Photographs by Bert Stern
Model is not really enough of a word to describe Kate Moss. Even supermodel is similarly wrong, in spite of the fact that she is one of the few with legitimate claim to the title. When it comes to cool, Kate Moss is simply on a different plane than everyone else.
In a world of models on juice fasts and yoga retreats taking bit parts in movies because “really the plan was always to act,” Kate Moss is a fantastic bit of sex and rock and roll. She doesn’t bore us with talk of green tea or locavore cuisine; instead, she dates grungy-hot rock stars—like Pete Doherty, admitted heroin addict and bona fide rock god—and then appears on the Internet dancing around topless to their songs. She’s something from another era, when there was no question that celebrities’ lives were nothing at all like our own: They were far, far more fun.
She is, of course, very pretty. But it’s more than that. She has an innate understanding of how to wear clothes—wearing clothes is what a model does, but Kate Moss can whip up a global frenzy with a single walk down her North London block. It doesn’t have to be high fashion or expensive fashion: Quite often, it’s the opposite, as she makes the mundane look so magnificent. When Kate wore Hunter-brand Wellington boots in the mud at the Glastonbury Festival, the shoe of the year was suddenly a dumpy rubber clomper previously preferred by ruddy Englishmen out for a hunt.
Enter Topshop, the most fashion-y of London’s so-called High Street chain stores, which translates in American to “great big thumping shops on Lower Broadway or on the middle of Fifth where trendy, well-designed clothes cost relatively little money and all the salespeople are weirdly cute.”
Sir Philip Green, who is Topshop’s top dog (as well as one of Britain’s richest men), bid £60,000 at a charity auction in 2006 for a kiss with Kate Moss. The happily married mogul won the prize—he quickly turned his smooching rights over to hot socialite Jemima Khan—but most important, he met Kate Moss and a collaboration was born. They’re both from Croydon in South London and speak in a dialect where th is sometimes pronounced like an f (so: Sarf London). He’s a born Daddy Warbucks, expansive in every sense of the word. They make each other laugh: She calls him Uncle Phil, and he plays the overindulgent benefactor, quick with a gift and a deeply affectionate roll of the eyes.
The first Kate Moss for Topshop collection sold out on the spot. And why wouldn’t it? The clothes all looked as if they had been plucked from Moss’s own wardrobe: sweet, nostalgic riffs on Moss’s legendary flea-market finds, all of it with the charming magpie, Ibizan bohemian aesthetic that Moss works ever so well. It was inevitable that such a phenom would, eventually, land in New York, and now, after delays and false starts, it arrives in Soho on April 2.
Moss and Green sat down to explain it all in Green’s swank London office.
Kate: I’m not a designer. I’ve never been to school or been trained. I can’t draw a dress, really. But I know what I like.
Philip: It’s not easy. Before Kate, there wasn’t anybody we’ve ever wanted to work with. I mean, when you look at what Kate’s done over 25 years …
K: Twenty-five? I’m not that old!
P: If you look at what Kate’s done over those twenty years, 25 Vogue covers?
K: Twenty-seven. That’s British Vogue. My agent told me the other day. The next one is less than half that.
P: I think from Kate’s point of view, becoming a designer was a natural progression. Kate was at a particular moment …
K: I love clothes. I know how clothes should fit and feel. When I would go to shoots, stylists would say to me, “You really should do something. You should take it another step.” But it never felt right until I met Philip and the whole atmosphere of Topshop.
P: This wasn’t something we needed to do, either of us. We didn’t need to make money that week, that month. Make Kate a part of our family. The types of things Kate had to learn about—these things take time.
K: I’ve never done it before. Now I know what is possible and what we can do, which is a lot. It’s really just making things that I want: the little sundresses that I always wanted, the little bus-stop dresses that I always cut too short and now I can’t wear anymore. Now I make them a couple of inches longer. Even before I started modeling, I was cutting up flares and making miniskirts. When I started modeling, I used to just go to jumble sales and have bags and bags of clothes and then the stylists would use them on shoots. Harper’s Bazaar asked me to edit the magazine— the whole magazine!—as a fashion editor. I went into the office and, oh my goodness, there was no way. It wasn’t right.
