‘I felt self-conscious and ashamed’: Sienna Miller on tabloid intrusion – and why she can’t bear boho chic | Fashion

The funny thing is, Sienna Miller can’t stand boho chic. “Don’t you think it sounds annoying?” asks the eternal poster girl for hippy-luxe, festival-adjacent summer dressing. Actually, from where I’m sitting right now, boho chic looks pretty damn good. Barefoot in jeans and a tissue-fine T-shirt, ropes of Botticelli-blond hair tumbling over her shoulders, Miller looks absurdly radiant even on Microsoft Teams, after “a rough baby night” with her second daughter. “That’s very nice of you,” she says sunnily, “but you know, there just is a bohemian way of dressing, isn’t there? It’s not like I invented anything.” She shrugs. “When I was younger the 70s and 60s really resonated for me. I bought vintage things at markets.”

But Miller, 42, knows better than most that fame can mean that the media, not you, get to decide who the world thinks you are. The actor survived a harrowing experience as the victim of phone hacking, a decade having her personal life ransacked for tabloid entertainment followed by another fighting for justice. So the fact that the world now has a habit of mistaking her wardrobe for her personality feels like small fry. Having won damages from News Group Newspapers and two paparazzi photo agencies in 2008 for breaching her privacy, she later took action against the News of the World and then testified at the Leveson inquiry after accepting £100,000 in compensation from the tabloid paper after it hacked her voicemail.

Last year, Miller spoke in a BBC documentary about the agonising period in 2005 when tabloids broke the story of her boyfriend Jude Law’s affair and then revealed to the world that Miller was pregnant, making her decision as to whether to go ahead with the pregnancy horrendously public. She won damages from the Sun in 2021 after claiming it had accessed her medical records in 2005 (the newspaper denies this). A traumatised Miller left Britain in 2016, spending seven years living in New York before returning last year.

Miller modelling clothes from her collaboration with M&S. Photograph: M&S

She is delighted to be back in London. “I had a very intense decade of scrutiny in this country. Everywhere I went, I felt self-conscious and ashamed. So for the first five years in New York, I was so happy. I could breathe there.” But after the pandemic, she started to miss home. “New York has changed. It has always been the centre of whatever the culture is, and that means a lot of TikTokkers and influencers. By the end, I was sort of hanging out by the baked beans in the English shops, which was quite tragic. But I needed that break from England before I could come back and feel at home again.”

Miller seems remarkably gracious and open-hearted, all things considered. She chats about her past without bitterness, and she sits for our interview with her laptop in the middle of her home, people pottering in and out of frame behind her. There goes her boyfriend, the actor Oli Green, wandering past with a mug. “Hang on, I can hear Walter crying,” she says. “It sounds as if he’s stuck somewhere.” She pads off into another room, comes back. Who’s Walter? “One of the dogs. There are four here.” You’ve got four dogs? “I’ve got two dogs. And my sister’s staying with her dog. And my nanny’s got a puppy. We’ve also got a cat. It’s a bit like living in an animal shelter and I love it.”

In an apt metaphor for Miller’s rapprochement with British culture, she has collaborated with Marks & Spencer, cosy bastion of Blighty, on a fashion collection that goes on sale on Thursday. There are ombre-dyed slips, quilted jackets and paisley trousers, lace blouses and white denim shorts. There are toe-post gladiator sandals and even coin belts. Prices for the 29 pieces range from £29.50 for a belt to £89 for a wedding-guest-appropriate ruffled dress. It is – whisper it – most definitely boho chic. It is also quite the coup for M&S, just as Miller’s brand of boho chic is enjoying a renaissance.

Miller, of course, is at the heart of the boho revival. Paris fashion week’s most recent hit show was the debut of new Chloé creative director Chemena Kamali, who brought the label back to the wispy dresses, chunky pendants and road-trip sunglasses that were the sacred objects of its 2000s heyday. Miller was in the front row, in an ivory slip dress and a leather jacket, “and every piece that went past, I thought: ‘I love that, I want that.’ It was kind of my dream wardrobe. It’s just the style that suits me best.”

Miller has been on the creative side of fashion before, with five years co-helming the womenswear label Twenty8Twelve with her sister Savannah, who trained at Central Saint Martins and has a successful career as a designer. She adored it at first, but the tight economics of running a small label meant it got “corporate”, and they moved on. At M&S, she’s not running the business, so she just gets to do the fun stuff: fabrics and fittings, with no spreadsheets. “I wanted this collection to be everything you would need for a holiday, or a festival,” Miller says. Jane Birkin was on the mood board, of course. “When I think of summer days and the perfect shirt, I think of her immediately.”

