Monday, 25 May 2009


Kate Moss is the most influential model working in fashion today. The girl from Croydon holds a special place in modelling history: she is someone, who on paper, should never have succeeded as a model.

Kate’s career began when she was discovered at a New York airport by Storm agency founder Sarah Doukas in 1988. Kate’s meteoric rise through the fashion ranks began with a photo shoot for ‘The Face’ magazine with photographer Corinne Day. The edgy, cool shots spread through the fashion world like wildfire. It was here that Kate was first cast as the ‘anti-supermodel’. Her teenage, waif-like body could not have been more different to the Nineties’ clutch of supermodels: Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. They were conventionally beautiful and uber sexy. The remit for models was a womanly but slender figure – something that could comfortably fill out a Versace gown.
Kate Moss did the rounds at teen magazines, but it wasn’t until 1993 that she got her first big break. Kate’s inauguration into the public sphere occurred thanks to the vision of American designer Calvin Klein. The now-iconic black and white minimalist ads made Kate the embodiment of progressive, modern fashion – a perfect segue from the Eighties hangover of glamour and sequins. She was small, quirky and unconventional. Perfect for the Nineties.

Kate’s career blossomed virtually overnight. She began to work with the biggest designers, photographers and publications in the fashion industry. Her slight figure courted controversy as the press labelled her look ‘heroin-chic’ (based on the extreme emaciation of drug addicts), but Kate kept her cool and carried on working. Her unwillingness to get drawn into a debate on whether she was a good example to teenagers or not proved to be a canny move. The world of fashion does not stay still for long, and soon the ‘heroin chic’ look fell out of favour. But Kate remained. What she famously lacked in height (Kate, at just over 5’7”, is significantly below the standard industry requirement of 5’10”), she made up for in versatility. The fashion industry saw that in Moss, they had a face-in-a-million. A face that could sell any look: glamorous, editiorial, commercial.
By 2003, as well as her ‘mother agency’ Storm, she needed three additional agencies to manage the deluge of requests for her time. The fiscal years of 2004-06 saw Kate become the second highest-earning model in the world, second only to Gisele Bundchen. In addition to this, Kate has (to date) appeared on 24 British ‘Vogue’ covers, and 17 covers of the US style bible ‘W’. By anyone’s standards, this is an impressive track record.
If Kate had stuck to modelling, this alone would have ensured her longevity, but Kate’s popularity outside the perimeters of the fashion world was something entirely new. Everywhere she went, whatever she did, her style was obsessively chronicled across the world’s media. She wasn’t just a model: she was a pop-culture icon.
For years, the fashion press speculated on whether Kate would ever branch out into fashion design. April 30th 2007 saw the launch of the first Kate Moss / Topshop design collaboration. Kate red-ribboned the collection at Topshop in Oxford Street, appearing in the window as a live mannequin. It caused a sensation and the public, were they in further need of convincing, were hooked.
Financially, the first collection was a huge success, but there was some controversy over the term ‘designer’. Some doubted Kate’s credentials – had she any say in the development of the collection at all? Kate set the record straight by confirming that she did not design the clothes herself, but rather acted as a muse to the TS design team; bringing in samples of her own clothes to act as jumping-off points, and to discuss fabrics and finishings, as well as modelling the finished articles for the TS promotional campaign.
The collection, despite its success, initially received some mixed reviews. Some dubbed it ‘Duplikate’ – clothes for a generation of girls who have grown up watching, admiring and copying their fashion idol, although to criticise such a collection on these grounds is somewhat missing the point. The brilliance of the collaboration between Moss and TS simultaneously paid homage to, and took advantage of, her status as a style icon.
The first and subsequent Topshop collections have been designed for and marketed towards a generation who have dressed under the umbrella concept of ‘celebrity style’. They see, they like, they wear.
Where Kate has engaged with the public most successfully, is how she has ignited popular fashion trends. In recent years, she has spear-headed trends as diverse as denim shorts, Ugg boots, ballet flats, skinny jeans, the waistcoat and the leopard-print scarf, all of which have scored big with consumers across all age and income brackets. In an age where film stars recruit stylists to dress them before popping out for a latte, Kate understands that true style is innate, which is why the public respond to her in the way they do. A scarf thrown on at the last minute before heading out the door becomes a worldwide fashion blockbuster because it is spontaneous, unstudied and fun. Kate Moss has made an indelible mark on how we dress, and present ourselves to the world.
Kate has also steadfastly refused to play the fame game. Notorious for her lack of interviews, Kate Moss has remained at the top of the game by remaining an enigma: a tactic that has garnered more press attention than the ‘confessional’ attitude of D-list celebrities. It is this Garbo-esque silence that has proven to be Kate’s most irresistible play.
What makes Kate Moss so unique in comparison to other models, is her comparative ordinariness. Before her, models were statuesque, utterly beautiful and frankly, more than a little intimidating.
Kate has blown apart the conceptions of what a model should, and can, be. She is the ultimate outsider (‘wrong’ in so many respects), who ended up persuading the fashion industry to see style and beauty from her own unique point of view.
Kate’s legacy is one of embracing frailty and imperfection. This is why the public, and in turn, the world’s media, have embraced her so wholeheartedly. She is, on the face of it, just an ordinary girl. Kate never claimed to be a role model, just a model. She has no interest in being put on a pedestal – for Kate, modelling begins and ends with fashion, not celebrity.
When Moss is remembered, it will not be for the scandals, or the feted rock’n’roll lifestyle – it will be for her unabiding love for fashion. It shines through every photograph. Kate has a profound respect and appreciation for the creative process that makes fashion work. It is Kate’s understanding that the worlds of fashion and modelling progress hand-in-hand, that has made her the most sought-after name in modelling today.
It is a mistake to think that because someone chooses to remain silent, it is because they have nothing to say. Kate Moss has made a fortune on the belief that beauty is not perfection. The best of her work shows that her message is about the importance of accepting one’s flaws. Kate knows instinctively that there is no point in pretending to be perfect. There is much more mileage in being imperfect: in the long run, it makes life (and fashion) much more interesting.

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