The fabulous Ms Moss

Image copyright Jean-Francois Julian

About two weeks ago I interviewed supermodel Kate Moss during her visit to Hong Kong. It was a rather interesting experience for me, mainly because I am not a huge fan and I would much rather interview a designer like Miuccia Prada who has so much more to say. Either way it changed my opinion of her for the better. In the end she just seemed like a normal girl who had the unfortunate burden of too much fame and money. I get the feeling she is no different to when she was discovered at 14 – not a care in the world. Below is my interview with her, plus some outtakes that didn’t make it into the story….

Hong Kongers love a good celebrity and over the years the city has welcomed big names from actresses like Angelina Jolie to fashion icons Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani. However when fashionistas got wind that supermodel Kate Moss would be attending the Longchamp store opening last week, it created a frenzy.

Tai tais decided to forgo their usual fashionably late policy and started lining up a few hours earlier along with the paparazzi. In the end over 1,000 people (mostly women) crammed into the store only to catch a brief glimpse of the supermodel darting in and out of a VIP room in her vintage Norma Kamali cheongsam.

As the closest thing to royalty in the fashion world, being granted an audience with Ms. Moss is more rare than having tea with the Queen.  Although she usually shuns the media, she made an exception on this occasion and gave a handful of interviews about her collaboration with Longchamp. Beforehand journalists were sent a list of caveats including a ban on personal questions. That meant that interesting topics such as her impending wedding to The Kills guitarist Jamie Hince were out.

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way – her clothes. As she walks into the suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel she looks elegant and grown up in long sleeved black shift dress with opaque tights and pumps. Thankfully there’s no trace of her 1990s heroine chic body, although you’d know that already if you saw the images of her dimply thighs at a recent Louis Vuitton show in Paris.

It’s obvious that Moss is nervous. She’s sitting in one corner of a large green sofa, her hands constantly fiddling with her vintage 1920s engagement ring. When asked about it, her eyes widen like a little girl, all traces of mature Kate vanishing in an instant.

“I am very happy. I am going to be a married woman,” she says with a silly grin.

Suddenly anxious about addressing a topic that is on the taboo list, she moves onto something that she is happy to talk about: her collaboration with Longchamp.

Moss was brought on to star in the brand’s ad campaigns in 2005 before approaching them last year with the idea to design her own line of handbags. Together with creative director Sophie Delafontaine, she designs two seasonal collections based on styles she wants to wear. In just three seasons, the line has become a great success, thanks in part to Moss’ huge fan base.

“It’s bags that I like, that I would want really. I can’t really design for other people, so I design what I want to have in my dream world. If I could have any handbag, what would it be…” she says in her broad London accent.

“I worked with [Longchamp] a long time before just as a model and we always got on. It was a good energy really. I wasn’t scared really ‘cause they were nice people. I like the family aspect of it – I met the parents and know the brothers and sisters. I feel comfortable in that type of environment I suppose. It is a business but it doesn’t just feel like one. It’s more of a creative thing really, so it works well. It’s about a relationship that has developed over time. I wouldn’t have done it with someone I don’t know.”

While Moss cites Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithful among her personal style icons, it was her inimitable sense of style that inspired Delafontaine to take her on as a co-collaborator.

“She is an international face and every young girl in the world knows Kate Moss. She is the one who is really having her own style. It’s really exceptional for a model. It was also the right time for the company and we wanted to give a global view to Longchamp and to add the fashion element. Kate was the only one who could say it all,” she says.

“The collaboration is great because she is really involved in the project. It’s not about just taking a name. We see each other every month to shoot or discuss the collection. It’s not what she wears but how she mixes things that is interesting. That’s what I have learnt from her, to take more risks in mixing things.”

Taking risks is something that Moss has done throughout her career. At the time when models were sexy and curvy she shocked everyone with her waif look; when she was caught taking cocaine in 2005 she bounced back with more contracts than ever; she recently took to the Parisian catwalks smoking a fag with not a care in the world; time and time again, she is still the most wanted and photographed face in fashion. So what is the secret to her success?

“Patience,” she says wryly. “You have to be really patient. My friend who’s a model always says to me ‘I don’t know how you can sit in the makeup chair all day.’ I added it up for a laugh, and the total amount I’ve spent in hair and makeup was like six years. You’ve gotta be really patient for that.”

Many editors in the industry would say that it’s her inherent ability for knowing what’s cool that keeps people wanting more. It also doesn’t hurt that the camera loves her. Sitting in front of me she looks like any pretty girl, but put her in front of a camera and she easily transforms into a convincing Oriental beauty or androgynous tough girl locking lips with another model, as seen on recent cover of Love magazine. The only pair of lenses she does steer clear from are the paparazzo’s.

“It’s changed me…I am paranoid. Paparazzi are a nightmare,” she says, getting uncomfortable again. “They are not fun. I don’t think you ever get used to some man hiding in a bush. It’s really unnerving to be watched all the time, but hey ho. They are always there.”

On the less controversial topic of style, Moss finds it difficult to sum up her look. She genuinely seems flummoxed when she’s asked about her must-have wardrobe staples.

“Bags, accessories, jewellery, blazer – clothes, I don’t know. I am not really one kind of look girl. I like to change things up. I don’t think I will ever go for a total look. I don’t know, honestly. I don’t think I am easy chic necessarily, just easy sometimes,” she says, fidgeting with her ring again.

Although her agent has requested that we refrain from asking questions about her future as a designer, it’s clearly a role that she enjoys. While her contract with Longchamp has no end date, her own line for mass chain TopShop has come to an end after 14 collections. This has led to some speculation that she may launch her own fashion brand. While she remains mum on the topic, she does have interest in one area in particular.

“I would love to extend into children’s wear. That’s what my daughter wants me to do. She’s always like, ‘Mummy please, design me some clothes.’ She’s got better style. She just throws it on and it always looks really good. I’ve copied things of hers,” she says.

“I am just kinda going along with the flow really. I am still modeling a lot, and I am trying to do it all in. I don’t want to say I am doing just one thing, I am kind of mixing it up. I don’t want to get bored. The dream at this moment is this line – there’s a lot going on. It’s the bags, then I’ve got perfume, makeup. It’s not too much that I have to be in the office. I haven’t got a plan, I take it as it comes.”

(As published in the SCMP on April 11, 2011)

And quotes that didn’t make it into the story…

On the designers that inspire her:

“It’s really sad that we lost Lee [McQueen], he was just a genius. And John [Galliano], well you know. There are a lot of young English designers that are doing amazing and inspiring new things that you haven’t seen before, like Gareth Pugh. You go out in London and you think wow, [people] look amazing.”

 On how she chooses projects:

“I think its about the relationships I have with people. When I go to work I am excited because I want to see the photographer. I don’t get to see them that often cause everyone travels. I can hang out with friends and get the job done which is great. It’s so nice when there’s a team and you know who everyone is. Most of the people I’ve worked with I have known for 20 years. It’s really nice to go to work. We know each other’s kids and go on holidays. It’s kinda like family really.

On her favourite cover:

“I don’t remember my covers. I did that Vuitton show and I hadn’t done a show in so long.  My friend went to youtube and typed in ‘Kate Moss collection’ and when all these shows came up, I didn’t remember half of them. Obviously I know it is me, I just can’t remember it at all.”

 On her daughter pursuing a career in fashion:

“Fashion yes, but not modeling. Not until she is much older. I started too young. My goddaughter is 14 now and I look at her and can’t imagine that I was working at the age. She’s so little.”

 On competition from other style icons:

“No I am not worried – it’s always good to have fresh blood, definitely. I like the way Alexa Chung dresses, she is cute.”