At Cannes with Kevin Costner. Photograph: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

A red paisley dress, which will sell for £55, is based on a vintage favourite from her own wardrobe. “I love that dress so much. Thinking about it now, am I actually slightly regretting that this one-off magical piece has been reproduced?” she muses, and then shakes her head. “I’m not precious about stuff. I’ve lost lots of clothes, or lent them to people and forgotten. That is the irritating side of being genuinely bohemian.”

For much of her two-decade career, Miller’s work has been overshadowed by her celebrity. When she played Law’s girlfriend on screen in Alfie she became better known for their relationship in real life; her role as skimpily dressed party girl Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl amplified the idea of her as a skimpily dressed party girl. But she has worked nonstop on stage and on screen, starring in the West End in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and on Broadway in After Miss Julie; and, 10 years ago, the tide began to turn with understated, well received performances in American Sniper and Foxcatcher. Next came a moment of high-profile catharsis in the 2022 Netflix hit Anatomy of a Scandal, as the wife of a politician whose affair is splashed across the British press. This summer, she will be on billboards and in cinemas for her role in the first two parts of Kevin Costner’s epic western, Horizon: An American Saga.

“So, I got this call from Kevin Costner. He said he was making westerns, and would I go west with him.” Wait, did Costner actually ask you to “go west with him”? “Yes he did! I know! And I was like” – here she places a hand on her heart and affects a solemn voice – “Yes, Kevin. I will go west with you. I’m a child of the 1990s, Dances With Wolves was my favourite film growing up. You don’t say no to Costner, in my book.” Next year, however, she wants to do a play. “I’ve got two that I’m deliberating over, both in London. I can’t wait to do theatre again.”

So, things are good. “But at the same time there’s always a mountain to climb that I feel as if I’m not even on. I mean, I go to Cannes and it’s great but I’m like, why aren’t I working with [Poor Things director] Yorgos Lanthimos?” she says, laughing. “But hopefully I got into my 40s at the right time. It feels like the world may be realising that we’re not withered old hags at this age, but actually have more to contribute.”

With Oli Green in 2022. Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Claridge’s

The 10-year age gap between her daughters is “actually quite useful”, says Miller. “Because one is tiny and portable, and the other is becoming increasingly independent.” Miller co-parents 11-year-old Marlowe with Tom Sturridge, from whom she split in 2015. Relations between the Miller-Green household and Sturridge, now partnered with another British style icon, Alexa Chung, seem commendably harmonious. One of Sturridge and Chung’s first public outings as a couple was at Wimbledon last year, where they sat close to Miller and Green, and took selfies as a foursome. When I ask Miller who her personal style icons are – Jean Harlow and Emma Corrin, as well as Birkin – she makes a point of adding: “Alexa, who always looks incredible.” Lucky Marlowe, with two feted wardrobes to plunder between her mum’s and Chung’s, is “a little fashion monster”, says Miller delightedly. “She’s so stylish. And very critical. She’s like a young Anna Wintour in her total disdain for some of the things I wear. In New York she thought I was mortifying. She wishes I would brush my hair. Although now that we’re back in England she’s starting to appreciate the undoneness.”

Miller doesn’t really go for expensive clothes, she tells me cheerfully. “I don’t honestly buy a lot of designer stuff, because I’m really fickle and I get bored quickly.” She estimates her wardrobe is 40% high street, 40% vintage, 20% designer. When I ask for her skincare recommendations, she recommends “a retinol called A313 that you can get quite cheaply over the counter in France. If you have to look good the next day, put that on when you go to bed.” But she also sees the facialist Sarah Chapman. “The goal is to not do too much of the invasive stuff, but to try to kind of pad that out with great machines and facials.”

In two or three more decades, Miller says, “I like the idea of going full Iris Apfel. Being an old lady in big glasses, fully accessorised, like a Christmas tree.” But for now, “I have other priorities, to be honest. When I was in my 20s and didn’t have kids, I might wake up and go to a market and rifle around, but who’s got the time to do that now? So usually it’s just jeans and a T-shirt, honestly.”

Turns out, there is an upside to looking “quite boring”. In the same city where Miller has described her 20s as a “video-game existence … hunted relentlessly” by paparazzi, she now rarely gets recognised. “I’m much shorter than people think, and as you can see, I don’t own a hairbrush,” she says. “Also, and I know this sounds woo-woo and annoying, but to an extent you attract attention by the energy you give out. If you have a cap and a hood and sunglasses, people are going to wonder who the fuck you are. Instead, I get people coming up to me saying: ‘Has anyone ever told you that you look like Sienna Miller?’ And I say: ‘Yeah, I get that all the time.’”

M&S X Sienna Miller launches Thursday 6 June. Available on M&S.com and in selected stores

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