After London’s Daily Mirror ran front-page photos of Uber-model Kate Moss doing cocaine, the 31-year-old style icon lost contracts with Burberry, Chanel, and H&M reportedly totaling close to $4 million. But while the tabloids screeched about her decadent image and damaged career, the fashion elite rallied to her defense. Was she the victim of overzealous media or of her own edgy lifestyle? Talking to Moss’s friends, VICKY WARD learns about the growing stress she felt, her devotion to her young daughter, and the dangerous inuence of her hard-partying boyfriend, rocker Pete Doherty
For Kate Moss, an evening in early September spent at the side of boyfriend Pete Doherty, the front man of the rock group Babyshambles, must have felt like just any other jam session. The 31-year-old model sat in a corner of a recording studio in West London, looking impossibly glamorous in knee-high black boots and shorts, her 100-pound, five-foot-seven-inch frame as ethereal as ever, her hair wavy, with a golden tinge, falling just below her shoulders. Doherty, 26, was sitting nearby, exposing his somewhat meaty upper torso.
Quiet and friendly, cracking jokes, as she likes to, Moss, according to the Daily Mirror, cut lines of cocaine, passing them round to the people present. Holding a cigarette and drinking shots of vodka and whiskey, she snorted five lines in the 40 minutes recorded in a grainy video by a hidden camera. Those images subsequently made their way onto the front page of the British tabloid. Its sister paper, the Sunday Mirror, was successfully sued by Moss last summer after it alleged back in January that she had passed out in a cocaine-induced stupor following a charitable event in Barcelona in 2001. (Moss sought between $25,000 and $350,000 in damages.)
According to the Daily Mirror, in one scene of the video-circulated on television and on the Internet since then-Moss teasingly withholds some of the drug from Doherty, saying, “It’s just gone now. You’ve missed it.” The vignette, an acquaintance feels, sums up the dynamic of the couple’s relationship-a desperate struggle on her part to control Doherty’s open use of crack cocaine and alcohol. Until he met Moss, in January of this year, at her 31st-birthday party, it was also heroin.
“The fatal attraction for Kate-a woman who is always told she is beautiful, wonderful, and has everything-was that she could never completely control him,” says this person, adding that he thinks Moss has always known that she had a lot to lose because of the relationship, characterized as a hopeless love affair for her. Right from the start friends of Doherty’s, described by one of the inner sanctum as “hangers-on,” sold pictures of the two to the tabloids.
Moss told Doherty at the beginning of their romance that he had to quit heroin, the acquaintance says. “She knew that there was a tightrope she mustn’t cross, and she did have in the back of her mind Courtney Love, and she said to him, ‘You must get (naltrexone-either inserted into the abdomen as an implant or worn as a patch-which nullifies the effects of opiates). I can’t have you around if you’re this out of control because it’s going to get me into trouble.'”
It did, and that is something Moss is not accustomed to. Since she shot to fame, at age 18, when Calvin Klein first put her waif-like figure in his underwear ads alongside singer turned actor Mark Wahlberg, Moss has been given the benefit of the doubt by both her colleagues and the companies that hired her. She has rarely given interviews-and then usually only to top magazines, such as American Vogue, which focused on her unusual style, mixing bohemian and classic.
When stills from the fuzzy video first appeared, a defiant Moss, working in New York with photographer Mario Sorrenti on a shoot for W magazine’s November issue, wondered who could have taken the video. She was shocked at the invasion of her privacy. “Fuck off! Fuck off!” she allegedly told a reporter who followed her and Doherty to the Mercer hotel one afternoon.
On another occasion she tried to have dinner with Sorrenti, a close friend, at SoHo’s Omen restaurant. Sorrenti, whose own brother died of a drug overdose eight years ago, was appalled at how they were hassled by the press as they tried to get into a car. “It was like rats over the garbage,” he says. “She got pushed and shoved. So did I.”
