Move over, Moss. Abdicate, Alexa. Ker-ching no more, Kim K. There’s a new influencer in town, and she’s shifting far more merchandise than them. She isn’t a model. She isn’t an actor. She’s never – to our knowledge – made a sex tape. Hedi Slimane would rather die than have her at his show. When the Céline presentation rolls round in Paris next month, ain’t no front-row ticket getting biked to this lady’s address. Not that she cares; she’s too busy having a laugh on the sofa with Philip Schofield.
Holly Willoughby never set out to be an influencer, yet an influencer she has become: a heavyweight who can shift units at a rate that, while undocumented, many retailers agree is immense. Fashion PRs have been whispering about “the Holly effect” for some time and, while not all of them might shout it from the rooftops (snobs that they are, some brands would prefer to be associated with a cooler woman than the 37-year-old daytime TV presenter), they’re certainly not complaining when a skirt she wears sells out. As it frequently does: with 7.33 million followers on Twitter, 3.9 million on Instagram and two million ITV viewers watching her every outfit choice, she has an impressive reach. And she works it, tweeting and Instagramming snaps of “today’s look” fully tagged and credited, complete with the handy, searchable hashtag #hwstyle.
“Holly is a brilliant role model and looks fantastic in Oasis,” says a spokesperson. “Whenever she wears the brand, our products sell out almost instantly.” It’s the same story at Topshop, Kurt Geiger, L.K. Bennett, Whistles, Office and M&S. So, when the latter announced this week that Willoughby was to be a brand ambassador, the question wasn’t so much “why” as “what took you so long?” To mark the launch, Willoughby will select her favourite items from the store’s autumn/winter collections, as part of an edit called “Holly’s Must-Haves”, due in store on 27 September. “I have grown up with and have always loved M&S, so when they asked me to be a brand ambassador, of course I said yes,” says Willoughby, laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m kind of obsessed with Holly Willoughby. I don’t want to dress like her, but I’m obsessed all the same – not so much with how she looks as with what she represents. She could have been grown in a petri dish, so perfect an embodiment of unthreatening, friendly, girl-next-door lolz is she. Men really fancy her – my brother-in-law, for one – but, unusually for a man-magnet, she’s also well-liked by women. You can tell by the tone of all those “pissed in the back of cab after the TV awards” paparazzi shots that Holly is an excellent laugh on a night out. No matter that she has three kids and probably has to get up at the crack of dawn to present This Morning: when the Jägerbombs come out, you know that Holly won’t be refusing.
It takes a special kind of smart to pull off the “girl next door” schtick, when you’re one of the highest-paid presenters on TV and live in a £3m house in one of London’s most expensive postcodes. I put it down to her laughter. She laughs a *lot*. Deadly serious about her career, she carries the weight of it lightly and there’s something wonderfully British about her ability to laugh at herself, and pull off slightly smutty faux-pas like a latter-day Barbara Windsor in a Carry On film.
Speaking at yesterday’s M&S launch, she admitted that she finds fashion “a bit scary” and said she’d figured out through trial and error that the best items for her (non sample-size) body are high-waisted trousers, dark denim jeans and a blazer. Asked what she looks for when choosing clothes, she said, “Something you can plonk on and it’s comfortable.” You wouldn’t catch Kim Kardashian saying that. In a world full of po-faced, deadly serious fashion influencers, Holly is a breezy antidote. And in an era where CGI models are an actual Thing, it’s clear why her (relative) realness plays well: she isn’t perfect, but she makes the best of herself. Who can’t relate to that?