There is a common misconception that nice girls finish last. When it comes to the bloggersphere, the broadcast media and fashion industries, it is assumed that to be successful, one has to be ruthlessly driven, shamelessly self-promoting and more than a little bit narcissistic. The term ‘basic bitch’ springs to mind – a derogatory phrase that mocks bloggers for being predictable – that Penney’s haul, the avocado obsession, the first Chanel black bag and the subsequent un-boxing, the constant #blessed hashtags and the slavish adherence to all the latest trends.
This is not the case with Holly White of Holly.ie. Forget basic, Holly White is anything but. With a well-earned reputation for being one of the nicest girls in the blogging community, the reason for Holly’s success is largely down to talent, ambition, great communication skills and impeccable manners. While many bloggers have recently come under fire for not disclosing sponsored posts, Holly’s integrity shines through her work. She only works with the brands she believes in and it shows. Speaking of which, Holly White is the brand ambassador for Yonka Skincare in Ireland. Having only tried the brand during the Celtic Tiger when I last had a facial (sadly, it’s been about ten years – cue tiny string quartet), it felt luxurious and decadent. But as I say, I knew relatively nothing about the brand. Holly’s collaboration with Yonka was borne out of her love for natural products and pared back makeup; a look that complements her natural beauty and radiant skin. She is quick to mention that its products are paraben free, combining essential oils and natural plant extracts; a huge draw for someone as ethically conscious as Holly.
“For me it was the only natural brand that was dynamic – a lot of natural brands have the organic products and ingredients but they don’t necessarily have the technology to complement it. This brand [Yonka] has been around for 50 years and originally it was used in hospital for burn victims to help them recover so it’s really regenerative for your skin.”
That natural element is something that drives and excites Holly. She mentions Blank Canvas as having “the best vegan brushes I’ve ever used” and “the most reasonable”, with the F20 buffer being her brush of choice.
This segues nicely into our next conversation – Holly’s love of animals (her cats Will and Tom have earned fame in their own right) and her commitment to eating/wearing less animal-based products. “I’d never wear fur and any leather that I have tends to be second hand or really sustainable. It’s tricky. I can’t afford to go and buy Stella McCartney (the go-to designer for fashionistas forgoing animal products is famed for her commitment to using alternative ‘vegan skins and fabrics) which I would love. I’d never wear snakeskin or alligator.” Holly feels she has a responsibility to encourage awareness and shopping around. “A lot of brands have different alternatives. I have a vegan sheepskin rug at home that’s from IKEA. I also have a Chanel bag that I adore but when I bought it, it was 9 years old and I’ll have it for 90 years.”
That iconic Chanel bag oozes timeless elegance, an apt description for the insouciance that Holly exudes. Whether she’s wearing jeans and a simple black jumper or a classic little black dress, her posture and poise are indisputable. What is it that draws her to Chanel? Is it the story behind the bag? Is she drawn to a female-led brand helmed by the inimitable Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel who spawned an empire from a simple perfume? A bit of both, really. The storied maison certainly seems to have universal appeal and its history is not lost on Holly. It’s allure, according to Holly is the simplicity of the design and the longevity of the piece.
“It’s timeless. For me, anything that’s luxurious, I have to know that I’ll love it in ten or twenty years time. We all aspire to some sort of minimalism. Because it’s such an iconic bag, whether it’s worn by celebrities or in a magazine spread, you see it in so many different ways. Whether it’s worn formally or casually, it works and I think that really affirms that it’s as cool with Converse and jeans and a white t-shirt as it is with a dress, going out at night.”
So, is Holly White saving up for her next designer purchase? Saving is the key word here. Holly isn’t one for going on a spree and throwing things out after one wear. She firmly believes in sustainability in fashion and proudly tells me that most of her designer purchases have been bought second hand. It’s this honesty and down-to-earth attitude that I love about Holly. She isn’t ashamed to admit that she buys second hand, in fact she champions it and mentions shopping in consignment stores with an exuberant glee.
“Disposable fashion has never appealed to me. I love a little bit of luxury but I’ll always try to keep it accessible. My followers and I have no interest in buying a dress on a Thursday, wearing it on a Friday and then throwing it out. I have a few designer bags but they’ve all been bought second hand in consignment stores and that works for me in my budget. I don’t think I’d be in a position to walk into Brown Thomas and buy a bag but I don’t think that should stop you.