P: Most people don’t know how to work with people like Kate.
K: It’s true. They try to make you into something you’re not.
P: She calls me up and says, “Uncle Phil, I want to go to Cornwall on Wednesday.” And I say, “Fine, go to Cornwall.”
K: But it was for work!
P: Fine. It’s got to flow. If Kate thinks it’s just a workhorse job, you end up with a rail of product you hate.
K: It’s not just turning up and doing a job. Because turning up on a modeling call—I still enjoy it, but it doesn’t get me going.
P: In spite of all that party living, you look good.
K: I haven’t partied since … last Friday!
P: We’ve taken a decision of saying we’re going to change nothing for New York. I think with the climate what it is …
K: People want a dress which is not a thousand bucks! With Topshop, you can go in and … you’re on budget, major … you can go in and not have to spend fortunes. I didn’t want to be charging $3,000. The thing is … I know clothes. I just want a dress that fits and makes me feel good and makes me feel pretty. I don’t really think about the masses.
P: It is all about feel.
[A packet of pictures arrives: Kate with a police escort, with Prince Edward …]
P: We went to the palace.
K: Buckingham Palace! With our police escorts! We were going the wrong way round roundabouts and things … I was like, “Do you want to give me a ride home?” It was so much fun, we were looking at the crown jewels. With Prince Edward.
P: It was a private viewing. At the Tower of London.
K: Look at me and the prince. HRH! That’s what I called him. HRH.
P: Then we went back to Buckingham Palace for a private dinner. It was fun. It was a fun night, wasn’t it, Kate?
K: It was hilarious. I’d been before. I was one of the 200 women who succeeded in the face of adversity. Honestly. That’s what it said on the card. So it was like, Everybody here comes from a council estate! I mean, I don’t think Dame Judi does … but … you know …
P: We do have fun. I was in this Mexican restaurant with my wife. In Soho. This girl looks at me, and she says, “Where are you from?” and I say London, and she says, “Oh, well, you’re nice,” and she says, “Do you want to come to The Box?” and I said sure. Then I get this text message: Kate’s in New York. So I invite her, too.
K: And I’m like, “What’s The Box?” I get in there, he’s in the front row. I was shocked! This girl—oh my goodness. She got out of a Russian doll and she was ballerina-ing around and then she got all of these other dolls out of her … something. And then she took this little doll and oh! It was very odd.
[Kate fingers a dress on a rack.]
K: Isn’t this dress great? It’s not like a rip-off designer thing. It’s not a knockoff. When I’m not modeling, I’m in here. I’m working! When I’m not getting booked for modeling anymore, it’ll be like, “Oh, look! She’s here at nine o’clock in the morning!”
P: Yeah, right. You don’t know there’s two nine o’clocks in the same day! Nine o’clock in the morning …
K: I do, actually! I’ve been very busy.
P: We’re going to try and do lingerie for next season.
K: I’ve got a clear idea of what I want for lingerie. I’ve just started wearing bras. It’s a miracle. Not today, but I have been. Great timing for my lingerie collection. I’ve just grown breasts.
P: Have you? I noticed.
K: I am a woman now! It’s true. No, honestly, I’ve never worn a bra in my life. Ever! It’s so awful, even my friends are phoning me up and saying “Are you pregnant?” And I’m like, “No! I just put on a couple of pounds, and they went in the right place.” Isn’t that weird? And how perfect for lingerie.
P: That’s how it works. You’ve got to be lucky.
K: Now I can fill a B-cup. My friend does say I’ve got horseshoes up my ass. I’m like, What does that mean? It means I’m lucky—I’ve got a horseshoe up my ass.
P: We started in May ’07. We put $22 million, $25 million into it, and after a few seasons, suddenly Kate comes in here.
K: I called a meeting.
P: She comes in here: “Uncle Phil, I want to see you.”
K: You were shocked. Your jaw was on the floor. You were like, “You’re calling a meeting with me?” I was like, “Why, haven’t we got enough? Why is it sold out?” It all sold out in the first day.
P: She was, “Oh, we haven’t bought enough.”
K: I’m not just like playing around. I’m trying to be a businesswoman as well. I am!
