The fall and rise of Kate Moss
05-06-06 Suggested by: Terry & The Pirates
Before her cocaine scandal she was worth £4 million a year. Now she's earning three times as much. Just what is Kate Moss doing right?
The north London cul-de-sac on which Kate Moss lives epitomises a contemporary, tasteful kind of affluence. It's whisperingly moneyed, the super-chic stealth-wealth antithesis of footballer flash. It's lined with elegant and immaculately proportioned residences, homes which might have been purpose-built to induce property envy in all passers-by. These houses - which sell for something around the £3 million mark - are either artfully ramshackle or gently modern or a bit of both. Every last one of them lays claim to a lovely bit of garden. It's infinitely more leafy and fragrant than an inner-city street deserves to be.
Discreet CCTV cameras line the pavement, but the most they're likely to capture is hours and hours of footage of assorted paparazzi, all of whom are grouped at the end of the street, their camera lenses fixed on Kate Moss's house. As long as Kate's in the UK, the paps will be there, languishing in ugly cars. They're as established a part of the landscape as the plane trees and the paving slabs.
'It's the now equivalent of Gym Watch with Diana in the early Nineties,' says Darryn Lyons, ex-paparazzo and owner of the Big Pictures photographic agency, a company that provides the world's press with celebrity snaps. 'Kate's first on the story list every night at [the Big Pictures] evening conference. Kate Moss is always a story. And what's really unusual is she's a story for everybody, from the tabloids to the broadsheets to the glossies to the Daily Mail. Which is why her pictures are worth a lot of money to us. How much money? Fifty grand plus. If she's with Pete [Doherty] or someone else sexy. She's the only celebrity model left for us really. Cindy [Crawford]'s gone. Elle [McPherson]'s old, and Naomi [Campbell]'s such a pain in the arse, no one wants her. Kate, Kate's the one who'll make the money.' Fifty thousand pounds for a hastily snatched photograph of one 32-year-old woman seems like an awful lot of money. But then, there's something about Kate Moss that seems to generate money.
Current estimates put her predicted earnings for this financial year at some £11m. Over the course of the past month, Kate Moss has signed a £1.5m contract to advertise Nikon cameras, and another, worth £500,000, with fashion label Calvin Klein. Since the beginning of 2006, she's signed similarly profitable deals with Roberto Cavalli, Bulgari, Stella McCartney, Longchamp, and Virgin Mobile. A year ago - long before a selection of blurry photographs purporting to show Moss taking cocaine in the company of her then-lover, the palpably dangerous Pete Doherty, were printed on the front pages of the nation's tabloids, alongside stories which labelled her 'Cocaine Kate' - Kate was earning some £4.5m a year. Could it be that a scandal that would have ended the career of any other celebrity, has tripled the currency, the desirability, and the net worth of this one?
'Absolutely,' says a fashion editor, who asked not to be identified. 'At the time the Daily Mirror story broke, there was a lot of tosh about how her career was over, but no one believed it really. And so then there was a load more tosh that she was having a "comeback" - when she never went far away enough to come back. And now they're all pretending to be surprised that she's hotter than she was before [the cocaine allegations], when her bad-girl thing was always an essential part of her allure. Now, it's like she's more Kate than she was before - because all our most exciting suspicions about her have been confirmed.' She goes on to cite Moss's current advertising campaign for cosmetic company Rimmel London's Recover Foundation, a product that sells itself on its 'Anti-Fatigue' properties. It seems that Moss's ability to look beautiful despite her alleged partying proclivities has become a very lucrative part of her brand.
