Business model | South China Morning Post
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Business model

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 April, 2011, 12:00am

Hongkongers love celebrities and over the years the city has welcomed big names including the likes of actress Angelina Jolie and fashion icons Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani. But when fashionistas got wind that supermodel Kate Moss would be attending the Longchamp store opening recently, it created a frenzy.

Tai-tais ditched their fashionably late habit and lined up a few hours earlier - along with the paparazzi. In the end more than 1,000 people (mostly women) crammed into the store only to catch a brief glimpse of the supermodel darting in and out of a VIP room in her vintage Norma Kamali cheongsam.

Moss may be the closest thing to royalty in the fashion world, so being granted an audience with her is as rare as having tea with the queen of England. But although she usually shuns the media, she gave a handful of interviews about her collaboration with Longchamp.

Beforehand, journalists were sent a list of caveats including a ban on personal questions. That meant that interesting topics were out, such as her impending wedding to the Kills guitarist Jamie Hince.

Let's get the most important thing out of the way - her clothes. As she walks into the suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, she looks elegant and grown up in a long sleeved black shift dress with opaque tights and pumps. It's obvious Moss is nervous. Sitting in one corner of a large green sofa, she's constantly fiddling with her vintage 1920s engagement ring. When asked about it, her eyes widen, all traces of mature Kate vanishing in an instant.

'I am very happy. I am going to be a married woman,' she says with a grin. Suddenly anxious about addressing a topic on the taboo list, she moves on to her collaboration with Longchamp.

Moss was brought on to star in the brand's advertising campaigns in 2005 before approaching them last year with the idea to design her own line of handbags. Together with creative director Sophie Delafontaine, she designed two seasonal collections based on styles she would want to wear. In just three seasons, the line has become a great success, thanks in part to Moss' huge fan base.

'It's bags that I like, that I would want really. I can't really design for other people, so I design what I want to have in my dream world. If I could have any handbag, what would it be...' she says in her broad south London accent.

'I worked with [Longchamp] for a long time as a model and we always got on. It was a good energy really. I wasn't scared because they were nice people. I like the family aspect of it - I met the parents and know the brothers and sisters. I feel comfortable in that type of environment, I suppose. It is a business but it doesn't just feel like one. It's more of a creative thing really, so it works well. It's about a relationship that has developed over time. I wouldn't have done it with someone I didn't know.'

Moss cites Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithful among her personal style icons and it was Moss' inimitable sense of style that inspired Delafontaine to take her on as a co-collaborator.

'She is an international face and every young girl in the world knows Kate Moss. She is the one who really has her own style. It's exceptional for a model. It was the right time for the company; we wanted to give Longchamp a global view and add the fashion element. Kate was the only one who could say it all.

'The collaboration is great because she is really involved in the project. It's not about just taking a name. We see each other every month to shoot or discuss the collection. It's not what she wears but how she mixes things that is interesting. That's what I have learned from her, to take more risks in mixing things,' says Delafontaine.

Taking risks is something that Moss has done throughout her career. At the time when models were sexy and curvy she shocked everyone with her waif look; when she was caught taking cocaine in 2005 she bounced back with more contracts than ever; she recently took to the Parisian catwalks smoking a cigarette with not a care in the world; time and time again, she is still the most wanted and photographed face in fashion. So what is the secret to her success?

'Patience,' she says wryly. 'You have to be really patient. My friend who's a model always says to me, 'I don't know how you can sit in the make-up chair all day.' I added it up for a laugh and the total amount I've spent in hair and make-up has been six years. You've got to be really patient for that.'

Many fashion editors would say that it's her ability to know what's cool that keeps people wanting more. It also doesn't hurt that the camera loves her. Sitting in front of me she looks like any pretty girl, but put her in front of a camera and she easily transforms into a convincing Oriental beauty or androgynous tough girl locking lips with another model, as seen on a recent cover of Love magazine. The only lenses she steers clear of belong to paparazzi.

'It's changed me ... I am paranoid. Paparazzi are a nightmare,' she says, getting uncomfortable again. 'I don't think you ever get used to some man hiding in a bush. It's so unnerving to be watched all the time, but hey ho. They are always there.'

On the less controversial topic of style, Moss finds it difficult to sum up her look. She seems flummoxed when asked about her must-have wardrobe staples.

'Bags, accessories, jewellery, blazer - clothes, I don't know. I am not really a one-kind-of-look girl. I like to change things up ... I don't think I am easy chic, necessarily, just easy sometimes,' she says, fidgeting with her ring again.

Although her agent has requested that we refrain from asking questions about her future as a designer, it's clearly a role that she enjoys. While her contract with Longchamp has no end date, her own line for mass chain TopShop has come to an end after 14 collections. This has led to speculation she may launch her own fashion brand. While she remains mum on the topic, she does have interest in one area in particular.

'I would love to extend into childrenswear. That's what my daughter wants me to do. She's always like, 'Mummy please, design me some clothes.' She's got better style. She just throws it on and it always looks really good. I've copied things of hers,' she says.

'I am just going along with the flow, really. I am still modelling a lot, and I am trying to do it all. I am kind of mixing it up. I don't want to get bored. The dream at this moment is this line - there's a lot going on. It's the bags; then I've got perfume, make-up. It's not too much that I have to be in the office. I haven't got a plan; I take it as it comes.'

Kate's carry aways

Favourites from the Longchamp spring-summer 2011 collection

Leather weave tote

'The weave bag is a classic that I have every summer so I wanted one that was leather and more luxurious.'

Canvas bag

'Canvas is always a bit rough. I love the material but it's never done in a chic way. So I created a chic canvas bag, rather than a hippie one.'

Her most expensive purchase

'I was about 18 and I bought a denim birkin from Hermes. It was cool and it was the only one. My initials are at the bottom of it. That was my bag moment. Before that I was like, 'Whatever, I don't care,' but this was a proper handbag.'

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