In Vogue's August "age(less)" issue, supermodel and supermogul, Kate Moss, graces the cover. Kate and seven other women talk about looking and feeling phenomenal from your 20s to your 90s. This issue is your brains on beauty.
The complete story appears in the August 2008 issue of Vogue, but to read the edited "age(less)" article, click "read more."
Kate Moss, like all tycoons in the making, is deeply concerned with travel arrangements. She's over airports. She's saving up for a private jet. "I'm going to call it the 'Kate Express,' " she informs me, perched on a modernist white armchair in the black-lacquered sixth-floor London office suite of Topshop owner Sir Philip Green. She's sipping tea from a black Limoges teacup and helping herself to a pile of cookies arranged on a matching black china plate.
She is here for a meeting with Sir Philip to discuss her latest fashion collection for Kate Moss Topshop, which will be available at New York's new Topshop store in SoHo, as well as online, this fall. Kate is wearing a black jersey vintage Anne Buck minidress with black lizard-skin appliqués on the shoulders. She has black Topshop ballet flats on her feet, and a leopard-print cotton trench coat that Vogue editor "Candy Pratts Price gave me fifteen years ago" is thrown over the back of her chair. Sunglasses-wise, she is long finished with giant lenses, saying, "I'm doing a Ray-Ban at the moment. Just a normal Ray-Ban." Her unbrushed hair, a cool champagne shade of blonde, is choppy, with an eyelash-grazing fringe because "I'm into that Nico look." She speaks with the husky tones of a girl from Croydon who has smoked Marlboro Lights since she was fourteen. When asked if she has any intention of quitting, she replies, "No, because it's who I am. I don't want to create a phony facade. I think I just have to be myself; otherwise, I'd be a paranoid mess."
The antithesis of the airbrushed celebrity, Moss, now 34, has done nothing to disguise her age: Her kohl-lined, chestnut-brown eyes have tiny creases at the edges, and her makeup-free face is as natural as ever, with two little lines across the top of her nose: She has a tendency to wrinkle it when she giggles, which is frequently, because Kate, as the world knows, likes to have a laugh. The reason she won't do Botox is that if a photographer asked her to frown in a picture and she couldn't, she'd be "really embarrassed," she says. When I ask her how her style has changed from her 20s to her 30s, she says there is only one thing she wouldn't wear now—sneakers with a long evening dress.
As for her persona, in the years since she began turning heads with her expertly mixed hi-lo style, as well as her succession of supertrendy boyfriends, Kate has become one of the world's most famous women. The frenzied coverage of her failed relationship with rocker Pete Doherty, which the media promoted as a Mick Jagger-Marianne Faithfull-style sex, drugs, and rock-'n'-roll romance, put her on tabloid front pages around the world. Despite, or perhaps because of, an ensuing cocaine scandal, Kate has emerged as a more influential fashion icon than ever, the paradox being that while Moss on the one hand excites condemnation, those who disapprove of her still can't help being interested in her, or deny her talent with clothes. In an age of vanilla celebrities, where Us magazine notes that so-and-so was spotted sipping Evian on the weekend, Kate Moss is photographed tumbling out of a London nightclub looking extraordinarily glamorous in hot pants and red, spike-heeled boots. You can't keep your eyes off her.
In the past couple of years, Kate has cleverly capitalized on her style in a very real way: She has sold "20 million quid's worth," as she puts it, of clothes from her Topshop line since it launched in 2007; her perfume, Kate by Kate Moss for Coty, for whom she is also planning to develop makeup, has been number one in several countries and is launching in America this month; her hair-care line, in partnership with her old friend hairdresser James Brown, has been a huge success in Europe. "Kate has always been the heartbeat of fashion. She lives it as much as she embodies it, so it's no major surprise at her following," says John Galliano, who first used Kate for a show in 1989, when she was just fifteen. "I guess the thing that is more than you'd expect is how even Kate just stepping out to grab a pint of milk is headline news."
A few days before the Topshop meeting, I had arranged to visit Moss at the London house she shares with Lila Grace, her five-year-old daughter by magazine publisher Jefferson Hack, to discuss her new perfume. Her street was unassuming and leafy, the only indication that Moss lived there being three bored-looking paparazzi lolling against their motorbikes on the pavement. It was a very hot April afternoon, and Kate met me at the door, dressed in an $80 blue-and-white striped seersucker sundress from her own line, the hem of which she had shorn with a pair of scissors. In her ears were a pair of old diamond earrings from De Vera in New York, and on her fingers a giant Indian diamond ring that she bought for herself and a blue-topaz cocktail ring that her agent had given her.
Barefoot, she led me across the newly mown lawn of her immaculate garden. A fur rug and piles of leopard-print cushions were arranged for us to lounge on beneath the shade of an ancient chestnut tree. In the flesh, Kate looks almost too petite (she's only five foot seven) to bear the weight of the fame and expectation that has landed on her. But, kittenish and giggly, she appears undaunted by her situation and unchanged from her younger self. She has the same wicked glint in her eye, the same cheeky attitude to life. She has seized her moment and is genuinely enjoying it.