Kate Moss has been a money-spinning story for 13 years or so now - far longer than other gossip-rag favourites, people like Victoria Beckham (who notches up some eight-and-a-bit years), say, or Sienna Miller (two). Sixteen years ago - when she barely qualified as adolescent - Moss was plucked from obscurity and the departure line at JFK airport by Storm model-agency boss Sarah Doukas. Moss made a cautious entrée on to the modelling scene. There was a handful of teen-mag fashion shoots, and some concern over how well her Croydon-bred snaggle-toothed, match-girl beauty would fare in an industry dominated by the Amazonian perfection of the first-generation supermodel. But then came a Calvin Klein perfume commercial, and a breakthrough Vogue shoot in 1993 with 'grunge' photographer Corinne Day. The images - which had a virtually naked Moss prone on the bed of an unglamorous flat (Kate's flat at the time) and surrounded by fairy lights, proved controversial. Susie Orbach denounced them as 'paedophilic and almost like a junkie', and Moss was instantly established as the leading light of a whole new kind of modelling movement, referred to as 'heroin chic'. She herself was crowned 'superwaif', and condemned for encouraging anorexia in teenage girls. Moss consolidated her burgeoning celebrity and infamy with a four-year relationship with pin-up actor Johnny Depp. She simultaneously revealed herself to be in possession of a flawless sense of style. The subject matter of enduring public obsession was born.
Yet, over the course of the past eight months, Moss has evolved into a far more compulsive proposition again. Following the relationship with Pete Doherty, the damning mobile-phone video, and her spell in a rehabilitation centre in Arizona, Moss has became shorthand for the biggest ongoing celebrity drama of our times. She now officially embodies all kinds of newsworthy qualities: danger, sleaze-edged glamour, decadence, sex, corrupted youth and ineffable beauty, addiction, money and fashion.
In the various factions of the press, in the wake of the Mirror exposé, Kate Moss has been the object of derision, suspicion, lust, celebration, concern, and condemnation - often all in the course of a single day. All manner of commentators have waded into the fray, showing support or registering disapproval and generally indulging their own personal agenda as they do so. Alexander McQueen tripped down the catwalk at the finale of his Paris catwalk show, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned, 'We Love You Kate'. Robbie Williams hit back at the journalists who wrote up Moss's alleged cocaine habit, saying: 'Some people in various media groups who I have personally taken cocaine with are now talking about her, saying she shouldn't do it. I have done cocaine with these people.' Indeed, for a couple of weeks in October 2005, you couldn't move for celebrities allying themselves to the Cause of Kate -Naomi Campbell ('Everyone's being bad to her!'), photographer Mario Testino ('She's done nothing wrong!'), self-confessed coke addict Sophie Anderton ('Addiction is a disease!') and so on.
One way or another, it seems that no one - not the general public, the media, the fashion industry, the super-rich business clients, nor even the celebrity class in which Kate Moss exists - can get enough of Moss; whether they're employing her for exorbitant amounts of money, or using her as a scapegoat for every social evil going. 'She must miss the days when all anyone tried to pin on her was anorexia and smoking among teenage girls,' says the fashion editor.
Clearly, Kate Moss's looks - and possibly more significantly yet, Her Look - have a lot to do with it. If Kate Moss were slightly less compulsive on a physical level, she would certainly not have been hounded as relentlessly over the Pete Doherty affair. Even pre-Doherty and the Cocaine Kate moment, few newspaper editors could resist putting her picture on their pages. Moss's image is remarkable in that it sells everything - not just the products it's hired to sell, the shampoos and the handbags and the designer labels. If a news story had even very tenuous links with the model, her image was used to illustrate it. By the time she actually became news - and in such a lurid way, with accompanying snaps - her image had such currency that it made the front pages for far longer than it would have done otherwise.
As Moss's fame has escalated, it has become customary for the artists, intellectuals, social commentators and fashion powers of the moment to attempt to capture her beauty, or to describe it, to rationalise its power over us, to intellectualise it (possibly in a bid to stop us resigning ourselves to how impossibly shallow we can be). And so Lucian Freud painted her in 2001 when she was pregnant, Sam Taylor Wood photographed her styled to look like a modern Madonna; and sculptor Marc Quinn - who based his most recent work Sphinx, a white-painted bronze - on Kate Moss, describes her as 'the Venus of our age. Kate is the archetypal beauty of the time and represents a moment in time in the way Marilyn Monroe did.' She is, he insists 'a beautiful girl in real life. I think she's got a very symmetrical face and yet when she opens her mouth she's got slightly elongated teeth on the top row, so there is a tiny element of threateningness within her beauty, and there's a kind of balance between seduction and repulsion going on. That's one thing, she's not completely flawless. It's the flaws that make her. In all people, it's the flaws that make you interesting.'
