Decked Out: Wild Belle's Lost-and-Found Vintage Style

Wildbelle Billboard - P 2016
Photographed By Lucy Hewett

The Motown-and-reggae-tinged folk-rock siblings on their fashion essentials.

When it comes to their prized possessions, siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman, better-known as the band Wild Belle, likely have lost them at some point. There was the opossum jacket that vocalist-guitarist Natalie, 26, believed to be gone for two years before finding it in their dad’s basement; and the bronzed-bell Nigerian necklace that keyboardist-bassist Elliot, 34, received from their mother (the late author Susan Bergman) and which had disappeared for months before resurfacing. “It wouldn’t be important if you didn’t lose it!” jokes Natalie.

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The Chicago natives, who cite Miles Davis and Fela Kuti as major musical influences, often acquire their earthy-meets-edgy clothes from antique markets and regard every item as symbolic of a journey. So far their journey has included a collaboration with Diplo, a spot on the Pitch Perfect soundtrack and front-row Fashion Week seats. This spring they’ll release their sophomore album, Dreamland (Columbia), for which they just dropped the single “Throw Down Your Guns.”

A Breed Apart

Natalie purchased her formerly misplaced opossum jacket at New York’s hip vintage depot Narnia. “Opossums have a bad rap,” she says. “They’re pretty wild and beautiful and trying to find a home just like the rest of us.” Elliot’s jacket came from a friend. “I thought it was unusual and classic, like Brian Eno.”

Head Case

“I’ve always been attracted to skulls,” says Natalie of her Damien Hirst rings. “[Hirst] has a dark, twisted sensibility [that] inspires me.”

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Family Matters  

Elliot, who sculpts and casts bells himself, proudly wears this keepsake in his mother’s memory. “She gave it to me before she passed away. It’s so special for me.”

Elliot and Natalie of Wild Belle photographed on Dec. 21, 2015, at Soho House in Chicago. Natalie wears her “prodigal opossum” jacket, and Elliot is in one of his go-to slim-cut jackets. “I’m usually a guy who wears 300 pounds of stuff,” he says of his inclination for layering.

Songs They Are Wild About

“He Don’t Love You (And He’ll Break Your Heart)” – Levon & The Hawks

“A really great soul song that I’ve been listening to 10 times a day lately,” Elliot says.

“A Mighty Good Lover” – The Vashonettes

Elliot notes that the track is produced by Charles Stepney, “one of the underrated heroes of Chicago soul music.”

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“Dreamland” – Della Humphrey

“The song that inspired our record,” Natalie says. “There are many versions of it, but I love this sort of wayward tune.”

“Express Yourself” – Leroy Sibbles

“I love this version,” Natalie says of the song originally released by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of Billboard magazine.