It’s easy to understand why Kate Moss first became famous. She arrived on the scene just after the first supermodels - Linda, Cindy, Naomi, Claudia - had become global superstars. But even the word ‘supermodel’ spoke of Eighties excess; and Kate’s frail, hauntingly imperfect look would provide the perfect antidote. Aged 15, she was photographed by Corinne Day on a Sussex beach: the resulting image – bare-breasted, tomboyish, her face scrunched up with laughter – would end up on the cover of The Face, the embodiment of the Nineties’ new definition of raw, realistic beauty.
A year later, Herb Ritts shot Kate entwined with Marky Mark,naked except for their Calvin Klein jeans. The shoot rocketed her to worldwide attention – and she quickly became a tabloid regular as part of a London social scene that included Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Naomi Campbell. And her love life ignited the media’s interest even further, with a dating record that read like a roll-call of modern male celebrity: Daniel Craig, Evan Dando, Johnny Lee Miller, Pete Doherty - and, of course, Johnny Depp. For five years, Moss and Depp were the incarnation of Nineties cool: grungy yet heart-stoppingly gorgeous, in his-and-hers battered leather jackets. After they broke up in 1998, Kate checked into rehab, and it seemed her moment might be over. Instead, she returned – tougher, edgier, her tangled brown mane bobbed and bleached – and became the muse for one of Tom Ford’s most infamous collections at Gucci. Pre-Depp, Kate might have been a gawky waif, but post-Depp, she emerged as a strikingly assured young woman.
In the years since, Moss has become one of the world’s most celebrated fashion icons, adored for her careless mix of vintage, high-street and designer garb. Her love affair with the camera lens has always remained electric: whether wrapped in a Burberry trench or poured into glittering Versace, her pictures exude confident attitude. And attitude is the commodity Moss trades in – when she purrs “Get The London Look” in Rimmel’s make-up commercials, it seems less like an invitation than a dare.
STILL GOT IT
And at 40, there’s no sign of her supremacy slipping. Moss is the face of the spring/summer 2014 campaign for Alexander McQueen and she’s recently notched up major campaigns for Vivienne Westwood, Givenchy, Rag & Bone and Stuart Weitzman. For Stuart Weitzman, we find Kate with slicked-back hair and barely-there make-up looking resplendent lounging on a wicker seat. With Mario Testino behind the lens, she perfectly captures the spirit of the sleek, sexy and minimal vibe of Weitzman’s Nudist collection. But the past 12 months have also seen the emergence of a potential rival, in the form of a irreverent, bushy-browned teenager names Cara Delevingne.
Her dishevelled prettiness and raucous partying have made Delevingne a gossip-column fixture and the subject of endless magazine articles determined to crown her ‘The New Kate’. Before anyone retires Moss prematurely however, it’s worth remembering she’s seen off all the other pretenders to her It-Girl throne over the years - Liberty Ross, Alexa Chung and Agyness Deyn among them. And for 16-year-old Lottie Moss, meanwhile, a career’s worth of inevitable comparisons have only just begun.
No one’s expecting it to last forever - least of all Moss herself. In 1993, she told an interviewer, “I don’t want to carry on modelling as long as Lauren Hutton but I don’t know what else I am going to do.” To a particular generation, though, her appeal is eternal. She was, to those of us who grew up in her wake, the definition of what youth and beauty looked like. And she’s stayed the same, when everyone else has changed: look at former co-star Marky Mark, now reinvented as a serious actor and churchgoing father of four. Moss herself is married now too, and a mother, but she still plays like a carefree teenager, and gets snapped on raucous nights out, unmistakable in her leopard- skin coat. And as long as she hasn’t grown up, then – somehow – neither have we.