Writer and broadcaster Joan Bakewell, meanwhile, proclaimed that 'Kate Moss is hard to avoid because she has a particularly beautiful face. It is broad and she has a slightly Asiatic look. She possesses elements of classic beauty in a way that someone like Princess Diana didn't. You can imagine that head in stone on an Egyptian tomb.' Peter Conrad, writing for this paper in January 2005, said: 'In a photograph by Vinoodh Matadin, she is Lolita or Tennessee Williams's Baby Doll on her wedding day.'
Which is not to say that Moss's beauty is without critics. The highly influential fashion photographer Juergen Teller, who has worked with Kate through the course of her career, attacked her somewhat in an interview he gave to the New Statesman in March. 'I don't think she looks any good in any photos of the past five years. In fact, she looks crap in all of her recent huge advertising campaigns. She looks awful. It's as if it's enough just for her to look something like Kate Moss ...
I am astonished by the Kate Moss story, and not just the recent drugs affair. I don't quite understand it. I have known her very well personally for about 16 years, since she was 15. She is an extraordinary woman, so much fun and so energetic. But to get to be such an icon, to have exploded like a rocket - I don't really get it. She is beautiful, but so are many others.'
Teller's statement seems incredibly blunt - not least because it's offered freely and openly. It's a measure of Moss's power that at first, people were wary of speaking about her for this article, and that many of them insisted that they - like the nameless fashion editor - should not be identified, even though they could do nothing but rhapsodise about every conceivable facet of Moss's face and character. Those prepared to be quoted are themselves phenomenally powerful; among them is Christopher Bailey, the creative director of Burberry (the British fashion label that could reasonably credit Moss as the most significant factor in the brand's renaissance; and who seem to be engineering a rapprochement with the model, having distanced themselves when the cocaine story first broke); who offered the following on Moss's allure 'Kate has an incredible energy that is inspiring, exciting and charming, Kate's Britishness always shines through in her relaxed, elegant attitude.' The Britishness Bailey refers to describes the accessibility of Kate Moss' beauty - the grunge-y authenticity it has to it. Paparazzi shots often show Moss with hair that's a little matted and dirty, and less-than-perfect make up. Because Moss's beauty is not the processed, groomed variety favoured by the majority of acclaimed international beauties, it is a) more convincing, b) more powerful, and c) more aspirational. Women want to look like Moss more than they want to look like Victoria Beckham, say, because Moss looks as though she isn't trying. Or, as the designer Angela Missoni has put it: 'Kate ... possesses a degree of normality which allows her to maintain an image of epochal femininity. She is a realisable, possible ideal.'
Beyond the limits of our physical fascination with her is the substantial hold her personal style has over many women. 'Kate Moss contributes something to contemporary culture every time she leaves the house and gets papped,' points out the fashion editor. 'Every outfit - every bloody piece - she wears inspires a mini-trend on its own. The skinny jeans, the big bags, the gold chain necklaces, the turn-up shorts from Glastonbury last summer ... She gets papped, the pictures end up in the papers, and girls (and let's face it, women) immediately start trying to recreate her thing.' Big Pictures' Darryn Lyons agrees. 'She has style, it's Kate with a K for Klass if you ask me. She also changes her outfit three times a day, which gives us three times as many pictures.' This element of the Moss effect is virtually quantifiable. According to Lucy Pinter and Flora Evans, the designers behind Superfine, whose skinny drainpipe jeans Moss has worn for the past year or so, lending the label cult status and overnight commercial success as she did so, 'Kate Moss has, without doubt, had a huge influence on our success. She was always the girl that we wanted to wear our clothes'.
'Every high-street design team watches her like a hawk,' says the fashion editor. 'Because what Kate wears, the general public is going to want to buy - at least, a version of it - and as soon as they possibly can. She contributes to our economy, if you think about it.'
And then, there's her intensely newsworthy lifestyle - or at least, the version of it propagated by the media. 'She loves the wild-child thing, doesn't she?' says Darryn Lyons. 'The rock-chick thing. Deep down, I think she wants to be a rock singer. She would've been a great lead singer with
The Who, don't you think? But her and Pete - there's so many non-event celebrities out there and I'm so over most of them - but ones like her and Pete; well, at least they're having a go, aren't they? I got an email from Pete today, because I sent him a note after he smashed up one of our photographer's cars. I said: "Don't do it again." And he sent me a mail back, saying: "Thanks." So you know. They're having a crack at it.'