Doherty stayed in New York with Moss for a few days and then flew back to England for a concert, reportedly causing a disturbance on the plane. A week later, following a performance in a music hall in Shrewsbury, in central England, he was arrested on suspicion of drug possession. He claimed that the police had mistaken the patch for narcotics, and he was released. Meanwhile, Moss stayed in the Mercer hotel, receiving calls and text messages from friends around the world-many of whom were in London for that city’s Fashion Week. Her mood, people say, shifted from shock and fury to devastation as the significance of what had happened slowly settled in. Magazine publisher Jefferson Hack, 34, an ex-boyfriend and the father of her young child, Lila Grace, was on the phone offering his support. So were such friends as artists Sam Taylor-Wood and Tracey Emin, fashion designer Bella Freud, designer Fabien Baron, and many others on the creative side of the fashion world.
The night the story broke, David Lipman, the advertising guru, went to her hotel suite, hugged her, and said, “Kate, this is going to be a storm. You are going to need to stand strong and stand tough. This is not going away.” He says now, “I knew that the English media were going to be brutal.”
Sure enough, as if according to a script, the London newspapers began to question whether Moss was an appropriate role model for 17-year-old girls. Reporters were sent to various stores that carried products she endorsed to survey young shoppers on their views about her. The In-
dependent reported that the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, who has been leading a campaign against a burgeoning cocaine epidemic in Britain, said authorities would be questioning Moss. In the ensuing weeks the Evening Standard reported that traces of cocaine had been found in the bathrooms of hotels where the British Labour and Conservative Parties had held conferences. Journalists started to write columns about their own experiences with the drug. The Kate Moss story took on a life of its own.
It was, says one of Moss’s closest friends, the London hairdresser Sam McKnight, reminiscent of what had happened to the late Princess Diana, whose hair he styled. “This singling someone out, we haven’t seen that for a long time. I guess it’s because a powerful, strong woman is a bit of an enigma, aren’t they?”
There were false reports that social services would consider taking away Moss’s daughter, pictured in the press attending her third-birthday party, dressed as a fairy, in the arms of a nanny. Around the same time, it was reported that once she returned to England Moss would be arrested for drug use. (The veracity of both rumors was denied by her lawyer Gerrard Tyrrell.) According to reports, the recording studio where Moss had been videotaped using cocaine was raided for drugs.
Moss met in New York with a representative of the fashion retailer H&M-the company declines to say who it was-and, by now having realized the enormity of what had happened and having abandoned her defiance, she gave a heartfelt apology. Sorrenti says that only a “few days before H&M was begging for her to design a new line of clothing for them.” (“H&M never comments on speculations or rumors,” the company says.) Lisa Sandberg, a spokesperson for H&M, says, “We thought we were going to go in one direction. After looking at it more closely, the management team in Sweden took time over the weekend to analyze the situation and decided after meeting with each other that it was better to cancel the campaign at this point.” But, according to Sandberg, the store has not ruled out working with Moss again. “The statement we released a couple of weeks back is more or less the same stand that we have right now. We haven’t announced any changes to the planned campaign either, publicly, so right now we’re kind of sitting between decisions and actions, and more or less still standing by our original statements,” she says. Asked why H&M hired Moss in the first place, given the fact that she has long been associated with an edgy lifestyle, Sandberg replies, “We believe in people.”
The British media reported that Moss has been dropped by Burberry, H. Stern, Chanel, and others, but, comments Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, “everybody knew that they were buying into the Kate Moss bad-girl thing, and then suddenly it’s like, ‘Actually, we can’t be seen doing this.'”
At his show, during the weekend finale of the Paris collections, the designer Alexander McQueen took a bow wearing a T-shirt that read, we love you kate. And some in the notoriously inbred and blinkered world of fashion are dismissing the entire incident as “ludicrous.”
Burberry, a public company, did not have an exclusive contract with Moss, but has worked with her in 9 out of its last 15 advertising campaigns, going back seven or eight years. It was scheduled to shoot a new campaign in the fall featuring Moss, but decided to drop it. The company put out a statement that said, “We wish Kate all the best,” but it did not rule out using her again. Fabien Baron (who, as creative director for Harper’s Bazaar in 1992, introduced Moss to Calvin Klein) spoke to Rose Marie Bravo, Burberry’s C.E.O., and suggested the company keep her. He was hopeful, he says, because Bravo had “always adored Moss… My personal advice to the company was: Stay on.” Baron was upset with their decision to cancel the campaign, but told Moss not to worry. “They will bring her back,” he says of the British press. “And the fashion business will support her.” The December edition of French Vogue, of which Moss is the guest editor, is running as planned, with “some changes,” according to Baron, “due exclusively to her availability, and not to her current situation.”
