Kate Kotlyar staff writer
When fashion teacher Bella Ivory was a child, her mother was approached by a modeling recruiter, who had her modeling on a runway by age eight. While studying at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Ivory’s teacher asked her what kind of designer she wanted to be, she replied, “Denim.” Asked to stay after class, her teacher spoke with her about an opportunity to intern for Daniella Clarke, the head of Frankie B. Jeans. Ivory intended to spend only a quarter of a term interning for Frankie B. Jeans, but she ended up staying about a year and half. This was her introduction into the world of fashion. From those opportunities, New York Fashion Week invited Ivory in 2015 and 2017 to present her own brand, Ivory Couture.
Currently teaching Fashion Design and Merchandising, this is Ivory’s first year teaching at Beverly. Fashion has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I just really love fashion…it just makes me feel so alive, it allows me to use my creativity. I can definitely say it’s been my best friend because it has never failed me. I just feel so lucky and blessed to be able to be in the position that I’m in because not a lot of people get to follow the desires of their heart. It’s my life dream,” Ivory said.
Ivory’s brand officially launched in 2015 when she debuted it at New York Fashion Week. The two sectors of her brand are Ivory Couture Denim and B. Ivory Atelier.
“I’m very proud [of my company]. I’m pretty much the first Black woman to own a luxury denim brand, and so it kind of puts me on a little scale by myself. It’s scary, but I totally enjoy everything that I do. I have gotten so much more out of having my own business than what I could ever expect,” Ivory said.
As a teacher, Ivory hopes to “let other aspiring artists” know that they “can do whatever [they] want to do in life” as long as they “buckle down.” Fashion student junior Lauren Min exhibits these hopes.
“My biggest takeaway from her class is that if anyone truly works hard enough to reach their goal, they will be able to achieve whatever they would like. As long as we stay passionate and continue working for what we want, we will be able to achieve anything that’s on our minds. Her passion radiates into the students and makes us love fashion and her class even more. It makes us wanna continue giving our 100%,” Min said.
Ivory’s students’ views of the world help her regain a young view of the world.
“I’m 47 now, so you kind of lose the way that you see the world through a teenager’s eyes. [Teenagers] are so gung-ho and so ready to go to college, so ready to experience the world,” Ivory said. “[Teenagers] have these big ideas and it’s reconnected me with that spirit…brought back that optimistic feeling of not being jaded and I love it. It’s just beautiful.”
In the classroom, they discuss “representation of POC [people of color] within the industry,” according to Min. Being one of the first Black women with a luxury denim brand, Ivory has been a victim of racism from the fashion industry.
“If you know anything about the fashion industry, it’s no secret that it’s really hard for minorities. I’m from the Midwest…[and] I’ve never experienced being a victim of racism or prejudice, until I got into the industry. And just to see it blatantly, it was an eye opener. It was so very hurtful. I’m an adult [and] in all of this time I’ve grown up in a region of the United States that racism is still prevalent and I never experienced it,” Ivory said.
Despite Ivory’s struggles, she did not allow them to stop her from pursuing her dream.
“I did not let it stop me. I refuse to let it stop me because I want to be judged upon my merit and not the color of my skin. It just made me buckle down and be the best designer that I can be. When you go through a situation like that and it is something that really hits your heart, sometimes you want to give up. But I believe in my talent too much to give up on it,” Ivory said.“So the way that I overcame it was instead of focusing on the negative, I just decided I’m going to make it a positive situation and I’m not going to give up.”