Certainly, Moss's public persona embraces a degree of danger. She has routinely befriended women with pasts, with issues - from Marianne Faithfull to Meg Mathews (ex-wife of Oasis' Noel Gallagher) to Sadie Frost to the young and troubled American actress Lindsay Lohan; and she has serial-dated difficult men, or men with difficult associations, from Johnny Depp in his wild phase to incoming James Bond Daniel Craig to Jesse Wood, son of hard-living rocker Ronnie. Her naughty party-girl tendencies became the stuff of fashion lore long before Doherty came on to the scene. In November 1998, Moss checked herself into the London rehab centre, The Priory, after admitting that she'd never walked down a catwalk sober. 'That's what you do,' she said at the time. 'You kind of just have champagne ... before the shows. Always. Even at 10 in the morning.' She confessed to constantly carrying a silver hip flask filled with vodka everywhere she went and that she consumed it neat; she admitted that she had very little time for mixers. 'I do know if Kate says, "Come out tonight", or whatever, or "Meet here", or "Come out, I'm doing this ... I'm doing that", I do know that I'm not going to be going home at 12 o'clock at night,' artist Tracey Emin told Vanity Fair weeks after the Mirror story first broke. 'I do know that it's going to be a good three or four o'clock in the morning. I do know there's going to be a lot of dancing. I do know it's going to be a lot of fun. I do know it's going to be related to music. I know this.' Emin added that: 'I have never done a line of coke in my life, and there's no need to in her presence.'
Moss has a mixed relationship with this element of her public image. She's laid claim to something much more domesticated at times, once saying that her idea of heaven is: 'EastEnders, it's a comfort thing, like baked beans on toast.'
Yet she's certainly aware of the power of the bad-girl associations. She has on occasion actively encouraged the idea of herself as a hellraiser. Her 30th birthday party was themed around F Scott Fitzgerald's paean to decadence The Beautiful and the Damned, and she threw it at central London hotel Claridge's, thus ensuring it didn't go unnoticed. And, although she didn't invite the stories of sexual debauchery that leaked out over the following days, you suspect she might have done more to avoid them in the first instance. 'It's always been pretty leaky anyway,' says one source of the tabloid-crowned Primrose Hill set; a wealthy, beautiful gang of north-London-dwelling celebrities, a scene which is said to revolve around Kate and her close friend Sadie Frost, model, actress, designer, and ex-wife of Jude Law. 'Oh, it's leaky, and fantastically incestuous,' says another, citing the case of Kate's nanny, who is Frost's sister, and also the girlfriend of Kate's live-in PA Fiona's brother. 'Kate likes close-knit groups.'
The Moss party legend evolved, ultimately, into a spurious catalogue of sexual excess, of inter-celebrity swinging and complicated on-going ménages-à-trois, none of which was ever proven, but much of which sat uncomfortably in the minds of many with Moss's relatively new incarnation as a mother. In September 2002, she gave birth to Lila Grace, her daughter by the publisher Jefferson Hack, whose mild-mannered character seemed to represent a departure for Moss, whose fondness for wayward lovers was by then renowned. But the couple split in March 2004 and, by January 2005, Kate had taken up with Pete Doherty - an individual who was previously most famous for having been thrown out of rock group the Libertines. The highlights of that relationship included a highly public bust-up on a speeding Eurostar, and constant bother with the law for Doherty, who was also shockingly vocal about his relationship with the model. 'A lot of people basically are obsessed with the missus and I don't know really ... she's just a bird from south London,' he said once; and also 'She managed to get a message to me saying how much she loves and cares for me. It really lifted my spirits while I was inside ... Kate knows that I love the bones on her. She really is the most amazing person and her love means so much to me. When I was inside she was all I could think about. There was a point when we didn't talk, but as far as I'm concerned we never broke up. I just never accepted it was ever over between us and I don't think she did either.'
