“Usually, it’s a request for a biscuit,” Erica Davies laughs, as our early morning Zoom call is interrupted by yet another child, this time hers.
That we’re both hiding away to chat online while our kids do goodness-knows-what for an hour is merely accepted fact by this point in 2020, and Davies is quick to point out that she’s made her peace with it.
“I think I’m probably like every working mum in the country in that it’s been a real struggle,” she smiles. “Trying to balance the needs of your children while having very real deadlines and very real emails that need responded to quickly… well, it’s been tricky. But you know what? I’m not on the frontline and I’m very, very grateful that I can be at home, that we’ve got space and are surrounded by greenery. That’s been a real distraction and pleasure.”
Of course, the every-mum approach is more than just a response to an interrupted video call. For Davies’ 160 thousand avid Instagram followers, her relatability goes a long way beyond parental anecdotes – themselves few and far between on her grid. Instead, it’s her keen eye for clothes and interiors, honed across a 17-year career as a fashion editor, that inspires devotion from Davies’ flock.
It must have been hard to keep things fresh amid the horror of 2020, I suggest? “I’ve been going back to my styling roots rather than suggesting ‘buy new, buy new’, which I try to do more of anyway,” she says. “I mean, certainly at the beginning of lockdown, nobody was interested in buying clothes at all, and that was very, very obvious. When it became clear it was going to go on more than a couple of weeks, I started thinking about how people are going to get bored of wearing lounge pants so maybe it was a good idea to look at ways they could tweak what they already have, shopping their own wardrobe essentially.
“So, I started sharing styling tricks. I did a piece with my hairdresser about how to touch up your roots, I’ve done some gardening stories, balcony improvements… I’ve tried to do things that I’m interested in seeing right now myself, because I always go back to that idea that I can’t be the only person thinking the things I’m thinking.”
Moving away from new is something that Davies admits she’s been keen to focus on, as awareness of the more damaging aspects of fashion come increasingly to the fore in the public’s consumer mindset. “I do think there’s a subtle shift in the way that people are considering their purchases. Before, when I was working on newspapers and magazines, it was all very, very high street – I mean, I cringe now to think I was very much part of that whole ’20 black dresses for under £20’ era. It was 15 to 20 years ago, and we weren’t thinking about now, whereas I’ve definitely seen a change among my followers. Now, they want to buy less and buy better. So, it’s about getting that balance right.”
That Davies started out working as a fashion journalist is no secret. Less well-publicised is the fact she was the youngest fashion editor on Fleet Street when she took over the styling pages of The Sun at the tender age of 24. It is a role that, as a teen growing up on the Wirral, she admits seemed very far away.
“I grew up obsessed with fashion magazines, that was all I ever wanted to work for,” she smiles. “But I knew that that sort of thing didn’t usually happen to girls like me. I grew up in the supermodel era, when they all had their 34, 24, 34 shapes – and you knew those statistics! But I think over time, you see how much fashion and clothing can change how you feel, that it is a transformative thing. When you’re putting clothes on women and you see that sparkle in their eye, when you can see they feel great about themselves, it’s so much fun. And why should that stop when you’re above a size ten?”
Body confidence is something she’s keen to embody as well as promote, admitting that while she has her off days, getting dressed properly remains a joy and an adventure. Her styling challenges on Instagram during lockdown prompted thousands of women to take risks with their look, posting pictures of themselves wearing everything from clashing prints to bright lipstick.
“Fashion and style are two very, very different things,” she insists. “So, I think for me, it’s about sharing that love of creating your own style and finding the way that you like to dress, the things that make you feel happy,” she grins. “It’s been so lovely seeing older women getting involved, young girls, people of all shapes and sizes, and it’s been amazing to see the breadth of the following that I’ve got. It’s something to consider when I’m putting things together in the future, knowing I’ve got that huge age range. Because fashion is for everybody.”
Which brings us to Davies’ first book. Entitled Leopard is a Neutral, it was released last week and Davies’ is visibly giddy at the idea of it now sitting proudly on shelves across the UK. Her excitement at the countless images of its cover shared on Instagram has been palpable, while she admits being both shocked and delighted to see the title immediately climb to the top of Amazon’s fashion chart.
Aimed at promoting body confidence, Davies says she’s hopeful it will help her diverse following see that there are no barriers to having fun with fashion. Barriers, she says, that are often hard-wired into the women she works with.
“You’re fighting against a lifetime of being told you shouldn’t. Or you can’t. Or you don’t have the figure for this and you don’t have the legs for that, and you shouldn’t wear this with that, and if you’re showing off your legs then you shouldn’t show your chest, and if you have this colour of hair then you shouldn’t wear that colour of top… There are so many rules that formulate throughout our entire lives and somewhere in your head, that causes confusion. You end up conflicted. You go into a store and you’re attracted to something but the rules in your head are telling you ‘you shouldn’t be wearing that’ because that’s what you’ve always been told.
“I want women to know that if your heart says, ‘I love it and I want to wear it’, you can. It’s really about trying to unlearn those rules.”
Having previously worked as a stylist with Trinny and Susannah in their TV heyday, Davies’ is thrilled that Trinny Woodall herself has penned the book’s foreword.
“She talks so honestly about the fact that she’s rejecting the rules that she was setting 20 years ago, about the fact that clothes play such an emotional role in people’s lives and how, for her now, it’s about channelling and embracing that. And I think that really resonates with me because that’s what I’m really trying to say in the book. It’s about trying to make women feel included in the whole fashion conversation.”
For Davies’ that conversation also has to be open and real, and acknowledge the ‘duality’ she, and many others, feel in their approach to style. “When I’m at home, I’m mummy, and then I go into London once or twice a week and that’s when I can get dressed properly and I feel like Erica. That’s a nice thing. But I feel like probably every woman feels like that. There’s the home you, and then there’s the work you, the you that isn’t getting your focus drawn by a child constantly asking for biscuits!”
Right on cue, a Hoover sparks up in Erica’s house as my own son bursts into our call with yet another Minecraft query. It’s time to re-enter the fray. But first, I ask, what will post-2020 success look like in the world of Erica Davies?
“Maybe one day to have my own clothing range would be amazing. Why not? Dream big! But for now, I’m thrilled about the book, and I really hope it helps women gain the confidence to try something different. Maybe that they pick up a pattern or a colour that they haven’t tried before and they feel absolutely amazing in it, and that just opens the door to the possibilities that are out there.
“I don’t want anyone to think they have to suddenly rush out and dress like a CBBC presenter in head-to-toe colour. But if my readers can start off with something small, dip their toe in and go from there feeling good about it? That’s what it’s all about.”
This feature is an updated version of our interview with Erica, conducted during lockdown and originally published on June 5, 2020.