If Gen Z spearheaded the early Y2K revival, with perhaps a somewhat misplaced affection for low slung jeans and diamanté, then it’s fitting that the arbiters of that original scene are now solidifying the era’s relevance with moves of their own. Liberty Ross is a case in point, the 44-year-old Ladbroke Grove bornmodel and proprietor of Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace (the coolest thing to happen to roller skating and Shepherd’s Bush) is the face of Agent Provocateur’s jaw-dropping new autumn campaign.
She joins a coterie of fashion stars who made their names in the Nineties era similarly cementing this season with their presence. Apple TV+’s upcoming documentary The Super Models will follow Naomi Campbell, 53, Christy Turlington, 54, Linda Evanglista, 58, and Cindy Crawford, 57. Phoebe Philo’s erstwhile Céline muse — Daria Werbowy, 39 — is now Gucci’s new campaign woman. And Kristen McMenamy, 58, is on the cover of Selfridges’ new Yellow Pages magazine. That the grown ups are back on set is perhaps testament to the reality that while brands might spend their marketing budget chasing youth, the women actually buying luxury fashion are turned on more by muses relevant to them and their life stage.
“I felt exactly how I would used to feel,” says Ross via Zoom from her LA home, reflecting on the shoot where she looks extraordinary in red latex pieces, gold nipple pasties and a pair of custom made stiletto roller skates. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I forgot I’m a mum, I have two children. But I feel exactly the same, better than ever. To me modelling was always about a sense of freedom. You get to become somebody else.”
The shoot is as sexy as one would expect from the Soho-based brand which re-invented the luxury fashion lingerie market in the Nineties when Vivienne Westwood’s son Joe Corré and then-wife Serena Rees launched it. Sarah Shotton, the brand’s creative director since 2010, says of enlisting Ross for that campaign that “for a product as sensual as ours to look believable, above all else the woman wearing it has to be comfortable in her own skin and fully owning her sexuality.” The pictures were shot in Los Angeles, at the James Goldstein house which featured in The Big Lebowski, and was used by Helmut Newton.
Ross’s first taste of fame came at age 10, when she appeared as a baby goth bride on the cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s No Rest For The Wicked album in 1987. She was scouted by Corinne Day on Portobello Road at age 13, but resisted the modelling world until she had finished at Holland Park School . “That’s when Mario [Testino] put me in Vogue,” she recalls. While the clothes of that era might be back, that sense of serendipity that came with discovering new faces is different. “What I can see in all kinds of businesses is this [obsession] with Instagram following, which I find really depressing,” muses Ross. “The girls today, they [all] look the same whereas in my day, it was all about looking different. You would shoot something and look completely different in seven campaigns, even if they all came out at the same time. Today it’s like boom, let’s use this one because this is how she looks and she looks the same in every single campaign.”
She was a face of John Galliano’s Dior and still has “loads of his dresses” in the attic of her mansion in Los Angeles, which she turned into her clothing archive. “I’ve kept everything. I still have the Vivienne Westwood skirt and corset my mother saved up and bought me for my 18th birthday.” Ross’s renaissance — she is also a face of Burberry — comes after a break to raise her two children, 18-year-old Skyla and 17-year-old Sonny. She now regularly moves between Los Angeles, where she lives with her second husband Jimmy Iovine (the retired billionaire founder of Interscope Records and Beats By Dre) and London, where Flipper’s opened last November. The 34,000 square foot venue which she co-owns with Usher is a labour of love, born as a reboot of the original Los Angeles Flipper’s which her parents ran from 1978 to 1981, before returning to London with Ross and her five siblings.
“It was the Studio 54 of the West Coast,” says Ross. “When I moved back to LA 18 years ago (with ex-husband and producer Rupert Sanders), every single day someone would fall over when I told them my dad was Flipper’s.” These fans would tell her that they “saw Prince there, danced with Cher… They had all these unbelievable memories’’. She researched a book on the venue, which led to the post-Covid re-opening in west London, and subsequent New York outpost at Rockefeller Centre. “I didn’t think I was going to re-open Flipper’s, but it’s just been one thing after another.” Her parents and sister still live in Ladbroke Grove, where her London home is across the street. Her 78-year-old mother skates at Flipper’s every week. Beyond the Ross family, it is something of a burgeoning scene. Billie Eilish recently held her climate action party there. Ross is back in town this week for London Fashion Week and her birthday party will be at Flipper’s.
What do her children think of her modelling work? “I’ve never asked! It’s only recently that I’ve started building my business and getting these opportunities again. I mean, they pretend that they don’t love everything I’m doing, but I think they’re actually pretty inspired.”