And then came the Daily Mirror front pages, a brief stay in rehab - something that some have suggested was entirely perfunctory - and finally Kate's assured re-admittance into the highest echelons of the fashion industry.
Lately, it seems that Kate has moved on from the Primrose Hill crowd (much of which was disbanded following Sadie's split from husband Jude Law anyway) and become the social lynchpin for a younger, Manhattan-based scene. This seems to be the consequence of her friendship with Lindsay Lohan. Moss is believed to be mentoring the younger actress through her own rehabilitation process, although given the recent story of the two of them poledancing together in upscale Manhattan strip joint Scores, it's hard to know exactly how well that's working out. As for Pete Doherty - following what appeared to be a series of attempts at reconciliation through the early part of this year - sources say 'it's finally over. Though she still gives him money.' She may or may not be romantically involved with Israeli businessman Vivi Nevo. Either way, it seems that she's not on the verge of renouncing her headline-friendly lifestyle any time soon.
Through all of this, Kate herself has said nothing at all. Her no-interview policy (which, I am informed, she was not advised to adopt, but which she herself evolved over the years) has added to her allure incalculably. It seems dignified, and pretty astute. As she herself said on one of the rare instances that she did speak (in an interview with the now defunct style title The Face, in 1996) 'I'm uncomfortable with publicising myself ... I can only say, over and over again, that's what I do, I'm a model.' Her agency Storm considered a request for interview or comment on their most famous charge for two days, before deciding that they couldn't contribute 'out of respect for her'. They were very anxious that they didn't seem 'anal or anything. But if she doesn't speak on her own behalf, why would we?' But further unattributed insights trickled in from elsewhere.
'She just seems pretty shy, really,' says one insider who has worked with her on several occasions over the years. 'Yes, she is shy,' says another source - one who is close to Moss. 'But she's incredibly friendly, and sweet, and she'll make you feel more at ease, more comfortable, more quickly than pretty much anyone else. She engages, she's interested in your life, she'll always be very concerned about your kids, for example, she'll ask you questions, and she genuinely wants to know. She's an "up" person - I've never seen her down, she's always got a smile on her face, she never moans.' 'She's got fantastically expensive tastes,' says someone else. 'She gets an awful lot for free, but at the same time, she's incredibly generous, to her friends, to her family. Though she's canny with her money. She knows what she's doing. She's also very tactile, she'll touch you while she's talking to you, stroke your hand, hug you and kiss you. She's absolutely uninhibited too, she'll undress in front of you quite happily, but I suppose that's the years of getting changed backstage at the shows and so on.'
'She's actually very good with our photographers,' says Darryn Lyons. 'I can count the times she's had a bad word to say to them on the fingers of one hand. She doesn't kick off. The only thing I don't understand about her, is why she sued the Sunday Mirror [over drug allegations published in 2001, a court case which forced the paper to pay her substantial damages]. She was within her rights, but it doesn't seem in line with what I've seen of her character.'
She is showing no intention of retiring, even though, at 32, she's knocking on a bit in model terms. Style title Grazia report this week that she's considering launching her own fashion label, although Moss herself has not confirmed this. It's clear, however, that although Chanel have replaced her as the face of perfume Coco Chanel Mademoiselle with actress Keira Knightley, this is a minor loss in the grander scheme of Kate's mighty professional currency.
'There won't be another model as successful as Kate ever,' says a model-agency insider - unidentified, predictably. 'And that's partly because she's so incredible, but also because of the way the industry has changed. No younger models will get the kind of deals she gets, because now that money and those campaigns go to actresses, to celebrity names. Kate will never be surpassed in that way.'
Actually, it seems unlikely that Kate Moss will be surpassed in any way. As a style icon, as a source of endless personal fascination, as the object of media attentions, as the epitome of contemporary beauty ... She might be technically ubiquitous, thanks to the ad contracts and Darryn Lyons's army of celebrity photograpers, but it seems that her beauty is such that her public never gets bored of looking at her. Few of us can claim we're not a little interested by her. Others will admit to full-blown obsession. And so that poshest of posh north London roads, with its high gates, its pretty foliage, and its three-million-pound properties, will serve as a destination for cash-hungry paparazzi for a while longer yet.