Zoe Sugg: “Always go with your gut”

Social media influencer Zoella talks interiors, house envy and ridiculous rumours….

Zoe Sugg

Social media influencer Zoella talks interiors, house envy and ridiculous rumours….

As one of the most successful influencers around (Forbes named her the top beauty influencer on the planet and her Instagram account boasts a cool 9.2m followers) Zoe Sugg has millions hanging onto her every word, from beauty recommendations to interior design inspo. And when it comes to the latter, you can be sure we’re sitting up and taking notes (have you seen her incredible Brighton pad?). Regularly sharing the kind of interior shots made to be screen-grabbed (Sugg worked as an apprentice at an interior design company while launching her now-infamous Zoella blog) it should come as no surprise that her newest venture is a homeware collection, in collaboration with Etsy. Featuring products curated by Sugg and created with UK sellers (everything from alphabet tote bags to cute ceramic mugs and notebooks) expect plenty of blush pink, navy, jade and mustard (her favourites). Here, Sugg fills us in on the collection, her lockdown experience and the pressures of life online….

How have you coped in lockdown?

I think obviously, it's been such a worrying time for everybody. But practically, a lot of what I do can be done anywhere, which I guess is the joy of the internet, being your own boss and filming your life and documenting things on social media. So I was lucky that I was able to continue doing that and continue providing people with something to distract them from what was happening in the world.

zoe sugg

What’s kept you sane? 

We've done a lot of board games. We've done a lot of FaceTime dinners where we’d all have the same thing and sit on FaceTime or video calls. Like the rest of the world, we did a lot of online quizzes too. I feel like we've ticked off everything…

Banana bread?

Yeah, done that. Did a bit of tie-dye, too.

You’ve spoken about your experiences with anxiety in the past. Did the pandemic exasperate that at all?

Surprisingly, no. I was in quite a good place with my anxiety and have been a lot more recently. If anything, it's really made me miss a lot of the things that usually would have made me quite anxious, like big gatherings or crowds of people. It’s kind of made me revaluate and think, ‘Oh, I'm actually feeling so much better about myself and my anxiety lately and I'm genuinely really missing not being able to do those things’. At one point, flights would have been so terrifying. And now I’m sat here like, ‘When can I get on the next flight?’. So it's not really exasperated anything for me, but I can imagine it's been extremely tough on a lot of people's mental health.

Congratulations on the Etsy collection. How would you describe your interiors style?

There’s so many different elements to it. Our kitchen I would say, is quite industrial. Then we have more Scandi elements, and our downstairs toilet has a classic bright, vibrant palm leaf wallpaper. So there are fun colourful pops, but it's also a Georgian property so it has historical elements, too.

zoe sugg

The Bohemian Wilderness candle from the Zoella x Etsy lifestyle collection

What’s been your biggest interiors faux pas?

When I was about 19 I decided to completely revamp my bedroom with this dark aubergine colour - I can't say it's a colour I've gone back to. At the time I thought, ‘This is really cool’ but I ended up absolutely hating it. I've never found a dark purple work well for me.

Did you paint the walls yourself?

I think my dad helped me. This was back when I lived in my parents’ home. But I was grateful he let me have the choice.

Whose home gives you house envy? 

I follow a load of interiors accounts on Instagram and there are always elements of those homes that I love. There's a lot of Victorian terraces in Brighton so a lot of our friends - and Alfie's parents - have Victorian terraces and I love that multiple-storey, skinny style. I think I gained a lot of inspiration from those, and because I love interiors so much there's always something someone's done or has in their home that I'm like, ‘Oh my God, that's amazing’.

What was the inspiration for this collection?

This was largely based around a colour combo which I love, I think it works for most seasons. You've got burned orange, mustard, baby blue and baby pink - I love all those colours and have a lot of them in my home already. I’m also really into an abstract print, which is a trend that’s made its way into soft furnishings and interior design that I love - I think it works so well. Those elements were what I thought would be great to incorporate into the collection, to have across all the different products in some way.

zoe sugg

The Zoella x Etsy lifestyle collection

What’s the quirkiest thing in your house?

