Fearne Cotton: ‘I’ve Had People On Instagram Tell Me I’m Not Well. We Have To Stop Vilifying Women’s Bodies’

The Happy Place host is using her own negative experiences with body image to create clothes that make everyone feel great.

fearne cotton nobody's child

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

Fearne Cotton must have the most delighted circle of friends. They are, she tells me, the starting point for her collaboration with Nobody's Child, which is back with a joyful summer collection full of great dresses and separates (not to mention a make-your-life-easier jumpsuit). 'I'm lucky in the fact that I've got six best friends who I grew up with since the age of five. And we've all got a really distinct and overt style – there's no shy dressers in our group. But we have really different body shapes, but also parts of our body that we want to really accentuate and other parts that we feel more comfortable hiding. So if I think of Becky, Ali, Fran, Lucy, Rebecca and Hayley, I know each of them will inform these shapes and styles.'

As a result, Fearne's friends are now 'exclusively dressed in Nobody's Child', meaning they get to try out the designs and Cotton gets some free market research. 'They're all hard working, knackered people and, while I worry I'm pushing this collection on them, they're always asking for more.'

This isn't surprising. The partnership is actually between Nobody's Child and Happy Place by Fearne Cotton, tying in Cotton's recent role as a podcast host and mental health advocate, which genuinely resonates in the clothes – they're all brightly coloured, sustainably made and actually fit properly.

One of her favourite pieces, Fearne is wearing this dress for our conversation over Zoom.

'I was genuinely a fan and found Nobody's Child clothing long before we started talking about me doing anything. And I think there's two reasons we fit together. One is that I love bright, vibrant clothing and that's always been something that I've gravitated towards. Also, in the last 10 years I've just become more aware that we can't keep just buying clothes without looking at if they're manufactured responsibly or not. I didn't really know about all that in my 20s.'

From puff sleeve dresses to linen tailoring and a crochet midi that Cotton's wearing for our conversation over Zoom, the collection focuses on some of Nobody's Child's best-selling silhouettes but incorporates Cotton's love of colour, pattern and fun. While it feels fresh and modern, it also isn't chasing crazy trends or trying to appeal to a certain customer; perhaps this is why it feels so in line with Happy Place's general ethos. It echoes Cotton's current mindset, which is celebrating past outfits and encouraging herself and others to wear whatever they hell we want.

The print of this dress was designed in-house and is hand-painted.

'I didn't have a stylist on TV until I was about 24, so that was nine years of ungoverned fashion,' she says. 'But I would want to say today: 'crack on, wear all these weird things because you don't have a clue about anything to do with fashion so just enjoy it'. And I really did. I really enjoyed experimenting.'

Fearne Cotton in 2004

It wasn't all lighthearted fashion faux pas, however, particularly as Cotton faced increasing media scrutiny which massively impacted her body image. She has been very candid about her decade-long struggle with an eating disorder, which was one of the reasons she decided to retreat from the public eye slightly.

'I'm much happier, not under that spotlight constantly. I was followed 24/7 When I was on Radio One, because, you know, I probably had a slightly more exciting life – I was single and walking into work every day with big pop stars or whatever. Now you can find me putting the bins out, and then it taking my kids to school.'

This hasn't stopped Cotton facing scrutiny over her physical appearance. At the beginning of this year, a photo she posted to Instagram attracted such a high volume of body-shaming comments that Cotton posted again in response. In her caption she wrote: 'Online arguments or discussions around what bodies look like (see my last post) are not helpful. If we are judging other peoples bodies or making accusations we are driving a narrative that women have to look a certain way to be accepted. This sort of attention is not cast upon men, ever.'

How does she cope with this type of attention?

'You know, we've got to celebrate all body shapes. But I think when there is just one type of model walking down the catwalk consistently, with a couple of novelty shows thrown into the mix, we're still not getting a healthy enough balance. I think it gets really dangerous and I've been on the receiving end of this as well. It's really dangerous when people start to vilify slim people. I've had people say on certain posts on Instagram, 'you're not telling us that you're not very well' but whatever it might look like, I've always had my nan's skinny ankles. If you're focusing on my ankles, yes, they are like spindles. But I'm a healthy recovered person who eats very well and exercises and places paramount importance on my physical health as much as I can.'

Fearne in her favourite suit from her Nobody's Child collection


Despite this negativity, Cotton insists that social media can actually be really helpful in making us all feel better about ourselves, we just need to create the right sort of space. 'We are on our phones a lot. We're imbibing information, even just by scrolling for five minutes. Our brains are taking in so many images, I think we underestimate the impact of that. But there are some amazing people doing amazing work out there to help all of us feel better in our own skin. Two people I absolutely love following are Megan Jayne Crabbe and Charli Howard, who's been a brilliant activist, posting the most beautiful photos of her body and celebrating it.'

Fearne chooses the linen tailoring as her favourite pieces from the collection, including this pistachio waistcoat.

Cotton has explored much of this in her Happy Place podcast, including one conversation with Emily Ratajkowski which she says made her realise that even she had her own judgements. But she's optimistic about the future, particularly when she sees that her own daughters seem unfazed by the issues which plagued her own adolescence.

'I do think the younger generation are a bit more savvy than our generation. My step-daughter is about to turn 18 and she has a very healthy attitude. But I still think there is this unnerving pressure on young women to, you know, have these perfect nails and the beauty standards are still completely crazy. We've got to rally against this imagery that we're seeing constantly.'

Made from organic cotton, this dress is the ultimate throw-on-and-go style which will work for so many different occasions.

Aside from some Avril Lavigne-inspired ties she regrets wearing, Cotton seems really at home in her own skin which is no mean feat when you consider the level of scrutiny she faced as a young woman. Her experience makes her well-placed to help lead this conversation, at a time when fashion appears to be revering super-skinny bodies exclusively (again).

'My two girls are doing brilliantly, thank God. I don't know what the future holds, obviously. But I'll be able to have a pretty impactful conversation with them if needed'.

Fearne's Follow List

These are the people Fearne loves to follow on social media, who she recommends if you're looking for content that will make you feel good...

Megan Jane Crabbe

Charli Howard

Chessie King

Samantha Renke

Poorna Bell

Florence Bark

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