She's got a British fiance, adores La Moss and is designing for one of our heritage brands, Belstaff. Now, this New York girl is moving to London. Jane Mulkerrins meets Liv Tyler
CREDIT: DUSAN RELJIN
By anyone's standards, Liv Tyler has wasted very little time over the past couple of years. When I first met the actress and model back in April 2014, she was deep in the filming of her first television role, as Meg, a young woman markedly altered by grief, in the HBO series The Leftovers.
Liv – star of big-screen hits including Stealing Beauty, Armageddon and The Lord of the Rings – was then 36, single and a divorced mother-of-one; her son Milo was nine.
Having grown up as an only child herself, she would 'definitely' like to have more children, she'd told me, over oysters and craft ale at a gastropub near her home in Manhattan's West Village. 'I'm 100 per cent planning on it, but the clock is ticking,' she said. 'If the stork could just drop it off on my roof, I'd be so happy – I'd have, like, 20.'
On adding a newborn to her family
Liv with her fiance, David Gardner, with whom she has two children
Fast-forward to today and Liv's domestic set-up looks dramatically different. Her second son, Sailor, is now 18 months old, and she has a daughter, Lula, too, born in early July. Liv, now 39, is engaged to their father, David Gardner, a British football agent and David Beckham's best friend, who also has a nine year-old son, Grey, from his previous marriage to the ex-Hollyoaks actress Davinia Taylor. 'I know, wow, so much has changed,' gasps Liv. 'And none of it was planned at all.'
Planned or not, her swiftly expanded brood fulfils a long-held ambition. 'I can remember being six and I had all these dolls – I'd always take care of them and tell everyone I was going to have a big family some day. Then, at one point, I thought maybe I wasn't going to...'
She pauses, and sighs happily. 'And now it's my whole world. Yesterday, I was sitting in my pyjamas holding Lula, and Sailor and Grey and Milo were all running around and playing. It was the most beautiful morning, and I just had to pinch myself.'
Liv with her baby daughter, Lula, who was born this July
On the day we speak, three weeks after Lula's birth, Liv is at a holiday house on Long Island, enjoying a break at the beach, with David, the four children, and two nannies. She admits: 'That feels a little ridiculous, but it definitely takes a village.'
And if the addition of three new children and a fiance were not sufficient, further change is afoot. Two weeks after we speak, Liv, along with Milo, now 11, Sailor and Lula, will be relocating to London's Primrose Hill. Gardner has made attempts to move to New York with Grey, 'but it wasn't an option because of custody reasons,' explains Liv.
'I'm definitely a New Yorker through and through, but for our family right now, England is going to be wonderful. It's a little more kid-friendly, with all the space and parks. David and Grey are so used to grass that they can play football on, and New York really is the concrete jungle.'
A new fashion venture with Belstaff
Liv's designs for Belstaff include a wool-trim parka and a pussy-bow blouse
In between giving birth, twice, and planning a transatlantic move, Liv has also designed a capsule collection for the British heritage brand Belstaff. The 12 autumn/winter pieces, which have just gone on sale, include a military-style pea coat with leather trim and gold buttons, two leather jackets, a cape with a leather collar, a pussy-bow blouse, slim-fit trousers and a pair of riding boots.
Along with designing the range, Liv stars in a three-minute film for the brand, Falling Up, in which she plays a female aviator. Both the film and the collection itself pay homage to the 1920s pilot Amelia Earheart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic – dressed by Belstaff.
The collection is, Liv says in her distinctive breathy, honeyed tones, 'a celebration of the feminine and masculine rolled into one,' inspired by classic pieces from her own wardrobe, and that of her fiance.
'David has the best fashion sense ever, and we're pretty much the same size, so I borrow his clothes all the time,' she admits. 'His feet are bigger than mine, so I can't wear his shoes, but I borrow his jackets, blazers, coats and shirts. He steals my pyjamas too. He loves wearing them.'
Liv at London Fashion Week earlier this year, where she unveiled her 12-piece collection for Belstaff
Her second collection, to launch in 2017, will be more overtly feminine. 'I had seen a picture of Katharine Hepburn in this black-and-white polka-dot blouse and trousers, and it's something I always wanted,' she says, dreamily. 'It was a great inspiration to make our own version of it.'