Over at Chanel, a private company which changes its model every season, “the executives were initially shocked,” says one person close to the company. “Then, one of them, the only one who was talking sense to me, was saying, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter.'” Ultimately, though, the company announced that her contract was due to expire in October, and it had no plans to renew it. Taking a quiet line is Dior. A spokesman for Rimmel, the Coty-owned cosmetics brand, said they were preparing a statement announcing their support of Moss and their intention to continue to work with her. Fortuitously, the company had shot a campaign labeled “Recover,” showing Moss looking like her trademark self-beautiful after a hard night’s partying. If Moss emerges clean and restored from the Meadows clinic, in Arizona, to which she reportedly retreated for one month, Rimmel, most people think, will have a marketing coup. “How fucking brilliant are they going to look?” comments one of the industry’s senior fashion editors. Moss’s friend Marc Quinn, the British sculptor, comments, “She’ll come out a more culturally complex figure.”
According to someone close to Moss, all the big talk shows in the U.K. and the U.S. have put in requests to interview her, but she has refused them all. Celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Naomi Campbell, and Robbie Williams have publicly come out in support of her. W magazine’s November issue appeared with Moss on the cover. The British papers have already started declaring a “comeback.”
Quinn recently did an ice sculpture of Moss which slowly melted. “Quite literally,” he says, “we consume her.” The title of the work is Beauty.
For years people everywhere-and not just in the fashion industry-have marveled at Kate Moss’s constitution. “The dangerous-Kate vibe has been part of her mystique, but she has done nothing to promote it,” says Shulman. She has occasionally talked about the loneliness and hardship of becoming one of the world’s top models while in her teens-and also about the remarkable feat of maintaining that position at an age when most of her contemporaries have long since faded.
Her story is now legend. Only 14 at the time, she was spotted at J.F.K. Airport, on her way back home to the London suburb of Croydon, by Sarah Doukas, the founder of the British modeling agency Storm. Gangly and tiny, she had, according to an unauthorized biography, Kate Moss: Model of Imperfection, just lost her virginity, while on vacation.
The daughter of a U.K. travel agent, Peter, and a housewife, Linda, Moss was repeatedly turned down by fashion editors because she was considered too short for the runway, and her skinny, schoolgirl looks seemed absurdly out of place in a world dominated by the Amazonian curves of Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista. “I remember seeing her come into the offices of British Vogue,” says Vanity Fair contributing stylist Sarajane Hoare. “She had this amazing face, but her body just wasn’t what we were into in the late 80s.”
Undeterred, Moss came to America with Sorrenti and met Fabien Baron, who knew that Calvin Klein was looking for someone resembling the diminutive French model and singer Vanessa Paradis, who had just turned him down for an advertising campaign. “And then I brought him Kate Moss,” Baron says. (Ironically, Moss would, in the mid-90s, start seeing Johnny Depp, who would later become Paradis’s longtime partner.) Klein took one look and decided to hire Moss on the spot. His images of the child-woman became fashion legend, introducing the controversial look known as “heroin chic.”
“She became the iconic model for grunge,” says Hoare. And she stayed that way, this year becoming the first-ever model to be on British Vogue’s cover 10 times. That magazine’s September issue, with her on the cover, was its best-selling issue in five years. It remains to be seen how much money Moss, who reportedly makes between $5 million and $9 million a year and whose net worth has recently been estimated at $55 million, will lose from the scandal. The H&M contract, reported to be for $1.7 million, and the Burberry contract, worth about $700,000 annually, were both terminated, while Chanel opted simply to let its $1.3 million contract with Moss expire in October. The canceled H. Stern ad campaign was said to pay about $180,000. Impossible to determine is how the scandal will affect Moss’s future income.
Moss’s staying power was attributed to both her distinctiveness and her original personal style. Columns everywhere were devoted to her skinniness and hollow look. Was she anorexic? Stylists and fashion photographers say emphatically not. Hoare recalls eating French fries with her at McDonald’s. Nick Knight, the English photographer, says that for lunch she eats fish-and-chips.
