The Kate Effect

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She’s been called “London’s most-copied girl,” and the model who launched 1,000 fads—from denim cut-offs paired with willies to pirate boots to anything and everything leopard print. Since Kate Moss’ discovery at the age of 14, she has appeared on more than 300 magazine covers, developed a huge following and has shown her own design prowess by fronting lines for Topshop and Longchamp. She even trademarked her own font back in 2007, used in her apparel collaborations and perfume lines. Notoriously private, she’s known to hold interviews in the farthest reaches of the world, the media gladly jumping through hoops to get a piece of her time. Priya Kumar scoops out the Kate Effect.

As a model who started out in her early teens in a world dominated by bronzed Amazons, Kate Moss, standing at a mere 5’7”, beat all odds to become the face of an industry. There’s something about her presence that lights a room, glamorizes any situation and moves product faster than any of her contemporaries. To date she’s been the muse of countless artists and designers including John Galliano, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Mario Testino and even Banksy with a list of high-profile paramours equally prolific.

Katherine Ann Moss was born in 1974 in the working class town of Croydon in South London where her father worked as a travel agent and her mother, a barmaid. She was discovered by Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm Models, at JFK airport en route to the Bahamas for a family vacation. Legendary photographer Corinne Day soon took a young Moss under her wing and put the then unknown model in a series of massive publications. Commentating on Moss and Day’s working relationship, designer Marc Jacobs later said, “The images of Kate Moss by Corrine Day and Juergen Teller changed fashion. That was a moment when we looked at beauty and glamour in a different way.”

Jacobs alluded to the fact that Moss, dwarfed by her towering, bronzed contemporaries, ushered in the grunge movement. Photographer Mario Testino also knew her in her fragile teenaged days. It was a time when a model’s status in the fashion industry could be judged by how many outfit changes she had per show. For John Galliano’s first Paris show, young Moss had only been given one outfit and she was miffed. Testino offered her some wise words: “You know, in life there’s perfume and there’s cologne. Cologne, you have to spray every fifteen minutes. Perfume, you put a drop and it lasts a week. You’re perfume.”

She landed her first big contract with Calvin Klein in 1992. “The big girls were there—Cindy [Crawford], Nadja [Auermann]. And then Kate walked in,” commented KCD publicist Nian Fish of the casting. “She put on this beige chiffon slip dress, and it just fell on her body. We put her in flat shoes, and when she walked, the fabric was like liquid flowing around her body. I got goose bumps. We all knew we were witnessing one of those fashion moments.” A contract with YSL Opium soon followed in 1993.


1988 Discovered by Storm Models founder Sarah Doukas en route to the Bahamas on a family vacation.

1990 Paris show features a teenaged Kate Moss.

1992 Lands a contract with Calvin Klein. The campaign becomes perhaps the most iconic of the grunge movement.

1993 Is signed as the face of fragrance YSL Opium.

1996 Takes home VH1 Model of the Year.

2001 Signs an exclusive global contract with Rimmel cosmetics.

2002 Celebrates the birth Lila Grace.

2005 Is embroiled in controversy and dropped by Burberry, Chanel and H&M for her unseemly personal life.

2007 Ends her tumultuous relationship with musician eponymous perfume titled collection for Topshop.

2010 Launches a line of luxury handbags with Longchamp.

2011 Marries musician Jamie Hince wearing Galliano, launches a second wildly successful collection with Topshop and her little sister Lottie Moss (16) lands a lucrative deal to be the face of Calvin Klein.

Being the poster child for a movement as controversial as grunge, Moss’ early career was not without criticism. In 1993 then newly elected President of the United States Bill Clinton spoke out against the glamorization of ddiction by the fashion industry: “In the press in recent days, we’ve seen reports that many of our fashion leaders are now admitting—and I honour them for doing this—they’re admitting flat-out images projected in fashion photos in the last few years have made substance addiction seem glamorous and cool… As some of these people in those images start to die now [like famed fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti, younger brother of Moss’ one-time boyfriend Mario], it has become obvious that that is not true. You do not need to glamorize addiction to sell clothes.”

Although the industry as a whole was under scrutiny by politicians and the public alike, Moss’ career went into overdrive. She appeared on every major fashion glossy, in her first Pirelli calendar shoot (the famed Italian tire company that puts out high-fashion calendars annually) shot by Herb Ritts and started a relationship with Hollywood’s enfant terrible Johnny Depp. Moss’ career appeared to peak, but instead by the late ‘90s, her
fame continued to eclipse itself. She won VH1’s Model of the Year award and made a cameo in Elton John’s video “Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”

For her 25th birthday Donatella Versace threw her an opulent fete in Paris; it was a gesture that reflected the transferability of Moss’ personal and professional relationships. Versace said 15 years later, when the British Fashion Awards honoured Moss with a Lifetime Achievement award, “From the very beginning Kate was iconic; she never had to become a model. She has the same energy, the same seduction and the same wit—in front of the camera with everyone. I love you Kate!”

The year 2000 saw Moss in one of her most iconic campaigns to date. She was paired with Lord Frederick Windsor in Burberry’s Spring/- Summer campaign. Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle soon followed. By 2002 while her career appeared untouchable—with Moss serving as Galliano’s muse for his Haute Couture collection that year, calling her “the Marilyn Monroe of today”—her personal life finally began to fall into place. Her only child Lila Grace was born. “I’ve got a dream,” Moss said of this period. “I’ve got the family, and I’m still working. That was my dream always.”

With the sun having long set on the grunge movement, Moss still proved to be a force in fashion in 2004 by boldly wearing a blue vintage thrift-shop dress and white mink jacket to meet Queen Elizabeth II. Incidentally, the Queen also happens to be her own style icon: “I think she’s fabulous,” Moss gushed.

While the mid-naughties saw many highprofile labels like Chanel, Burberry and H&M drop Moss for her questionable personal life, her allies like Galliano and Alexander McQueen stood by her. Her career weathered the worst of the tabloid fodder and she re-emerged in 2007 stronger than ever. That year she launched her first Topshop capsule collection to sell-out results and broke-off her detrimental relationship with rocker fiancé Pete Doherty—perhaps the cause of her media spiral.

Today Moss is back on top and bigger than ever. While it is no surprise that she continues to grace the cover of glossies the world over, she has since launched six more fragrances and most recently another Topshop collection. She has also found domestic bliss when she married husband Jamie Hince back in 2011; the nuptials saw all her industry benefactors come out in full form including Testino who served as wedding photographer and Galliano as wedding dress designer. Although life has come full-circle for fashion’s one-time errant Lolita, it’s hardly come to an end. She once put her fame into perspective by describing her success as, “Being ableto pick and choose what you do. That’s the glamorous part.”