Home model Kate Moss: A brief history of an icon

Kate Moss: A brief history of an icon

Kate Moss The Face
Kate Moss - The Face

On 21st March 1967, The New York Times referred to Twiggy as a supermodel. It’s not clear when, where or who coined the term, but it is often argued that she was the first. Just 21 years later, in 1988, Kate Moss was discovered at just 14 years old when returning from a holiday in the Bahamas. This was the beginning of the super-supermodel.

Kate’s first major shoot was taken by Corinne Day in Camber Sands in England and printed in The Face in July 1990. This was also her very first cover and was undeniably the beginning of something great for Kate. The 16-year-old fresh-faced, giggling girl from Croydon had no idea that she was to become one of the most famous and influential models of her era, and arguably, of all time.

‘I used to cry when photographers would ask me to take my top off’

In an interview with LOVE magazine, where Kate models as cover girl once again, she talks candidly about nude photography. This issue, 4 of 8 Spring/Summer 2010, interviews ‘eight of the most beautiful women in the world’ and asks them about their opinions of their bodies. Kate comes second after Daria Werbowy, and before Jeneil Williams, Lara Stone, Naomi Campbell, Amber Valetta, Kristen McMenamy and Natalia Vodianova. She is asked, ‘Did you know you would be naked on the LOVE shoot before you arrived?’. She replies, ‘No’. Later, they question, ‘Do you feel like a different person when you are naked?’. Her reply was something I found a little distressing after idolising over her nude photos in The Face just moments before. She says, ‘I used to cry when photographers would ask me to take my top off’. I look back to the topless photo of 16-year-old Kate and am saddened. The glamour feels a lot less glamorous and the laughter a little more forced. She goes on to state how she feels comfortable in her body now and trusts the photographer, but I still feel a little protective over the young girl who was asked to strip off on a beach.

Kate has appeared on multiple covers, as well as the two I’ve already discussed. Her first British Vogue cover was in March 1993 where she stands, hair brushed back, lips closed, staring into the lens. Her makeup is minimal and the clothes a mere accessory for her face. Inside the magazine, Lisa Armstrong writes about ‘Fashion’s new spirit’. She documents the ‘eclectic, unpredictable…London girls’. She starts at the beginning with the Shrimp and Bailey and gradually makes her way to Miss Moss. She describes her as ‘a tiny waif from Croydon with limp hair, wide eyes and a million-dollar contract with Calvin Klein’. The article barely mentions her again, a big change from today when articles, books and blog posts are written about her daily.

Kate Moss
Kate Moss – Vogue

If you put ‘Kate Moss’ into the search bar in Google you’ll find multiple news stories within the last 24 hours. My results show her ‘holidaying in Greece’ with Emily Ratajkowski and Gigi Hadid, as well as shooting a new fashion ad, and showing off her Grecian holiday wardrobe. If that isn’t proof of her perpetual influence, then I don’t know what is. At 44 years old she is hanging out with her younger counterparts and being chased by journalists salivating after the latest gossip, or a photo of her in a tiny bikini. She is one of many modern models whose fame in fashion has meant more than just paying the bills. She is a model turned celebrity. Her influence does not end when the photo has been taken. Every move she makes is documented and celebrated by loyal fans. This is a responsibility that no one could have ever anticipated.

If Kate Moss is on the cover, the magazine will sell out

In today’s technological landscape where people are finding fame on social media, Kate still reigns Queen. She was the original ‘influencer’. Her natural beauty is timeless and consistently reproduced on faces across the globe. Her impact is worldwide and growing. If Kate Moss is on the cover, the magazine will sell out. Of course, alike most celebrities who have been forced into the spotlight by their looks or talent, she’s had her ups and downs. The cocaine scandal that was outed by The Daily Mirror is of course the lowest of all. It is suggested the abuse started when she began dating Johnny Depp in 1994. The incriminating photographs, however, were taken in 2004 when she was dating Pete Doherty. Subsequently, she lost contracts from Burberry, Chanel, and H&M reportedly costing her around $4 million.

My point is not that she was a bad role model, nor am I questioning her parenting, there is enough content online discussing that. My point is that Kate Moss was a young girl who found fame in her appearance. She then quickly fell for the money, attention and everything else that came with the celebrity lifestyle. She is a victim of an industry that tells models they aren’t good enough whilst using their face as an advert for perfection. She is a product, moulded and shaped by a business that prepared her fate and her future before she had even signed her first contract. Kate was able to bring herself out of the hole that this business gladly dug out for her. My point is that despite her lowest lows she is still, to this day, idolised and adored, and surely that’s what really matters here?

Kate Moss - Carinne Day
Kate Moss – Corinne Day

Overall, I guess what I’m getting at here is that Kate Moss has made a name for herself that means even her mistakes and regrets are forgiven by the public. Her natural elegance and ability to transform a room into a stage is unique. The bleak, austere and, dare I say, cheap sets in her early photographs with Corinne Day look expensive and carefully framed with Kate at the forefront. Dressed in a pink scoop-neck vest and lace underwear and decorated with fairy lights, anyone else would look try-hard and artificial. But Kate suits this set as much as she suits the lavish locations she’s been taken to over the years. She is malleable and can mould into her background and make it work for whomever takes the shot. Kate can sell anything. Place her on a beach in Hawaii, or in a council flat in London and she will make you money. This has been proven by her sell-out collections with Topshop where girls waited hours for the shops to open to get their hands on one of her designs.

She has a vulnerable elegance and addictive sensuality

One thing that puts Kate above any other model, is her ability to transform into whoever you want her to be. Not one photo looks like the next with her, she is every photographer’s dream. She can be multiple people at once. She is the shy, pretty girl on the beach in the morning, and the sexy, confident woman at night. She has a vulnerable elegance and addictive sensuality. This is why she is an icon.


Ailish Fowler

By Ailish Fowler