Evening Standard - ES Magazine
“HAVE I ALWAYS BEEN TRUE TO MYSELF? NO. BUT I AM NOW”
You might well recognise Diet Coke’s new creative director. As Kate Moss unveils her next move, Ben Cobb heads over to her house to talk love, legacy and — much more importantly — how to tell when something is pas chic du tout
It’s a hot Wednesday afternoon and I’m sitting in Kate Moss’s living room at her west London home. I can hear her laugh coming from somewhere in the house. It’s a loud, raspy sound, forged from cigarettes and late nights, a cackling siren promising mischief and lots of fun. Framed prints of Warhol’s Diana Ross, a sepia samurai warrior and a young Bob Dylan mid-performance line the walls. There are books piled on every available surface: editions devoted to the photography of Bailey, Beaton and Tim Walker; fashion tomes on Dior and Saint Laurent, still in their shrink-wrap; and one curious title on the origins and practices of superstition. Huge chunks of Superman-like crystal fill the fire grate and, in the corner a pink vinyl of Elvis’s 40 Greatest rests on a turntable. Suddenly, a small pomchi skids round the corner, drops at my feet and offers up his stomach. I oblige.
‘That’s Stanley,’ says Kate with a big smile. ‘Awww, look at him, he loves his tummy rubbing. He’s my baby.’ Dressed in a denim mini-skirt and an old T-shirt, flip-flops on her feet, this is off-duty Kate: a million miles from the image that’s launched countless luxury brands and magazine covers, but no less striking. To write that, at 48 years old, Kate Moss looks incredible is, frankly, a waste of word count — but she does, so there, I just did. ‘Let’s go down to the kitchen,’ she says, tucking Stanley under her arm.
The purpose of today’s interview is to discuss her new appointment as creative director of Diet Coke. It’s been a decade since the brand, celebrating its 40th anniversary, last filled the role; fashion titans Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier have all previously held the position. ‘I was honoured to be asked because I’m not a designer,’ she says, lighting a cigarette, ‘but I’ve been in the industry for a long time.’ Thirty-two years and counting, to be precise.
The five ‘Diet Coke by Kate Moss’ cans she has designed are laid out on the white kitchen worktop in front of us, each inspired by one of her signature styles: camouflage, denim, lace and leopard, plus an exclusive glitter edition. What would Lagerfeld, the late, great Kaiser of couture, have to say about them? ‘He was very funny, his sense of humour was amazing,’ she says, ‘so whether he liked them or not, he’d tell me the truth, for sure.’ She found the whole process of creative direction easy because, she says with brilliant clarity, ‘I know what I like.’ What other traits helped her in the role? ‘I’m a perfectionist, definitely. A bit OCD,’ she admits, but draws the line at control freak. ‘No, I hope not. I don’t like that phrase. I’m not a control freak because you have to be open to other ideas. It’s always collaborative.’
At this point, it’s worth pointing out that a one-on-one with Kate Moss is a rare-as-hen’s-teeth event. Talking to a journalist is not her favourite way to spend an hour; she would rather let the images do the talking and stick to the old adage of ‘never complain, never explain’. I get it, but it’s a shame because she’s so easy to like and a natural storyteller. Yes, certain subjects are strictly off limits — her personal life,
“I AM NOW IN CHARGE OF MY CAREER. I’M ALLOWED TO HAVE AN OPINION”
relationships and that recent courtroom appearance — but her answers are reflective and honest, peppered with squeals of joy, and unrehearsed. She’s also a courteous host: during our chat, she keeps my glass of water filled with ice, running back to an American-sized fridge; it’s so packed with food (I also spy Diet Coke cans lined up inside) that she struggles to open the door. Is she a good cook? Kate gives a nonchalant shrug and says her signature dish is roast chicken.
Back to the topic du jour: ‘Diet Coke by Kate Moss’. As with most things she does, it soon became a family affair. The illustration of Kate’s face on all the cans is taken from a drawing her friend Tim Rockins created for her 40th birthday: ‘It was me in a top hat, he put it on a scarf as a present for my Rock’n’Roll Circus party.’ When it came time for the campaign shoot, she enrolled super stylist Katy England, who is part of her inner sanctum. For Kate, it’s about feeling protected on set, surrounded by people she trusts and having fun.
‘We were dancing around the dressing room, we had music, we had frankincense…’ What? Who brought that? ‘I did, of course.’ How times have changed. Kate didn’t think she had met the campaign’s photographer, Quentin Jones, before but, needless to say, she had. ‘It turns out I’d met her on a pontoon in Jamaica, she was pregnant then and I thought she was the most beautiful pregnant woman.’ It also transpired that Nikolai von Bismarck, Kate’s partner, is the godfather.
She opens the glass doors on to a small walled patio. Laying outside, Archie, a tired looking staffy-vizsla cross, blinks in the sunlight, trying to ignore young Stanley hopping around his heels. ‘Archie’s such a tolerant old boy,’ she says, reaching for a nearby ashtray. Glastonbury is just a few days away and she’s wondering if she should take the dogs with her — she’s staying somewhere off-site so it could work. She has lost count of how many times she’s been to the festival but she is excited to be returning and to see Paul McCartney’s headline performance. (In the end, Stanley and Archie do tag along and Kate is photographed backstage nestling into Bruce Springsteen’s chest.)
