photo by Peter Lindbergh
KATE MOSS MUSES ON 20 YEARS AT THE TOP
As she prepares for her 2011 retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Kate Moss muses on her 20-plus-year career — and all its photographic highlights — at the top of the fashion world.
Miss Kate Moss, one of the world's most super supermodels, has been a model for about 62 percent of her life, almost all of that time being one of the very top supermodels in the world. And yet she has chosen not to pursue a career as a film star, a rock star, or the first lady of a nation. She has generally avoided talk shows and magazine interviews and scrupulously avoided writing an autobiography or going to jail.
And on top of all that, Kate is now much more than a supermodel, much more than an industry; she is now also a museum show. In the spring of 2011, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will stage a major exhibition on Kate, almost as if she were Toulouse-Lautrec or Madame Vionnet. It seems quite unprecedented, as if this girl who was once decried for perpetrating a wave of waifdom on the world, who literally lowered the bar for models (to about five foot seven), were herself a fine artist.
On the occasion of this elevation to museum piece, it did make some sense to this particular reporter, who has known Kate for about 50 percent of her life, since working with her to sell Calvin Klein underwear to the masses, to call her up and ask her about this extraordinary turn of events. As background, it's now easy to say that I spotted something special in her even back then, when she was 18, but it's absolutely true. She wasn't your typical 18-year-old; she had the veneer of an old soul and a sense of humor to match. Over the years, it wasn't hard to notice that her own personal style seemed to transform, or at least epitomize, an entire generation. And it was much more than her style, it was the attitude and spirit that drove that style. And although she was an apparent misfit, literally, she proved to be the consummate professional.
But career longevity is not the reason there is a Kate Moss museum show. The reason is that she is the model of the age. She is a new Dovima, but also a new Dora Maar. She is the Jean Shrimpton of a generation, but also its Elizabeth Siddal. She is the subject of an extraordinary body of work, as she has created extraordinary images with Peter Lindbergh, Mario Sorrenti, Juergen Teller, Steven Klein, Mario Testino, Corinne Day, Chuck Close, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, and Richard Prince. Today, when a woman is called a muse, she is as often as not a socialite or model who's the BFF of a major fashion designer. Kate has undoubtedly inspired fashion designers, but she has played the role of muse in the more traditional sense. She channels spirits for them and conjures states of mind and mood that take the viewer somewhere special. So if any model deserves a museum show, it's Kate.
Kate doesn't like to do interviews. And that actually makes me more interested in talking to her on the record. I want the chitchat behind the story. I want to know how she decided what to put on this morning or if she knows any interesting kids' stores or where you can get something good to eat in Milan. So I called her. She was in the country, in her kitchen, fending off seven-year-old Lila, who was dressing for ballet practice.
Glenn: Hi, Kate. What are you up to?
Kate: Well, Michael Clark, the famous ballerina, is lying here on my kitchen floor doing stretching. It's just amazing. Oh, you should see the moves he's giving me now.
Glenn: No, that's not what the public wants to know!
Kate: Really? Michael just did a performance at the Barbican. It was sold out.
Glenn: But the public wants to know about you.
Kate: It should want to know about Michael. He's amazing.
Glenn: This is the fashion public. Just tell me about how this museum show will play out, just steps away from the Louvre, the Mona Lisa.
Kate: They asked me ... oh, my daughter, Lila, has on one Prada shoe and one ballet shoe.
Glenn: Tell me about the museum show. They asked you to do this show, and then what?
Kate: I didn't believe it.
Glenn: Did they have to talk you into it?
Kate: No, I just didn't believe it. And they said, "Well, we want to do a show that's all about you." Then finally I said, "Okay, well, I want to know all the details. I want creative input. I want to be consulted. I want to know what they're doing and who's involved. And I want to see the space." So they took me to see it, and then I realized it was major! All these red flags on the Rue de Rivoli with my name on them right by the Louvre!
Glenn: That's fantastic.
Kate: I met this man the other night, this distinguished-looking older gentleman, and he came up and told me that I looked familiar. "Hello, I think I must know you," he said. "You look familiar." Then he said, "Oh, God, I've been researching you for the last week." It was Norman Rosenthal.
Glenn: Oh, he was the head of exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in London for many years.
Kate: I think he's written something about me. I hope it's good.
Glenn: Well, so have I, for the catalog. It's called "The Meaning of Kate Moss."
Glenn: I wrote about how your eyes are looking in two different directions. It has an interesting scientific name.
Kate: Is there? Oh, I have a syndrome? How marvelous!
Glenn: Yes, strabismus. Supposedly Marilyn Monroe had it. And Brigitte Bardot. It has interesting implications.
Kate: What kind of implications?
Glenn: Well, you have a different field of vision. Almost like a grasshopper can see what's going on behind it. You have a different angle. A unique field with a wandering eye.
Kate: I've heard JFK had a wandering eye. Yeah, it is almost like that. Anyway, where were we? I'm in touch with the museum, and they've told me what photographers and artists are involved, but they didn't go into the writing. I wish I'd known you'd written something. But I don't want that kind of control. It's quite a big job being in charge of the pictures. I'm glad they chose you.
Kate: I didn't get paid.
Glenn: Well, you'll reap enormous rewards from this.
Kate: Do you think?
Glenn:Sure. A museum show for a muse. Now you can endorse art and stuff.
Kate: I already do, though, don't I? Damien's done a painting. And I went to see Jay [Jopling of London's White Cube gallery], and he said there are so many things that artists have done that you haven't seen. There are all kinds of things no one has seen. It's a bit scary.
Glenn: How's your fashion-designer career going?
Kate: Um ... I'm not really a fashion designer. I just love clothes. I've never been to design school. I can't sketch. I can't cut patterns and things. I can shorten things. I can make a dress out of a scarf.
Glenn: Well, that's what lots of famous designers do. They find great old clothes in stores and copy them. Most designers today are really stylists. How many do you think can really sketch?
Kate: Lee [Alexander] McQueen doesn't do that! [John] Galliano doesn't do that! There are lots of them who don't. Stella [McCartney] is a proper designer!
Glenn: So tell me, how was the [Bazaar] shoot?
Kate: Well, it was with Peter [Lindbergh], and it was so much fun. He was absolutely hilarious. Peter is old-school. There aren't many around like him anymore who really know how to take pictures. There's him and Patrick [Demarchelier]. He really knows, and he makes it look so easy. I've known him since I was 18 and worked with him for Bazaar.He's into older women, and as I get older, it gets better. He's not into little girls. Now that I'm older, we really talk and hang out. It's great to catch up, to grow up and be able to talk to people who used to see you as a little kid. Now I really appreciate how Peter works.
Glenn: You were always a good listener.
Kate: I'm a sponge, actually.
Glenn: Yeah, but not like SpongeBob. You're not a square.
Kate: Oh, thank you! Thank you for understanding me.