Sitting cross-legged on the rug, a glass of white wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Kate discussed her ambitions. "Modeling is a bit brain-damaging," she said. Launching her own brands was "what I needed to do.…It's the right time."
Her confidence in creating fashion was boosted when she realized the influence she has. "I would see things that I wore sometimes that designers had copied," she said, remembering in particular a yellow chiffon party dress that was promptly reincarnated on the runway. "So I thought, Listen, I could do that." Now, instead of being hired or dropped at the whim of designers, says Kate, "I go to business meetings and tell people what I want and how to do it." (Her preferred look for these meetings, she tells me, is a black or white Chanel power suit, "like Jackie O but with a T-shirt, a power watch from Rolex, and my Vivienne Westwood Sex shoes.")
After an assistant appeared with a pale-blue tray piled with egg-and-cucumber sandwiches, Kate rifled through a boxy white Chanel handbag lying on the rug, one of at least 100 Chanel purses she owns. She retrieved a heavy glass bottle filled with her pale-pink Kate perfume, which she sprayed on my wrist. It smelled sweet and girly, combining notes of peony, rose, forget-me-not, and magnolia. Kate says she loves the way "it feels fresh when you first spritz it on, but then it gets muskier and sexier as the day goes on. That's what I am into." She is already working on her second perfume, which she describes as "much sexier." "I said to her years ago," says Stella McCartney, whom Kate cites as her inspiration in business, "you've got to do a perfume: Then you'll really have a brand."
Quite how a minute model from Croydon has come this far is not at first apparent. Her image as a rock star-loving party girl on the one hand (she is currently dating the Kills' guitarist Jamie Hince) and sweet, vulnerable Kate on the other—with her quiet voice and eyes hidden beneath the fringe she's always flicking away—doesn't really tally with the idea of her as the backbone of a global empire. "I am still acting like a seventeen-year-old," admits Moss, biting into a sandwich. "I definitely haven't become middle-aged. I've got a house and a daughter and all that, but I still like to have fun. Even in my business we still have fun."
I believe her, however, when she says that her penchant for partying is exaggerated by the media. She doesn't deny that she likes the carefree English lifestyle—she loves driving her gang of friends to the local pub in her recently acquired hackney cab, and occasional nights out at a club called Punk in Soho, where she hangs out in a particular booth next to the deejays, who are close friends. "That's when you do feel old because there are, like, these seventeen-year-olds, and half their faces are painted blue and they're all in these crazy outfits. And they just stare at me as well." When it comes to Lila, Moss says, "I'm a mum. All the time. Every day. I put my daughter to bed." She often invites friends with children to the London house for playdates, saying, "We all have fun with the children—together." Weekends are spent at her old farmhouse in Gloucestershire. This is where she keeps most of her clothes, in "a massive room that's just rails." (She has been collecting fashion since she was fifteen and now has more than 1,000 pieces.) For trips to the village inn, the taxi is replaced by a neighbor's pony and trap. Moss has considered moving there full time so that Lila can have the idyllic rural childhood she herself didn't have.
Still, according to her friends, Kate is extremely focused when it comes to business. "She surrounds herself with clever people," says McCartney. "But you can have the greatest team around you, and if you don't work at it, it crumbles after six months. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has a clothing line. But do they last?"
Besides attending to her burgeoning business interests, Kate still works as a model if "they are such good jobs that you don't want to say no," a category that includes fall campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Donna Karan, and Roberto Cavalli as well as being the face of Rimmel London. "I still enjoy modeling," she says, "and it inspires me for the other things as well. All that dressing up makes me say, What do I want to wear? and, What do I want to do with Topshop? It all kind of leads into the other things."
Alexander McQueen, who has worked with Kate since the early nineties, says, "In business and in fashion you've got to be strong-willed. You can get run over quite easily. She's been through the mill, and she is not roadkill. Does she work really hard? Yes. She's a workaholic. She works when she doesn't have to work. She doesn't need to do ads, but she does. She does stuff that doesn't pay because she likes to stay in touch. That keeps her one step ahead."
Of course, being ahead of absolutely everyone is Kate's gift, and the product she is now selling. She started wearing wide-legged, seventies-inspired jeans six months ago, once every girl in London had cottoned to her skinny-jeans-and-ballet-flats look. When the world appropriated her fifties-style prom dresses, she moved on to punky black-and-white-striped minidresses worn with opaque tights and high boots. "She makes things look new," says Galliano. "She is a chameleon who captures the now like no one else I know." In an effort to demystify Kate's fashion alchemy, we discuss a few of her best looks from the last couple of years. So, for a night out with Courtney Love in London she wore dark Marc Jacobs jeans, a studded Topshop belt, and an exquisite white silk Chanel blouse. For a rock festival on the Isle of Wight she mixed flared J Brand jeans with a beaded top that "I found in a secondhand shop in Spitalfields market." For the last two Met balls, she has worn a black chiffon thirties-style slip dress with two antique Cartier bracelets from the New Bond Street jeweler S. J. Phillips (her favorite store, which she visits every birthday), and a draped Stella McCartney gown with a vintage silver belt from Southpaw in New York. "Kate is someone with energy, passion, sophistication, and cool," says Donna Karan. "If you put those things together, you have taste."
