Being able to visualise something has always been essential for Inger Moss. “Over my life I’ve done a bit of everything. I’ve been all over the place and done many different things,” the Lindfield resident tells me, “but my visual gift has been the one constant.”
Moss, who came to the UK from her native Norway, and met her husband Peter Moss when she worked for Norwegian Rail 20 years ago, has never been deterred in her creative vision. “It’s taken a lot of trying things and then moving on to try something else to bring me to the place I am now,” she says. “Finally I have a really firm idea of what I want to do, and it’s a great place to be in.”
As the stepmother to supermodel Kate and mother of Lottie Moss, who at just 16 has been signed up by model agency Storm, Moss has always had links to the fashion world. But, now in her 50s, she’s branching out on her own by establishing a Brighton based model agency with business partner and photographer Stef Kerswell. Like all of her previous projects, it’s something she feels passionately about.
“We’ve done our research, spoken to the right people, got the right advice and feel that there’s a definite market and need for this kind of venture,” she tells me in her soft but determined voice.
Moss’s experience of the major London-based agencies has, she explains, proven to her that quirky, trendy Brighton is the perfect place for such a business.
“It’s what it’s lacking. It’s an obvious choice. At the moment Brighton doesn’t have a proper model agency with a bit of edge, so everyone goes to London for their models. When you look at magazines like W and i-D you see the type of models that you could easily find in Brighton. They’ve got a few tattoos or piercings and attitude and colour. We’ve got all of that down here.”
I’m interested to know if she had this interest in fashion before her family link with Kate Moss. How has it evolved over the years, to the point that she is now set to become an entrepreneur?
“It’s always been there,” she muses, “having an eye for something. I’ve always been good at dressing and have been complimented on it. People come to me for advice. Yes, it’s certainly been a strength, but until recently I didn’t know what to do with it.”
All of this changed when Moss opened up The Toll House Store and Café, an independent retailer offering vintage home ware, women’s clothing, jewellery and artisan crafts in a beautiful 17th century toll house in the heart of historic Lindfield. Unfortunately, Moss found that there was no market for vintage goods in the village, but the experience showed her that she could muster the courage to strike out on her own. It was a revolutionary moment: “I realised I have more confidence than ever now that I am in my 50s,” she admits.
Entering her fifth decade has, Moss believes, helped cement her creative ambitions. “I have a passion for being in my 50s and for other women of that age. I’m fascinated about how middle aged women dress, how they deal with the fact that their body is changing and how they respond to that stylishly.
“At the moment there’s a big trend of model agencies using older models and I think that’s really cool, but I also think there’s a significant gap between that and ordinary people. You walk around and you see women in their 50s who clearly have no idea of where to shop. When I was younger I knew where to go and what suited me, but then I hit 50 and my body began to change: I didn’t fit into the same clothes anymore and I had no idea where to turn or even what makeup to wear, because your skin and colouring changes at that age too.”
Moss’s personal experience of aging and her conviction that women can still look glorious no matter what age they are, has led her to establish a personal shopping service.
“I’m really keen on developing that alongside the model agency and helping women of my generation,” she adds. “It’s not like it was in my mum’s day when a woman looked old when she was 50. Now you have people in their 70s who look like they’re 50. It’s great! I love helping people.”
I comment on the disparity between the mainstream media’s representation of older men and older women. “Oh, yes, you see it everywhere,” Moss responds immediately. “Women have never been free to do or be in the way that men have been.” Will she be using older models in her own agency?
“We’ve talked about that and absolutely would not dismiss it. In the big agencies you see male models looking super sexy in their 50s, with a bit of grey coming on, and they’re used a lot in campaigns. It’s a trend that should be taken on for women.”
As for her own style, Moss describes it as being “a bit rock and roll” – and again something that has developed alongside her maturity and confidence. “I love to wear biker boots, or a leather jacket and over-sized jumper,” she says. “It’s perfectly possible to look cool without looking stupid. But it’s about women of my age finding out where to find these items, without necessarily having to go to an expensive designer. That’s where my service comes in.”
While she enjoys living in sedate Lindfield, Moss has found herself increasingly drawn to Brighton for inspiration. “Lindfield is up and coming, but I quickly found that the reason there were no vintage shops there is because people don’t really wear vintage there,” she laughs. “It’s very middle class. I guess I felt a little restricted there. I love the seaside: you walk along Brighton’s front and you see such a mix of people – the guy on the bike with the stereo, next to the woman wearing Prada. But it all blends in. Being in that kind of environment – at the age I’m at now – has made me braver.
“Women of my age have been mothers and wives for many years. They’re a bit lost. Everything has changed for them, but I think they have the benefit of a fantastic sense of humour. They’re stronger, they don’t care so much. They need to go out and be bold and believe in themselves -then anything is possible.” Looking at the glamorous, self-assured Inger Moss, it’s hard to disagree with this statement.
Inger Moss, stepmother to supermodel Kate, could write a style bible. She talks to Alex Hopkins about modelling agencies, middle age and coming into her own