Let us be clear what this is not about. It is not about photographs of Kate Moss with cellulite on her thighs, some of which have appeared in British tabloids in recent weeks. Nor is it about the impact of her lifestyle and alleged drug-taking on the condition of her skin (what are a few spots when you've got a face like that?), or her taste in men — all of which have emerged as familiar themes of the past few months.
This is about a fall of a different kind — about style, pure and simple. For the past 15 years, Moss has had only to step outside her front door for a new fashion trend to be launched. Now she appears to be losing her extraordinary sense of style, and there is a succession of outfits that arguably proves it.
In fashion terms, ever since the first photographs of her by Corinne Day appeared in the Face in 1990, Moss has been unassailable.
Her outfits have shown an impressive fashion intelligence at work, her choice of clothes always educated as well as intuitive. When, for example, she wore a rippling yellow vintage dress to a party in New York three years ago, it was “a statement moment, the beginning of a more feminine silhouette,” according to Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour magazine. But Moss also got people talking about the long-forgotten Jean Desses, the couturier thought to have created that dress; it was the fashion equivalent of name-dropping a great author no one else has read.
Look at the photograph again now, and the outfit seems a no-brainer — what could be easier to assemble than dress plus shoes and bag? It seems hard to imagine after three summers in which the frock has dominated, but that easy yellow belter helped to spur the return of the dress to the high street. At the time, the catwalks were full of separates, Marc Jacobs was showing miniskirts with primary-colored tights, bootlegs and 1980s sweatshirts were outselling all else at Topshop.
Moss's ability to hold our attention with an image has always been partly about her looking fantastic in that moment, and partly about the fact that she is usually one step ahead of the next. “She has that supreme confidence,” says Elvin. “Where we would open our wardrobes and shy away from something that looks a bit weird, she goes for it. One of the reasons she is so admired is that she always does something experimental, and I think she hates the idea of anyone else dressing her.” Moss has never had a stylist.
Even when she famously arrived at a party in London in 1993 in a sheer silver dress, accessorizing it with a cigarette in her right hand, a bottle in her left, and with a pair each of knickers and nipples shimmering through the cloth, it was the shape of those pants that held the eye: a low-rise of impeccable cut and incongruous modesty. She has a great eye for line, a keenness for surprise.
Contrast all this with Moss's current public image. Two years ago it would have been impossible to suggest there was anything as monolithic as a Kate Moss look. This summer not only has there been one, but it has not shown much progress from last summer's. Examine the evidence and one image occurs more than most: Moss at a festival, long legs bolted at either end into a pair of raggy denim hotpants and a peculiar, loosely collared set of ankle boots, an outfit that had its genesis at Glastonbury last year (and, as we all know, a year is even longer in fashion than it is in politics).