Also much commented on was Moss’s attraction to rock ‘n’ roll boys: Johnny Depp in his wild phase, when he’d trash hotel rooms; Jesse Wood, son of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie; the louche aristocrat Dan Macmillan; Antony Langdon of Spacehog; Jackass prankster Johnny Knoxville; to name just a few. It only added to her appeal as her wan face showed both resilience and vulnerability. “This is the world’s most beautiful woman,” said Nick Buckley, deputy news editor of the Sunday Mirror, to reporter Edward Helmore, for his story on Doherty in the July 2005 issue of Vanity Fair. She “likes to party hard. Yet she always manages to look like Snow White the next morning.”
At the turn of the millennium, she said she had spent much of the 90s drunk. “Most people did,” remembers photographer and Vanity Fair contributing editor Patrick McMullan. “That’s how we got through the shows.” He adds, “But I don’t remember Kate as being exceptionally wild-and certainly not in public.”
In 1998, Moss spent a period in rehab in London’s Priory clinic, supposedly for “exhaustion.” During her stay she accidentally set fire to her room when a meditation candle got too close to a scarf. “What did I learn in rehab?” she said later to a friend with a wink. It was 11 a.m. She’d just ordered two glasses of champagne-both for herself. “A lot about alcohol.”
Was she addicted, or was she just having fun? With Moss it was hard to know, particularly as she never let up on her furiously driven work ethic. “I do know if Kate says, ‘Come out tonight,’ or whatever, or ‘Meet here,’ or ‘Come out, I’m doing this … I’m doing that,’ I do know that I’m not going to be going home at 12 o’clock at night,” says Tracey Emin. “I do know that it’s going to be a good three or four o’clock in the morning. I do know there’s going to be a lot of dancing. I do know it’s going to be a lot of fun. I do know it’s going to be related to music. I know this.” Emin adds, however, that “I have never done a line of coke in my life, and there’s no need to in her presence.”
In recent years Moss has shown signs of maturing, choosing as the father of her child not one of the wilder men she dated but Jefferson Hack, the editorial director of the British magazine Dazed & Confused. He is reputed to be a stable, clever man-“a sort of academic,” according to Emin, and he is universally described as “nice.”
Even though Moss and Hack dated for several years, it was not a relationship destined to last. “He fell in love with her, and I think he (thought) the habits of that person will change … and I don’t think that’s what she’s about,” says someone who knows the couple. This person says Hack is more likely to settle down to watch TV with Lila Grace while Moss is getting ready to go out partying. “It was clearly doomed,” the person says.
Bella Freud (the daughter of the artist Lucian, who painted Moss’s portrait in 2002) says Moss has a voracious appetite for life. “She really does pay attention to art… She’s really interested in everything. She somehow amazingly just doesn’t miss stuff. Being her, people will invite her to check things out, so you’ll find that she’s actually seen all these amazing performances of some incredible ballet… I think, God, how the hell did she think of doing that, but then, she’s really clever in checking things out.” Freud adds that her 83-year-old father hit it off famously with Moss, “largely because of Kate’s intelligence and the fact that she’s not afraid to say exactly what she thinks.”
Moss’s range of acquaintances is far broader than one might imagine. Last year she went with artist Sam Taylor-Wood to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, who was greeting Britain’s “women of achievement.” “She is always pitch-perfect in these things,” recalls Taylor-Wood. “She wore a kind of vintage royal-blue dress. I think it was the same color as the Queen’s… She pushed me in first. I felt a sharp hand in my back as I was thrust forward by her.”
At the christening Moss held two years ago for Lila Grace in the countryside, with around 50 guests, “she had on something like a pale-yellow or white kind of 50s-style dress, you know, with a strapless bodice and then a chiffon skirt, like to just below the knee … like a real lady dress,” remembers Freud, who marvels that Moss looked so “fresh” one afternoon soon after she had given birth to Lila Grace.
