Tallulah Willis picks up her phone on the first ring. She’s in Sun Valley with her family for the holidays, and she’s in the middle of wrangling not one, not two, but eleven barking dogs. “Can I call you back?” she asks, laughing. “I just gotta go put a diaper on my dog.”
It’s this kind of amusing, relatable honesty that Willis’s 245k Instagram and 16k Twitter followers have come to expect from her. On social media, where she goes by her childhood nickname @buuski, she talks about everything from burning the roof of her mouth with hot pizza and her puppy’s farts to mental illness and her journey to sobriety. “I think that because so much of my life was already exposed without my decision making, it was kind of like, alright, let's just saddle up and be a part of that,” she says, referring to growing up in the spotlight as the daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. “I'd rather someone be using my words than making up words for me.”
At 25, Willis, like many of us, is figuring out what it means to express herself, not just as a person of interest on the internet, but a burgeoning creative force. “I've been searching for an outlet for my rampant mind for years, and to finally find a vessel to pour it all into has been unbelievable,” she says. The primary vessel in question is Wyllis, a vintage-inspired clothing line she’s launching next year with pal Rachael Finley, the designer behind streetwear labels Teenage and Hot Lava. Wyllis will have a soft launch on January 15 in the form of sweatshirts bearing original drawings — Willis is also a visual artist — with phrases like “Yeah, I’m Fine,” and “Nothing Like Feeling Super Vulnerable.” A more expansive line will follow in the spring.
“I live my life really with the intention of compassion and inclusivity and kindness. And I thought, how can I create something that mirrors that? So, from the beginning, there was a huge emphasis on size inclusion and a really affordable price point,” Willis says. On each garment, there will be an interior tag that says “You Are Never Alone” and includes the numbers for the National Suicide Prevention hotline and the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline.
Drawn to the styles of the 1940s, she hunted down ten authentic vintage prints to recreate using modern fabrics. The full line will include pieces like a bomber jacket with a nipped waist and a printed catsuit. The kind of stuff, Willis says, you’ll reach for when packing for a fun trip. The kind of stuff you’re excited to buy. The kind of stuff that “you can wear the armor of.”
It should come as no surprise that Willis has been stylish pretty much since birth. She recalls two beloved childhood outfits: In second grade, a tutu, sparkly tights, and red Converse with Spongebob shoelaces, and in sixth, Spider Man rain boots paired with a matching Spider Man t-shirt. These days, it’s Dickies or jeans and a vintage sweatshirt… and then sometimes pink glitter, bold eyeshadow, and a marabou coat, because why not?
This natural sense of what looks cool has served her well as a sometimes-model. She recently starred in the pre-fall 2020 lookbook for Simon Miller, the ultra-zeitgeisty, ‘70s-inspired label responsible for the ring-handle bags and candy-colored, vertiginous platform slides you’ve probably seen all over Instagram. Willis linked up with creative director Chelsea Hansford through a friend, and says the moment they met, there was an instant connection. The book was shot by Chloe Horseman, a 22-year-old photographer that the fashion world is quickly falling in love with, thanks to her work for brands like Bottega Veneta, Mansur Gavriel, and Lisa Says Gah.
The resulting images have it all: There’s power-clashing, shag carpets, and so much red snakeskin you feel like a rock star just by association. Whether holding an old TV over her face or a slinging three bags over her shoulder at once, Willis radiates power and positive energy. Though she says she has no intention of pursuing modeling as her primary profession, she has an undeniable charisma in front of the camera. She innately understands what to do there and makes doing it seem totally effortless, a fact she partially credits to watching tons of America’s Next Top Model growing up. Tyra Banks’s voice, she confesses, is usually somewhere in her head, instructing her to be fierce.
“Whenever I get in front of the camera, I tend to go wiggly,” she explains. “I go back into, like, six-year-old me in my mom's high heels, and I'm just like, okay, here we go. Let's get weird. Let's bend our body. It's funny because I'm someone who has struggled immensely with self-image issues and the way that I look and not being confident. And yet, in photo shoots, it's like this other side comes out, and I’m able to kind of put that in the corner.”
In the Simon Miller photos, Willis’s hair is short-ish and mostly slicked back, but she’s since chopped off more, resulting in a look that mimics her mother’s in the 1990 film Ghost. (It’s not an easy haircut to pull off, but both women do so with aplomb — perhaps due to their similar face shapes, or — and we think it’s this — their similar no-fucks-given confidence.) The funny thing is, Willis says she didn’t realize until after how much of a resemblance the ‘do bears to her mom’s in the iconic film. “We cut it and then we were sitting in the salon, me and my sister, and I was like, oh my God, I did mom! I didn't even realize it. I had pulled up some photo from Pinterest of some other model,” she laughs. “It's been really fun because when you have a super quirky, strong, bold haircut, it's almost like an outfit in itself.”
Hair has a history of being symbolic for Willis, as it does for many of us. When she first got sober about five years ago, she shaved her head, an act she likens to a kind of unburdening. Since then, she’s had red hair, shorter hair, longer hair, and even a set of Christy Turlington-inspired baby bangs.“I just always want to just be changing and reinventing, the same thing with getting dressed,” she says, but admits she probably won’t keep her hair short for long. “I’m probably going to grow it out. But I thought, why not just be brave and do it? Because I knew it was a haircut that was going to scare me.”
Whether it’s starting a fashion line or chopping her hair, these days, Willis is pursuing a lot of things that may have once scared her, and the results, so far, seem pretty magical. But just like on Twitter, she is quick to caution on our phone call that she doesn’t have it all together: “I'm still one of those young women trying to figure it out, as we all are. But I think for me, the number one thing is you have to stop comparing, whether it’s you against another person or just you against the world.”
It's unusually wise advice for a 25-year-old. But from one young woman trying to figure it all out to another, isn't it kind of exactly what you needed to hear?