The Real Liv by Daisy Garnett, Harper's Bazaar, November 2002. Photos by Patrick Demarchelier.
She's confident, in love and has established a style uniquely her own.
Today, Liv Tyler knows exactly what she wants.
Four months ago, the day after her 25th birthday,
Liv Tyler gave up her 11-year smoking habit. "It
was really hard," she says, rolling her eyes and
flopping down on the bed. "But I was missing so
many beautiful moments, too busy looking for an
ashtray. It was definitely my guiltiest pleasure."
We were meant to go out to lunch, but Liv doesn't really
care about going out-at all. "I'm happy just lying on the bed
if you are, and we can always get room service," she says
cheerfully. So here we are, talking about what used to be her
worst vice, both of us sprawled on her bed in London's small
but perfect Covent Garden Hotel, where Liv is staying with
her fiance. Royston Langdon, a musician, whom she has
dated for four years.
Though the couple have been here only a few nights (Liv
is in London to do postproduction work on The Two Towers, the
second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Liv
has already made the room her own. The not yet officially
released Supergrass album is in the CD player (she's friends
with the band), a battered copy of JT LeRoy's book Sarah is
lying by the bed (Liv is reading it for the second time;
she and LeRoy have a friendship that consists of e-mail
correspondence), and the room's various surfaces are cluttered
with jewelry and makeup.
Barefoot and wearing a faded green, worn-out T-shirt of
Langdon's, jeans by Paper Denim & Cloth, and a necklace
with an L pendant - a birthday present from her dad. Steven
Tyler - Liv loves clothes, loves accessories, and loves beauty
products. "Try this," she says, coming out of the bathroom
with a tube of Baume des Familles Réve de Miel, a face and
body moisturizer. "I've just discovered it, but already it's a
staple." She smears it on.
When I ask Liv what her worst vice is, now that she
has stopped smoking, she replies: "Shopping. I'm a whiz at
it." Looking around her hotel room. I don’t doubt it.
Strewn about, there is a perfect, to-die-for flat cap and a
fabulous leather-and-string shoulder bag. "I love that hat," she
says. "It's from Hermes, but I wear it on the beach and in salt
water, so it looks like a fisherman's hat from a gazillion years
ago." The bag? "Roy gave it to me for my birthday," she says.
"He found it in a vintage store. Isn't it the best?" What else?
She shows me a new pair of Marc Jacobs ankle boots with
gold buttons, a Mayle navy corduroy jacket with puffy sleeves,
and two new rings: big white and black camellias by Chanel.
And that is not all, "I have the most incredible jewelry
collection," she confesses. "Not diamonds or anything, but great
dangly earrings and stuff. And an incredible Shoe collection."
Though she wears "flats every day," she has dozens of Prada
heels and platforms-gifts from Miuccia years ago when Liv's
then-boyfriend, Joaquin Phoenix, appeared in Prada ads. "I
went to Milan and got to say, 'I want that shoe, but in this color,'"
she recalls with delight.
When I ask Liv to define her style, she says
simply: "I like to look luscious. When I
dress, I think of Pre-Raphaelite paintings,
of those women with great lips and long,
fluffy hair and layers of beautiful clothing.
I want to look sexy, but that doesn't mean I want my breasts
hanging out. I like to look pretty, but whatever pretty means to
me and my boyfriend; whatever looks best for me. I decide what
I want to be like. I modeled for a year when I was 14, and I got
in so much trouble because I was like. 'Forget it, I'm not going
to wear that!'"
Liv continues, "I appreciate vintage stuff, but I'm not the kind
of person who can raid the Salvation Army and then wear
someone's stinky old T-shin, I prefer one-stop shopping at
somewhere like Fred Segal or Barneys. I can scan a store and
pick out what I know will work in a second."
We decide to put this proclamation to the test. After lingering
on her bed, drinking tea and eating chocolate biscuits, we want
to head out into the streets and shop. Liv is doing this on one of
her only free afternoons before she begins recording a song for
the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers. ("I'm
so thrilled to be doing it. because before I started acting, all I
ever wanted to do was sing," she says.) First, though, she wants
to change her outfit.
She puts on a pair of Chloe pants, bought when Stella
McCartney was the designer behind the label ("My total
staples," she says. "Stella's pants are amazing"), a cotton La
Cosa tank, flip-flops she bought on the street in Tokyo, and a
black brushed cotton jacket embroidered with flowers. She
bought it yesterday at the Cross, a London boutique, along with
a red wool throw she plans to wear like a cape. She adds lip
gloss and a touch of eyeshadow, keeps her shoulder-length hair
loose, and we're off.