Once again, however, the image belied the reality. Although Moss is not the type to pound a treadmill, according to Hoare, she was forced to work to regain her figure following the birth of Lila Grace, ultimately accompanying Hong Kong businessman David Tang and his wife, Lucy, to Thailand, where they worked out and ate healthily. “We had a really great time,” says Tang, who notes that Moss “has a great sense of style-if she goes into a room she doesn’t like, she’ll change the furniture around or drape fabric over a lamp.” Lucy Tang adds, “She certainly wasn’t doing drugs then.”
Tracey Emin recalls a peaceful time spent recently with Moss and her daughter in Italy. “She sat there reading the novel Poor Cow, by Nell Dunn-about a woman who falls in love with a young criminal while her husband is in jail. I jokingly said to her, ‘I’m not sure I agree with your choice of reading.'”
Photographers and stylists say that working with Moss is a pleasure. Some swear she is on time; others say that she isn’t. “But you forgive her for being hours late,” says one, “because when she’s in front of a camera she gives it her all.” In fact, many say she often ends up subtly directing the shoot. “She’ll say, ‘Why don’t I wear this silver belt, because it’s just so cool’-and usually she’s right… It’s not that the clothes dominate her. She dominates the clothes,” says Hoare.
One of the secrets of Moss’s success is that fashion editors are awed by her personal style-an effortless mix of punk with classic or retro or avant-garde; it’s always unexpected and always looks completely unforced. This year the Council of Fashion Designers of America (C.F.D.A.) gave her an award for fashion influence. The only flaw in the evening was that when Moss got to the podium to accept the award she was so wasted, according to one designer, she could barely say “C.F.D.A.” To some of her friends, this was one more sign that the previous year had finally taken Moss over the edge.
In fall 2004, Moss sat in the corner of a room, following a photo shoot. “I just can’t handle it all,” she confided to people there, people she has known for years. “I don’t know whether I can manage to keep it all going.” She added that she felt terribly alone: not, of course, in the physical sense, since Kate Moss is seldom literally alone-whatever town she is in, there are always photographers, friends to call up, and handlers to manage her.
But continually re-inventing herself to keep her career on track was tough, and there was now her daughter. Friends were concerned for her. Tracey Emin puts it bluntly: “Kate was holding every bloody thing together until that stupid film came out, until the Daily Mirror showed those photos. Kate is fantastic. She not only has a fantastic career-and it’s really professional what she does-she also has fantastic business acumen. She’s also really, really a bloody good mother… Kate is hands-on… She had one mad, lovely party, on her birthday, and, of course, that gets all in the press. You’re allowed to have a birthday party. It’s ridiculous.”
The party Emin is referring to occurred in January 2004, beginning at Sam Taylor-Wood’s house, in Central London, and finishing at Claridge’s hotel the next morning. It was themed “The Beautiful and the Damned,” after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel, a fictional version of his and his wife Zelda’s decadent life. In the wake of the Daily Mirror’s photographs this September, reports emerged chronicling orgiastic sex taking place in one of the Claridge’s suites. Yet, Emin, who attended the party, says she saw no orgy.
It is possible that other people had an entirely different experience-a reflection of Moss’s complex personality. “Kate is an overtly sexual person,” says a journalist who has interviewed her. “She used to have one pair of shoes with spikes at the back that she called her sex boots-because she said she wore them when she had sex.”
Moss herself has been portrayed in the British newspapers and by some acquaintances as quite the libertine. Tabloid reports of a threesome with Jude Law and Sadie Frost drove another wedge between Law and his ex-fiancee, actress Sienna Miller, the allegation coming after Miller had learned Law cheated on her with their nanny, Daisy Wright.
The bad-girl reputation was enhanced when Moss met and was drawn to Britain’s most notorious rock ‘n’ roll bad boy, Pete Doherty, who had co-headed a band known as the Libertines. Following two months in prison for stealing from a bandmate, and after a second Libertines album, he formed the group known as Babyshambles. Its forthcoming album is reportedly to be produced by Mick Jones. Doherty has a notoriously out-of-control lifestyle, but, as a former choirboy who, according to a friend, got into Oxford, he professes to be inspired by the mysticism of Blake.
