KATE MOSS, OR THE BEAUTY OF PARADOX
In the early days of modelling, the models showed off the work of the designer—Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Dior—in the salon of his atelier to a small group of potential customers. Whatever photographs were taken were not widely circulated. These ‘showings’ in tiny salons prevailed throughout the fifties and early sixties. Indeed, it was not until David Bailey, Brian Duffy and Terence Donovan (the ‘terrible three’ of ‘Swinging London’) captured in their lenses Veruschka, Jean Shrimpton and Penelope Tree that things really changed. And then along came Twiggy, a ‘modern-faced’ androgyne child-woman, so in tune with the times that her fame would spread worldwide. Clearly, in terms of a socio-cultural phenomenon, Twiggy was a precursor of Kate.
The seventies saw Jerry Hall bring her golden-age-of-Hollywood glamour to modelling. Inès de la Fressange then brought her freshness to the profession, along with her Parisian chic. As these two genuine individualities continued to thrive into the eighties, the ‘California girl’ look—personified by Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Stephanie Seymour and, to some extent, Cindy Crawford—came onto the scene. Healthy and wholesome, at once buxom and sporty, these models worked out as hard as they worked.
Then, at the end of the eighties, British Vogue asked Peter Lindbergh to shoot its first cover of the new decade. And thus it was that the January 1990 cover crystallized the phenomenon of the ‘supermodels’: Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz. Versace shows and a George Michael video would confirm their place at the top. Soon they were joined by Tatjana Patitz’s fellow-Germans—Nadja Auermann, Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer—along with the Franco-Italian Carla Bruni.
And then along came Kate to blow them all away (or at least, give them a good dusting off). Hollywood glamour or Parisian chic? Buxom good health or steely Teutonic beauty? The divine right of ‘perfection’, the royal road to consumer heaven? Kate had nothing in common with any of that. Instead, still in her mid-teens, she made one-day-at-a-time her way, trusting her intuition that whatever she had to offer, in whatever guise it might be expressed, things would work out best if she’d keep faith with her individuality and ignore all the rest.
And so, just as David Bailey, Brian Duffy and Terence Donovan had seized the spotlight from the established photographers in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, so Corrine Day and David Sims, Juergen Teller and Craig McDean, would sparkle as ‘Cool Britannia’ (and, for a while, the rest of the fashion world) became receptive to an aesthetic different from the one Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh and Steven Meisel, had crafted with the supermodels. And the most potent spur to the creativity of these rebel photographers was the young anti-model, Kate Moss.
Later, after the Calvin Klein campaigns, John Galliano would take Kate under his wing, just as, later still, Alexander McQueen would: South Londoners all, the three spoke a common language in more ways than one. And thus it was that Kate the anti-model, giving herself up wholly in each creative encounter, would become a hyper-model.
For me, what is the appeal of Kate Moss? Simple: her attitude. And how would I define that attitude? In two words: fuck off. Yes, that’s why I like Kate. She says ‘fuck off’ with style and conviction, as only a truly free person can (think of Keith Richards, Frida Kahlo, Alain Robbe-Grillet). Of course, I am not alone in finding Kate attractive for this reason. For many, she represents an ideal of freedom, understood as the courage to fully assume one’s individuality. For example, in the permanent tension fashion maintains between imitation and distinction, Kate comes across as one who doesn’t compromise: for her, beauty will be distinctive, or not at all.
FIVE KATE BOOKS AND A VOD DOCUMENTARY
CLICKABLE IMAGE LINKS: A PRINT INTERVIEW, AN ARTICLE AND A VIDEO DOCUMENTARY
A conversation between Kate Moss and David Bailey
The Guardian, 20 January2018
Kate! Creating an Icon
Director: Nicola Graef, 2011
The Riddle of Kate Moss
James Fox, Vanity Fair, December 2012
FASHION IN ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
CLICK ON AN IMAGE TO GO TO THE CORRESPONDING PAGE
Yves Saint Laurent
Models and Dogs
By Richard Jonathan | © Mara Marietta Culture Blog, 2020 | All rights reserved