Trad may not be the first word that springs to mind when discussing the supermodel most synonymous with hedonism (despite her recent attempts to rebrand as a wellness guru). But consider the evidence. Strong rural ties? Moss has been a pillar of the Cotswolds for more than 20 years. Upwardly socially mobile? She has been a guest at various minor Euro-royal dos, including, in 2018, Princess Eugenie’s wedding. Interiors-wise, her homes tend to be straight out of the 1970s rockstar meets Victorian opulence playbook: hand-painted de Gournay wallpapers, clawfoot Victorian baths and chandeliers.
It’s in her sartorial footprint that her taste for the timeless is most obvious, however. Consistency has been key. Apart from the four years she was with Johnny Depp and under exclusive contract to Calvin Klein, barely a month passes without her appearing in a version of the following: skinny jeans, black tuxedo, tight waistcoat, leopard print, floaty dress and, when she’s Country Kate, a khaki or Barbour style jacket… ”Black and grey,” her daughter, Lila Moss, told Vogue last year, summing up her mother’s palette, conceding that she often raids Moss’s wardrobe. “My mum’s advice is mostly less is more, I think, make-up wise, outfit wise.”
In return, Moss listens to her daughter. “‘Mummy, you have to wear sunscreen,’ Lila tells me all the time,” Moss says. (Key takeouts here: Lila calls Moss “mummy”, sounds like Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton and clearly adores her mother. Digression over.) “Lila probably has more of a skin routine than I do,” sighs Moss, speaking for many mothers with Gen Z daughters.
Anyone can look dodgy in the wrong light - and every so often someone on the internet duly shares some photos of Moss, looking “unrecognisable”. I saw her close up at the hairdressers last year, and frankly, it’s consternating how unravaged she looks given her famously nocturnal lifestyle. Experts speculate what work she may have had done. The natural lobby would probably prefer it if Moss, who always seemed breathtakingly careless of her own beauty, had done nothing. But while many of us loved that Moss partied on for decades so we didn’t have to, can we really ask her to do it without any back-up?
Besides, if the angles of her face seem subtly realigned, so much else is reassuringly status quo, and, despite her weakness for a musical anti-hero, I don’t mean the heavy metal band. Her hair - a big milestone marker for so many men and women - has been the same bracing shade of egg nog (courtesy of Nicola Clarke at John Frieda) for years.
Briefly there was a fringe. Occasionally there’s some Bardot-esque backcombing, but essentially it’s the same tousled, centre-parted hair it has been for almost a quarter of a century. These days she fluffs it out with Sam McKnight’s much-loved Cool Girl hairspray, which apparently he created with her in mind, “because my hair always looked a bit shabby”. Footnote, after Moss first appeared with shabby hair in the Nineties, everyone wanted it. Same with everything she’s ever worn. That’s why she’s worth an estimated £60 million.
Aged 15 and modelling for The Face (“they were the only magazine that would work with me”), Moss wore almost no make-up, vintage punk Vivienne Westwood T-shirts and bias-cut skirts with trainers – this was back when mixing sports accessories with tailoring still seemed daring. Sometimes there’d be a slash of red lipstick, “which was always perfect,” recalled hairdresser James Brown, her friend from the Croydon days, in 2012. In 2024, it’s two different shades of concealer, mascara, bronzer and eyebrow pencil for day, more at night. When in doubt she pops on a pair of oversized sunglasses.
From the get-go, Moss understood the power of yin and yang. The period with Depp in Hollywood in the Nineties was what you might call the deluxe minimalism years – strapless fathered black column dress, and memorably, in 1997, at the Cannes film festival, a grey sheath dress from Narciso Rodriguez, designer of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s 1996 wedding dress.
On others it could all have looked icy, but Moss, braless and nearly always giving off unmistakable vibes of having recently been in bed, was too carnal for that. Understanding who she was, and playing partly to type, partly against it, is key to why she has intrigued artists and writers, remaining one of the biggest influences on the fashion world for a quarter of a century. She’s the eternal contradiction.
Once she reached the end of her Calvin Klein contract, the wider fashion world deluged her with gifts. Aged around 23, she was on the same flight to Milan as me in a velvet Dolce & Gabbana duster coat, backless silk Manolo kitten heels and a denim and leather trimmed Birkin. I’ve always remembered it because implausibly, on her, those bourgeois trinkets looked like the freshest, coolest day wear ever. Even the tamest brands snuggled up with her. Moss’s insouciant polish gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to some of the 20th century’s most overworked tropes, including Siouxsie Sioux drainpipes, Audrey Hepburn ballet pumps and Hunter wellies.
Even she knew, on some level, that her brittle, fragile, shades-of Scott Fitzgerald glamour was in part down to her increasing notoriety as a “party” girl. The theme of her (allegedly) debauched 30th birthday party at Claridge’s was “The Beautiful and The Damned”. The darker things seemed to get in her personal life, the harder fashion found it to look away. If it could buy into some of the danger Moss gave off at relatively little risk to itself, then it was in, until in 2005 pictures of Moss daintily dishing up what looked remarkably like cocaine to some friends appeared across the globe. One by one, the brands exited stage left and right.
As that career nightmare gradually receded and Moss waved off Pete Doherty, her early 21st century grunge glam morphed into something more grown up, but just as naughty. Borrowing elements from Marianne Faithfull’s and Anita Pallenberg’s leggy, 1970s rock chick playbook gave her so much scope – from micro lengths, wispy blouses, broad-brimmed hats to soft floaty maxis – that between 2007 and 2015 she would be able to excavate 16 collections for Topshop out of it.
She’s still mining it today, regularly tweaking it to keep it modern. “You can think twinset but you must never wear twinset,” she told James Fox in 2012 in a rare interview for Vanity Fair, the translation of which I’d suggest, is, never give in to dull.
Inevitably, it gets harder to carry off what worked for you decades ago. But whether or not you totally buy into Moss’s new clean living doesn’t matter. You don’t have to like the specifics of her style either. The magic of Moss is that she’s always managed to express exactly what she wanted through style. That’s something many of us take decades to achieve.