Holly describes her personal style as “accessible elegance” and highlights the importance of investing in timeless pieces. Such is her sartorial class that one couldn’t ever imagine her donning the passion killer PJs us freelancers are renowned for. She can’t help but laugh. Her best investment, she swears are her Penney’s tracksuit bottoms because she “lives in them” but somehow I imagine she would make them work. Is she guilty of the high street binge shopping the faint of fashion hearts like me so relentlessly persist on, despite our ever waning bank balances? She is. However, she buys “smart” when she can. “Even if I do buy cheaper, I’ll still buy well and I buy things that I like, things that I know I’ll wear again and again.” She mentions H&M and its conscious collection as a favourite and swears she loves her “cheap and cheerful things” as much as the rest of us.
When I suggest to Holly that she offers an alternative to the ultra-polished, contoured look that is popular among bloggers, she agrees. “I’m aware that I have a small degree of influence on cosmetics and things like that,” she says. A slight understatement for someone who counts tens of thousands of followers on her multiple social media platforms. Holly is self-deprecating and humble; she’s talked before about being an extroverted introvert and it comes across. It’s this modesty, I suggest, that endears her to others and adds a credibility to her work that renders her voice authentic. She tells me that she feels a responsibility to her audience, displaying an astute sense of self-awareness that belies her age. She doesn’t believe in doing sponsored posts unless it is a product or service that she actually believes in.
“Imagine you recommended a restaurant and someone went and it was terrible. I know there are certain bloggers and they’re probably being offered thousands of euros daily to talk about those things. I’m not in that position at all so I genuinely share the things that I truly like.”
You can really sense that Holly knows her audience inside out, and she does. In fact, her audience is growing exponentially by 5% every week. Her top tips for staying relevant? Quality is key, she explains. Mentioning other bloggers like Anouska Proetta Brandon, Sarah Hanrahan of I Come Undone, Leanne Woodfull, Louise Cooney and Ciara O’Doherty, Holly says the constantly rising standard of these bloggers inspires and motivates her to produce quality content. Staying responsive, she says, can really make or break a blog.
If people know exactly what to expect, it can become, not exactly generic – but too predictable. It doesn’t feel fresh.
If I had to pinpoint Holly’s greatest strength, I would say her organisational skills are second to none. She never lets the ball down when it come to work and she manages to merge her creativity with the marketing savvy of a digital whizz. It’s quite impressive. She is quick to agree.
“I know how to channel my ideas into a product that you can use and actually put into a magazine. I definitely think if you can marry that creativity and organisational skills, you’re onto a win/win. Some people are hugely creative but to get them tied down to a project is impossible. Everything I’m doing now I’m calling the shots. I’m making it happen.”
Holly mentions that her strength is styling for “real women.” What exactly does she mean by that?
” I wouldn’t consider myself the best stylist but the key thing I always brought home was to make things wearable. I think with models, the temptation is because they’re so slim and uninhibited is to think oh everyone wants to wear a crop top and a pair of cut offs, whereas I’d think no I’d like to wear it with a really baggy jumper. It was commercial – I always brought it back to a client’s brief but realistically what I feel women want to wear. I think there’s a space for both of them. What I was doing was about communicating to a target audience and selling to them as opposed to creating a piece of art which is different.
Recently Holly moved over to a more plant-based diet, one I was eager to discuss with her as I’m slowly moving away from meat and I’m allergic to eggs. Does she find it difficult to adhere to with constant eating out and events? Not at all, she is quick to answer, much to my surprise. Maybe it’s a freelance thing, she says, “sometimes you just have to get out of the house and be that person who drinks a coffee over four hours.” A almond milk matcha latte, I’m presuming. Her top plant-friendly eateries are The Fumbally (“literally my favourite place”), Sprout & Co is really good for takeaway, Honest to Goodness for “cheap and cheerful meals with Andrew” (her fiance).
“For a dinner, Balfe’s would easily be my favourite – the sides are divine. It’s really glam but also what’s nice about it, is that you could roll in in jeans. I’ve never been into anything that’s pretentious. For breakfast, Eathos, Angelina’s and 3fe are very good.”
My mouth starts watering. It’s time to order another coffee. After spending over an hour in Holly White’s company, there is much more to this girl than lipstick and Louboutins. Much, much more. But, I have to ask. What are her go-to beauty products?
Highlighter: Rosie Huntington for M&S
Eyeshadow: Urban Decay, especially the Naked Palettes
Eyeliner: Shisheido – liquid eyeliner in a pot
Brushes: Blank Canvas’ vegan brushes
Brows – Benefit Wow Brow in shade 4
So, there you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth. But not in a horsey way. Much more Gallic gamine ingenue than equestrian rustic chic, if you catch my drift.
Words by me, Mary Cate Smith.
Photos by Neal Byrne.