To Moss, he was irresistible. “She thought he was like Byron or something,” says an acquaintance of hers. Mostly, though, some friends saw very quickly that the relationship spelled trouble for Moss. Even loyal Mario Sorrenti says, “Maybe that is not the best relationship that she has ever been in.” Jefferson Hack’s parents told the Daily Mail that when they first heard about the relationship they thought it so incredible it must be a joke. Sam Taylor-Wood, on the other hand, says that Doherty, in person, is not like his public image. “He’s much taller than you imagine, and he has buckets of charisma,” she says. “She was probably attracted to that, because she’s not a dumb model.”
The relationship with Doherty was obvious fodder for the British tabloids-in particular The Sun and the Daily Mirror, which ran photograph after photograph of the couple, making them seem like the modern incarnation of rockers Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen or Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg. Doherty’s hangers-on would, according to one person, alert the photographers when the couple was likely to show up-in particular at the Boogaloo, a pub in North London-and get paid handsomely for their efforts.
Moss, who is used to the attention, took it in stride. According to Gerrard Tyrrell, she has always had a “pretty frank relationship with the Daily Mirror,” particularly when it was run by Piers Morgan, who was fired when he unwittingly printed fake photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.
In January-against the advice of David Tang, who told her not to bother-she sued the Sunday Mirror, which printed allegations that she had passed out on cocaine. Tyrrell says that Moss was actually with Nelson Mandela at the time she was supposed to be lying in a drug-induced stupor-and that there were many witnesses to prove it.
Who did shoot the infamous video? Moss’s legal team would surely like to find out. James Mullord, Doherty’s former manager, says he became a suspect after he was fired because he questioned Mick Jones’s production style. “I said, ‘Mick, clearly you like a very raw and natural production style, whereas your albums, as a member of the Clash, other than the first one, were nicely and relatively well produced and refined. How did you resolve that at the time?’ He (Jones) just looked at me and walked off and the next day said, ‘How the fuck do you dare question me? Who do you think you are?’ I said, ‘Mick, I’m just asking a question … ‘” (Jones did not respond to requests for comment.)
Mullord, who was in the recording studio that night, claims he was initially blamed by Doherty and Moss. He says he pointed out to Mick Jones’s wife, Miranda, that the video must have been shot by whomever Kate was talking to, because the camera is pointed directly at her face. According to the Evening Standard, the culprits may be two drug dealers who came to the studio that night.
Sources close to Moss’s legal team say they are still working on discovering who provided the Daily Mirror with the stills, and the figure-rumored to be anywhere from $80,000 to upwards of $1 million-paid for them. Tyrrell says he heard that the newspaper paid $306,319, whereas the Daily Mirror has said the figure is $87,000. One thing that interests the legal team is that, had the pictures been open to bidders, then the News of the World, the Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, would probably have outbid everyone else. But a source at the News of the World says they were never offered them.
Which raises the question: Was there some kind of setup? The Daily Mirror has denied that it had a vendetta against Moss and was trying to nail her drug habit.
Moss, at the time of this writing, is mid-way through her stay at the Meadows clinic, where former celebrities such as Elle Macpherson (who says she was treated there for postpartum depression), British “It girl” Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, and others have found help. One of the program’s architects, Pia Mellody, is said to be an expert in dealing with co-dependency issues. Cell phones are forbidden, and communication with the outside world is limited; however, Jefferson Hack brought Lila Grace over to see her mother briefly before returning to England with their daughter. Some of Moss’s friends say some good might actually come out of the entire unfortunate incident. “She needed a break,” says Emin. “We all do-at times-need to stand back and look at our lives.”
Someone who saw Moss this summer was concerned she was out of control: “Her looks were starting to go… She was so out of it, although unlike most drug users, who tend to be consistent, Kate is unusual. She can be utterly charming when she wants, and one day she’d be charming and another day out of it.”
When Moss was at the Mercer hotel, her older friends, most of whom are married with children, gave her advice which they say she listened to with good grace. David Tang says he told her that “she shouldn’t worry too much about the business (because) you have to accept up and down, this is down… I also said to her, never lose your sense of humor. The moment you lose your sense of humor, you lose a sense of proportion.” He adds, “Kate is a very sensible girl.”
And David Lipman says he hugged her and said something to her that made her emotional: “Whatever you do, don’t ever weigh what I say or don’t think you owe anybody anything but yourself. When you make that decision, do me one favor-see Lila Grace in your eyes.”