silk.”
|Popular Presenter Danni Menzies wears Bels coral scarf for H&M Music Road show 2014 (Bels King Harman) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|