Our first stop is the fashionable underwear store Coco de
Mer. She scans the place quickly and selects several pairs of
flimsy jewel-colored panties. "I never wear G-strings," she says,
"but I do love underwear that you can wear '70s-style, low on
your hips." She pokes her head out of the dressing room.
"Come in," she whispers, giving me a pair of pink silk
underpants edged in lace. "You have to try these on, They are
stretchy so you can wear them like shorts."
Well, she can. She recently spent a couple of months working
out with trainer David Kirsch, and though she's careful about
what she eats ("I have to be," she says), she is not a dieter. "I
love to cook," she says, "and I love to eat. I could never be a
rigid person who only ever has her salad dressing on the side
and never eats anything but fish. I realize that is how many
actresses live, but I can’t. And yet, if I am not careful, I could be
considered chubby in the film business. It does not make my
sense. I wear a size eight, maybe a 10. I'm 5'10' size -10
feet and big bones, but that doesn't make me a big girl."
She pauses and sighs. "I don't want to spend so much
time obsessing about myself. I want to
feel free," she says. "That's why it is great
for me not to live in Hollywood. I love to
go to the country where I can wear my
pajamas all day long if I want." (Liv and
Langdon rent a house in upstate New
York, in addition to recently having
bought a Greenwich Village brownstone.)
This afternoon, however, is not a
pajama day. Liv pays for her underwear
and we set off for our next stop,
Browns, one of London's best designer
stores. "I'm looking for these high-waisted
Balenciaga pants." Liv tells the
shop assistant. "And this Missoni
sweater." She shows the woman a
couple of pages she has torn out from
an issue of Bazaar.
"I don't go to fashion shows, and look
books don't really make sense to me," Liv
explains. "I'll look at magazines and
choose one or two classic things each
season." This season, as well as the
pants and sweater. Liv has ordered a pair
of rust suede knee-high Marc by Marc
Jacobs boots and a red wool cape-skirt
by Zac Posen, who is a friend.
"I like buying things from people I have
a personal relationship with," she says,
"like Alexander McQueen and Jane
Mayle. She makes things specifically to
fit me. A lot of times with designer stuff,
I'll think, Wow, that's so beautiful, and
then it doesn't fit right, because the
designer hasn't considered the shapes of
The pants and sweater are not yet in
the store, but Liv gives the assistant her
phone number and makes her promise to
call her the moment they arrive. She has
now secured the best items for her winter
wardrobe. Even so, she checks out the
rest of the store. In about two minutes,
she has found a plaid coat by Marni,
a striped top by Martin Margiela, and a
baby-blue-and-white cashmere scarf and
bobble hat by Malo. She tries them all on,
right in the middle of the floor. "I hate
changing rooms," she says. "When will
stores learn not to use overhead lighting?
It's depressing." She likes the top, but it
doesn't fit right. The coat, though., is
perfect, as are the scarf and hat. "Look,"
she says, putting them on, "a perfect Ali
MacGraw Love Story outfit."
At that moment her cell phone rings. It
is Langdon. Liv's face lights up. "He's a
total angel," she told me earlier about her
fiance of a year and a half. "We haven't
set a date for the wedding. We're just
trying to figure out what will be the most
fun thing for us, and at the same time,
we're in love and kind of forget to talk
about it." They discuss their plans for
tonight - they are eating out with
friends - before she tells him that she
loves him. He calls back and she tells
him that she loves him again.
I ask her what it feels like to have found
her soul mate, for clearly it's her
relationship with Langdon that keeps Liv
happy and sane. "I shouldn't really talk
about it," she says, but she can't resist
"It's so nice to have a best friend who will
work through everything with me in my
darkest hours and when I'm being
embarrassing or selfish or needy. Not that
I didn't have that growing up, but it wasn't
always easy tor me."
The story of Liv's childhood is
now well known. She was raised by
her mother, Bebe Buell, as well
as her mother's family - and her father
(Buell's then-partner, Todd Rundgren), or
so she thought. In fact, when Liv was nine
or so, she discovered that her biological
father was Aerosmith frontman Steven
Tyler. "I was contused, but I wasn't angry,"
she recalls. "Though the relationships are
complicated, ultimately I'm just grateful to
have that love."
Liv could wax poetic about her
childhood for hours, it seems, but
Browns is about to close. Besides, she is
eager to return to her hotel room - to the
cocoon she has created with Langdon -
to prepare for dinner tonight and work
tomorrow; to stop shopping and get
back to her life. "I'd much rather be a
good person than have a good fashion
sense," she says as she leaves the store.
Then she looks down at her bags and
laughs. "But I'm a total hypocrite,
because I love to shop, too."