Although Kate says, "I never said that everyone wants to look like me. I just thought, I like clothes," the success of her fashion line is of course based on women wishing for the Kate Moss look. She used model Irina Lazareanu for the first ad campaign but has now decided to model the clothes herself because "I just sell. It benefits me to be the model." When I ask her if she now minds a little less the paparazzi who are permanently parked outside her house, since any pictures of her help promote her own products, she says, "If I am going out at night, I know that I am going to be photographed. But if you're going on the school run and you have to think about looks for the world's paparazzi, it's not great." Still, she plays the game and has a uniform for the days she's in a rush: "Then I just do a jean, jacket, and sunglasses because you can't really go wrong. Never sweatpants. Ever." Sculptor Marc Quinn, one of Kate's many art-world friends, who has made Siren, a solid-gold sculpture of Moss in a yoga pose, which will be exhibited at the British Museum this fall, says, "Kate's real job is Kate the real person managing Kate the image. In real life she is a very down-to-earth, fun person, coping very well with what must be a tiresome situation. She does not buy into the Kate image. She is all about the Kate reality. That's what keeps her sane."
But back to the scene in Sir Philip's office for the Topshop meeting. Moss, I suspect, has a steely core and uses her girlishness to get exactly what she wants in business. According to Sir Philip, with whom Kate appears to have developed an endearing father-daughter relationship, "When she wants something, she calls me up and goes, 'Uncle Phil, Uncle Phil, please…' " he says, impersonating Kate in a squeaky, high voice. Kate giggles and asks Sir Philip for a light. He tells her she can't smoke in his office and then, smiling, pushes a crystal ashtray toward her. Kate and Sir Philip are cut from the same cloth—he was also born in Croydon—and share a no-nonsense attitude to work. "If you turn up thinking that you want some kind of special treatment, how are you going to achieve anything? You're not, are you, Kate?" asks Sir Philip. Kate shakes her head.
After a few puffs on the cigarette, Kate heads over to a rail of samples from her fall line. She shows me a slew of clothes that are extraordinarily desirable considering their price: She holds up a slightly Beatles-esque wool sweater with just the right amount of stripes to keep it punky (around $110); there's a charming black chiffon flapper dress that could easily wander into a cocktail party on Park Avenue ($240); most of all I want the skinny black sweater with sheer chiffon blouson sleeves ($100), which Sir Philip tells me is a basic that you would never find in another mass-market fashion store. What gives these inexpensive clothes an edge is that they have the authentic Kate Moss silhouette, which she creates by acting as the fit model for every single piece. "It's what I wear," says Kate, throwing on a little faux-fur gilet ($100). "And I think it's good that girls can wear it without paying thousands for it."
So well priced and well designed is Kate's line that in her first season with Topshop, some of the dresses were moving 5,000 or 6,000 units in a week. And nearly 10,000 of a white off-the-shoulder party dress were sold in nine days. "I like making money," she says, "but I don't call people up every day to see how much I've made. As long as I have what I need at the time; I mean, I can buy the house that I want. I am not completely money-oriented." In her 20s, she would spend her earnings on Hermès Kelly bags from the Paris store. "I would go and spend £3,000. That felt quite good." Now, she says, "I am looking for an old seventies Corniche. It's a Rolls-Royce. I want one for the country. That's what I'd like to buy now." For all her splurging, though, Kate is savvy about money. She invests because "I haven't got a trust fund. So I have to look after it."
Her meeting with Sir Philip done, Kate heads to her office on the fourth floor, where two young female designers are waiting. The room is bulging with vintage finds—thirties satin cocktail dresses, hippie-ish printed blouses, rock-'n'-roll T-shirts. Amelia, one of the designers, shows Kate a black silk-and-net dress that is the inspiration for the party dresses. Then she notices Kate's leopard-print trench. "Do you want it?" asks Kate with a grin. "Yes!" the two designers cry in unison. Kate takes the coat off, and it is hung on a sample rail, ready to be reincarnated for the masses. "See," says Kate, "they take the clothes off my back!"
As Kate collects her things to leave, Amelia tells her they need to go down to Devon next week to a special dealer to find more antique clothes to study. There is a discussion about how to get there. Should they go by train? How long will it take? Four hours! Four hours on the train, Kate concludes, is an intolerable torture. Her response, as ever, is very Kate: "Let me see if we can get the chopper."