We have a mirror that we bought for £200 from somebody who was getting rid of it and it's one of the biggest mirrors we have. We decided to get a quote printed on it vertically and a lot of people really love that when they come here. It’s the Roald Dahl quote, the one from The Twits - ‘If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely’. We also have a wicker hanging chair upstairs, and the lights in the kitchen are actually from old retro blenders. They’re made from the glass that you would put on a blender, hanging over the kitchen island. I think it’s quite cool!

Can you share some low-cost interiors tips?

I definitely think lighting can really set a scene. Now you can get so many light bulbs that are almost art pieces in themselves. And things like bedding and throws are great, especially if you've got a sofa you want to replace but perhaps it’s not in your budget. And houseplants - I love a good house plant. You can get some really lovely planters to put them in. Prints too. You can style them in different places - if you get bored in one room, take them into another room and do something completely different. It gives you the option of changing things up as much or as little as you want.

Sometimes moving things into another room is as good as buying new things...

Exactly. I always call it ‘pottering’ - it’s one of my favourite things to do, giving myself a day where I have a day off social media to potter. When you're living in your space, you might have something you put somewhere a year ago, that you haven't ever thought to move or to change slightly, and it just kind of becomes a fixture. So reminding yourself that you can actually rearrange that shelf or add something different to your bookshelf instead of books is great. I've got a bookshelf up in one of the bedrooms and instead of just chucking all my books on it, I decided I would make it colour-coordinated, so it's like a big rainbow on the bookshelf. Little things like that where you're like, ‘how can I do this a bit differently’ but it doesn’t actually cost anything are great.

What would you save in a fire?

I have a suitcase full of old photos and things I eventually want to put into scrapbooks. But in terms of furnishings, I’d either want to take a few of the art pieces we have, or in the dining room, we decided to do a combination of different coloured pink velvet chairs. We’ve got eight and they're all in varying different shades of pink. I’d attempt to take those!

zoe sugg

As one of the ‘original’ wave of vloggers, what do you wish you'd known before you started out?

I don’t think I’ve been asked that before. I suppose how big influencers and the online world was going to get. When I started back in 2008 or 2009, social media influencer wasn't a term that was used, it wasn't a thing. It was just some people writing about makeup and beauty or whatever it was they were passionate about. They just shared it and a community was formed. Nobody really had any idea of the scale, or how big or influential it could get. I guess a part of me thinks it’s quite nice you didn’t know because you really went on a journey with it. And would it be the same if you did? I don't know. There would have been absolutely no way of anyone anticipating the scale things would get to, how many people would be in this space and the careers that were formed from it. It's so amazing the journey that it’s taken me on in the last 10 years.

What advice would you give someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Be yourself. Talk about things that you love that you're really interested in. Focus more on the community aspect and don’t feel too disheartened if things don't take off for you right now - if you don't gain traction, readers or followers remember these things take time. It's not an easy recipe to follow and it should be about having fun and finding people who think or feel the same way you do. I think the community aspect of social media gets forgotten about a bit, and actually, that's the core of why it's so amazing.

What couldn’t you live without?

My friends, family and my dog. And my phone.

What's the most ridiculous rumour you've heard about yourself?

One really funny one suggested that me and my boyfriend were just pretending and things were orchestrated.

How does that make you feel?

I just laugh. It still kind of blows my mind that people can just create an entirely different scenario or life for you. But yeah, I think that's probably one of the most ridiculous ones. But there have been a few.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Always go with your gut. It's an obvious one but I don’t think, especially in such a fast-paced world, a lot of people stop and really listen to what their body is saying. Someone once said to me, ‘If you get that funny feeling, go with it and listen to your gut’ and it’s really true.

The ZOELLA X ETSY collection lands 10th August

Sophie Goddard is the Entertainment Editor of Marie Claire UK, as well as working across other titles in a freelance capacity. She has over 10 years journalism experience working on both digital and print platforms and prior to Marie Claire, worked at Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazine. Sophie writes about a number of topics, specialising in celebrity interviews and features. At Marie Claire, she is responsible for booking and interviewing cover stars and other celebrity interviews and is always open to pitches from publicists (she is always open to discussing sausage dogs, too).