An unconventional upbringing
The daughter of model and groupie Bebe Buell, Liv famously only discovered at the age of eight that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was her father, after meeting him at a gig and noticing a resemblance between herself and Tyler's daughter, Mia.
Until then, she had believed her father to be Buell's on-off, long-term partner Todd Rundgren, also a musician. She spent much of her childhood moving between Maine and Virginia, where her grandmother, Dorothea Johnson, taught etiquette to the children of diplomats, before Buell moved to New York when Liv was 12.
Liv in Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty
But despite her all-American upbringing, it should come as no surprise that Liv is so thrilled to be moving to London. From designing for Belstaff to choosing fathers for her children (Milo's father is Royston Langdon of the British band Spacehog), she's taken Anglophilia to a whole new level.
'When I was growing up in New York City in the '90s, there was a big group of English people who influenced me,' she says. 'Lucie de la Falaise [the model niece of Yves Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise] was my first girlfriend in New York. She was a little older than me, and she and Marlon [Lucie's husband, who is the son of the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg] and I met at the same time.'
If that sounds like the most fashionable group, there's more. 'Then, I was 15 when I met Kate Moss, and Lucie and Kate made the biggest impact on me,' says Liv. 'There was something unique about them – I was completely in love with them. I learnt so much from them and their style.'
21-year-old Liv with Kate Moss, in 1998
There is, she believes, a different sensibility among Britons. 'You guys definitely have more fun; you're much better at letting your hair down. There's something very playful and magical about the way all my English friends see everything. You love to dress up and go for adventures. You make going for a walk in the garden and having a cup of tea sound and feel like the most exciting thing in the world.'
On her British fiance - David Beckham's best friend
It was Moss [Grey's godmother; Beckham is his godfather] who introduced her to Gardner. 'He's a really manly man,' she gushes, when I ask her about their relationship. 'A Manchester man. It takes me a minute to understand everything. I need translations all the time.'
Gardner became best friends with Beckham at 14, when the pair were both members of the Manchester United youth team, along with Ryan Giggs, with whom Gardner is still close. 'He's very masculine, but tender and loving, and very hands-on with the kids,' says Liv.
'He's definitely juggling a lot, with working and being Daddy to so many, but he is very good at being there for the things that are important.' Will they get married? 'I'm sure we will,' enthuses Liv. 'It's something we talk about and we're planning on, but right now we're just enjoying every second of where we are.'
Liv began working in fashion at 14, putting her huge blue eyes and unfeasibly pouty, pillowy lips inherited from her father to use as a model. But she soon changed her focus to acting, starring in independent films including Empire Records and That Thing You Do!, before Bertolucci's dreamily evocative coming-of-age story Stealing Beauty made her a star.
Liv with Ben Affleck in Armageddon
In her 20s, she played Arwen, the elf maiden in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and starred in other big-budget smashes such as Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk.
Can you balance a career and family life?
She married Langdon at 25, and gave birth to Milo a year later. Then, in her 30s, she stepped back from films to concentrate on raising her son, along with his father, from whom she was divorced amicably in 2008.
'From a young age, I had this idea that if you are very successful in your career and you're giving all your attention to that, the life of your family possibly won't flourish as it might,' she says. 'I can live with the career part not going so well, but I don't think I could live with my family not being happy.'
These days, she appears to have found a healthy balance. She had recently given birth to Sailor when David Beckham was designing his own capsule collection for Belstaff, and taking on his first acting role – in the accompanying short film, Outlaws.
'Because of the connection through my David, they were asking me about the script, and casting – and then they just asked me if I'd like to produce it,' she says. 'I'd always wanted to, but never had the chance, and it seemed a great opportunity to get a feel for it.'
She has since co-produced the feature film Wildling with Trudie Styler. 'I would love to create a story and produce and direct a film. Getting the chance to execute an idea, like with Outlaws, gave me an appetite to want to take it further.'
More immediately, though, a week after landing in the UK, Liv will be on a plane to Australia, to film her last scenes for the third and final season of The Leftovers. After that, she's fully available for hire. 'I'm really excited to move to London with a clean slate, and just say, "Hey, I need a job." I'm excited for a whole new adventure in my life right now.'