P: Let me tell you something about how this all works. Last summer, we’re in Ibiza. And I have not been in Ibiza for five years.
K: Oh, shush.
P: So I decide to go to Ibiza, and this is how freaky it is …
K: The tide had come in, and we were completely stranded. Like refugees. And then I saw this massive boat go speeding past and I was like, That’s Uncle Phil, I know it is.
P: Two minutes later, the phone rings: “Uncle Phil. We’re shipwrecked.” And there’s Kate. On a rock. Seriously!
K: It is like that, though. It just happens.
P: It is funny. We do have fun. It works well. Everybody’s happy.
K: We get the job done.
P: If I hate it, I say, “Oh, God, it’s horrible.”
K: He does not beat around the bush. I’d much prefer someone to say “Oh, that’s shit.” So it’s really nice, honestly. And my name has become a brand, an entity. “I want to have the world of … ” Can you imagine? [Laughs] Like Ralph Lauren!
[Messenger arrives with a floor-length Alexander McQueen green velvet dress.]
P: This was a charity fashion show. I bought this for a present for Kate.
K: It is amazing. Look at it. It is so beautiful.
P: I paid a lot of money for that. They wanted to auction it, and I said I’m going to buy that for Kate as a present. I think you should wear that to the Metropolitan ball.
K: I can wear it now that I’ve got it. Oh, Uncle Phil. Thank you.
P: And then if you get drunk, there’s about three yards we can cut off. It is hellishly long.
K: I can just chop a bit off. I love a train.
P: Put it on.
K: What, now?
P: Yes. Go on, put it on.
K: I’m dying to put it on.
P: That’s what we do.
K: Clothes are my favorite thing in the world. I love clothes. It’s my favorite thing in the entire world.
[Kate puts on the dress].
P: Kate! It’s a total showstopper. Come on. Let me see.
K: It’s gorgeous.
P: Turn around.
K: Oh, it is gorge. I need a few alterations.
P: It’s better than amazing.
K: Okay. But my boobs are too big!
P: Oh my God! How exciting! Now you’ve got titties. How exciting.
K: My boyfriend might not like them. I’m a bit worried.
P: Well, they are a bit bigger than they were, aren’t they?
K: Massively bigger. Anyway, enough about my boobs. Let’s get back to business.
P: You know Kate is going to be one of the hosts at the Met ball with Marc Jacobs.
K: Marc Jacobs, I’m hosting with him. Marc’s going to have a creation for me.
P: No, you’re going to wear your own dress. You’ve got to have your own creation.
K: Philip … you’ll not have me wearing Marc? Marc is one of my oldest friends, you know that?
P: You’re wearing your own dress.
K: You are terrible! Indiscretions. Beyond. No model has ever hosted it before. I’m the first model. It’s the muse. Wonderful theme … I am the muse!
P: You’re definitely wearing your own dress. It’s not even in debate. If they want me to fly you there, it’s your own dress, kid.
K: You don’t have to fly me there. I’ve got air miles!
P: I’m taking you there.
K: I do! I’ve got air miles.
P: Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll make two or three dresses, and if they’re up to the mark, you’ll wear it, and if not, we’ll make a sensible decision.
K: After the last one, I went with Stella—we’ve been friends for a very, very long time. And the thing is, we stood in line for an hour or something to say hello to the meet and greet in the receiving line. Donatella is in front of us, and Francesco Clemente was behind us with his wife, who I knew from back in the day. And we’re going, I can’t believe this. You can’t smoke. You can’t have a drink. When we got to the receiving line, this lady came up and said, “We’re sorry, they’ve all gone to their tables.” We were like, What? Tom and Katie just walked right up to the front, and we were like, Who the fuck are they? They’re not even in fashion! And then two days later Anna calls and says, “I’d like you to host.” And also, it is an honor to be asked by Anna with Marc to host the Met ball and being the first model and all that. I did say “What do you have to do?” and she said, “You have to stand in the receiving line for an hour and a half.” But everybody’s in the toilets at the Met smoking. The last time I went, Vanessa Redgrave—I love Vanessa Redgrave—had pockets in her dress with her fags in it.
P: Excuse me. I thought we had a conversation about you giving up one January.