I tell her I’m off to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park at the weekend. ‘Major!’ she roars. Anita Pallenberg — Sixties it-girl, Stones muse and partner of Keith Richards — is her forever style icon. ‘We would shop together, she’d give me things and I’d give her things. She was just f***ing cool. The coolest. Her and Keith used to share trousers. There aren’t any trousers in her archive because they’re all in the Rolling Stones archive!’
Speaking of which, how did she tackle the herculean task of pulling clothes from her own archive for the Diet Coke shoot? Simple: she didn’t, she sent Katy England in. ‘It’s too much for me,’ she says, ‘I can’t go in there, it’s too overwhelming.’ Housed inside the ‘party barn’ at her Cotswolds home — ‘it’s a big barn,’ she stresses — it’s clearly no ordinary wardrobe situation. ‘There are just rails and rails of my clothes, years and years of outfits I’ve worn. Seeing the archive is like layers upon layers of memories of my life. It’s always emotional because everything has a memory.’ A team of assistants has now organised the entire collection into sections — little black dresses, evening gowns etc — with every piece itemised, photographed and numbered. Next, it’ll all be uploaded to a database.
Kate still claims not to be a hoarder. ‘I give away a lot of stuff to charity,’ she protests. ‘Once every couple of years I go through the exhausting experience of trying everything on and deciding if it’s for the archive, charity or current use. Or Lila: she gets whatever I think is never going to fit me again. I keep anything that has a memory.’
So what memory does the leopard coat she wears on our exclusive cover conjure? ‘That coat’s amazing,’ she says. ‘I have real leopard but I don’t agree with fur any more so that one is velvet. It used to belong to June Carter Cash. I got it at an auction. An ex-boyfriend of mine bought it for me. Not the ex-boyfriend. Another one.’ Which one? She chuckles but won’t give a name. ‘Wearing it brought back memories of my friend Annabelle [Neilson], who died. She used to wear it a lot. She looked great in it. She was fun, we always had fun together.’
Our conversation turns to style: how she thinks you’re born with it and you certainly can’t ever buy it; how she would describe her personal style as eclectic because she likes every decade, and how she doesn’t think it’s ever really changed over the years. ‘I’m still wearing exactly the same things I wore when I was 19,’ she says before suddenly stopping. ‘Actually, I don’t do a trainer any more because I feel like my feet don’t look right in them. I always used to but, as a woman, as a grown-up, as an adult I don’t really like trainers.’
She remembers all the amazing women in her life who have taught her about style. Women such as Candy Pratts Price, who used to work at Vogue and with the grand dame of sophistication, Diana Vreeland, taught Kate about proper things, chic things. ‘She used to say you should never have
a candle without the wick lit. It’s not chic. If you have a candle, never have a white wick. Pas chic du tout: not chic at all! I love that expression.’
‘I used to teach Lila when something is pas chic du tout,’ she continues. ‘We were once in France, in Saint-Tropez, and we were having breakfast at this lady’s house and it was
so chic. There were some condiments in sachets on the table and Lila pointed at them and said, “Mummy, pas chic du tout”. I was like, “Yes! She’s got it! She’s going to be alright!” She was only seven years old.’
Glancing down at my notes, I see ‘Love What You Love’, Diet Coke’s tagline, scrawled across the top of the page. What does that phrase mean to her?
‘Don’t be scared to love what you love. Whether it’s a man, woman, clothes — whatever you love, you should be able to say you love it. Just be true to yourself.’ Has she always been true to herself? Kate sits up straight: ‘No, but I am now.’
Six years ago, she decided to change the way she works and launched the Kate Moss Agency. More than a run-ofthe-mill model booker, it’s a talent agency managing the careers of a hand-picked roster of characters. Alongside Kate, on their books you’ll find Ella Richards (granddaughter of Keith Richards), Wolf Gillespie (son of Bobby Gillespie and Katy England), Vincent Rockins (son of Tim Rockins and Jess Morris) and her daughter, Lila, who is now 19 years old. Friends and family, yes — Kate is nothing if not ferociously loyal — but there was another motive behind the venture: she could finally be her own boss.
‘I’m now in charge of my career,’ she explains. ‘I’m allowed to have an opinion. It used to be that I didn’t know what we were shooting until I turned up on set. Now I know exactly what I’m doing when I turn up on the day. I know who’s doing hair and make-up, who I’m working with.’
So, this is Kate 2.0 — or is it 3.0? Either way, this is Kate in control and focused. ‘I’m not so stressed,’ she says. ‘I feel much more relaxed and freer.’ Watching her recently on TV at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee — waving at the crowds from the top of a red bus, dressed in her 1993 Union Jack coat by John Galliano, dancing with Patsy Kensit and Naomi Campbell — definitely felt like we were glimpsing a different Kate Moss or, at least, a version we haven’t seen for a while: the carefree, happy Croydon girl behind the multimillion-pound brand. For her part, though, it was a full-on fangirl moment.
‘It was a mad day,’ she says. ‘It was like, “Pinch me, am I dreaming?” It was really one of those. I kept looking around like, “Oh my God! This is insane!” Derek Jacobi. Jeremy Irons. Jilly Cooper — major! People that I’ve always wanted to meet. And then all of us holding hands and singing “God Save the Queen” to the Queen! It was really special.’ Here’s to the original and refreshed Kate the Great, long may she reign.
Diet Coke by Kate Moss ‘Love What You Love’ Limited Edition Collection in-store nationwide from 25 July