What Makes a Muse? – Beautifaire

What Makes a Muse? – Beautifaire

Unpacking the enduring great thing about Kate Moss

She’s a woman giggling on a beach wearing a feathered headdress, sharing a candid moment with photographer Corinne Day. She’s a young woman standing casually in a black tank top and knickers for Calvin Klein, head tilted, gazing forcefully down the legendary lens of Herb Ritts. She’s a butch biker girl snogging Lea T on the quilt of LOVE magazine, shot in solarised black and white by Mert & Marcus. She’s a celebration animal, hanging from a top-floor window with a fag in her mouth; an English rose in an ethereal, beaded chiffon John Galliano wedding dress, surrounded by bridesmaids within the Cotswolds countryside. And yet, whether it’s a grainy paparazzi shot from muddy Glastonbury or a high fashion shoot plastered across a Times Square billboard, it’s unmistakably Kate Moss.

She has a face so recognisable, so completely ubiquitous, that it takes serious pause to think about what lends it a singular magic. If anything, what defines her is an indefinability, transforming from innocent ingenue to coquettish sex kitten to imperious madam within the blink of a (kohl-rimmed) eyelid. In any given interview with photographers or stylists which have worked with Moss for many years, they are saying it’s this versatility that makes her so unique. Where beauty norms have shifted and mutated, Moss’ appeal has never faded – irrespective of how repeatedly they shoot her, what number of outfits they put her in, the image looks and feels latest, special.

“Essentially the most curious fact about Kate Moss is her endurance,” says Dr Ashley Mears, an associate professor of sociology at Boston University and a number one critic of the warped power structures that steer the modelling industry. “She’s managed to remain trendy in a world that’s by definition predicated on change. This may be partly attributed to her strategic alliances with the proper brands and collaborations and friends – she’s on the centre of a highly desirable network of high profile creatives.” As Mears notes, it’s not only her looks which have secured her legacy: it’s her character, social circle and lifestyle, that are, paradoxically, facets of her identity she has aimed for a lot of many years to hide from the general public eye.

It seems surprising looking back that she never publicly challenged the wild child image built up by tabloid media, even when it’s consistent with her famous mantra: never complain, never explain. Moss has weathered the storm of gutter press mudslinging by – within the words of one other public figure along with her fair proportion of scandals – excluding herself from the narrative. Where many celebrities would have responded with a tell-all book or a weepy Oprah interview, Moss maintained a dignified silence. Because the late A.A. Gill wrote in a 2006 piece on Moss for Vanity Fair, ‘by instinct or design, she’s understood a lesson from our clamorous, cheap-talking, opinion-clogged age – that less is more.’

Dr Joanne Entwistle, a reader in culture and inventive industries at King’s College London specialising within the sociology of fashion, agrees that it’s Moss’ unique position inside this vector of beauty and charisma that has guaranteed her longevity. “It goes without saying that Kate Moss is incredibly beautiful, nevertheless it’s also true that whenever you step inside any model agency you’ll see dozens of gorgeous girls, most of whom won’t ever go onto develop into household names. Today’s models don’t develop into successful solely by being icons as with the old Hollywood icons of beauty like Ava Gardner or Rita Hayworth, who were more stylised and distant. Celebrity beauty works in another way now. The appeal of Kate Moss is partly to do with looking like someone you would have amusing with – someone to party with.”

As Entwistle observes, Moss’ iconic status is built on a foundation of ordinariness: the girl from Croydon done good, the jet-setting model who enjoys an evening on the tiles in central London as much as the remainder of us. It’s a cultish obsession along with her private life that led previous British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman to place her on the quilt 32 times, with every Moss-covered issue leading to bumper sales. “The meanings attributed to Kate Moss are very powerful and, by this point, iconic,” adds Mears. “She invokes cool in every little thing she does. Even her mishaps are understood as cool.”

And yet, there’s something in that face, in Moss’ indescribable allure, that appeals to a customer with zero knowledge of her private life. Artists from Marc Quinn to Peter Blake have immortalised her as a paradigm of female beauty: is there a scientific model of physical attractiveness that might explain this? “If you happen to take a look at the canon of Western beauty for the last 200 years, she sits inside it: white, thin, blonde, young,” explains Mears. “She is described as waifish – that’s, she was shorter than most models within the 90s – but in point of fact, it’s a small difference.” Entwistle agrees: “A scientific approach to beauty would say it’s all about symmetry and proportion, but I find that reductive. All models do have symmetry and proportion, but not all symmetrical faces are beautiful. It’s about other qualities which might be ineffable or harder to define.”

Dr Elizabeth Wissinger, a professor of fashion studies and sociology on the City University of Latest York, has a broader theory for what makes Moss’ beauty so particular: that she burst on the scene at a time of profound change. “She got here to the fore just for the time being the style industry, and modelling world inside it, shifted radically,” says Wissinger. “Baubled and emblazoned fashions gave approach to flannel tied shirts and armed forces boots. Moss’s almost ethereal appeal was higher suited to the scaled back feel of fashion within the early Nineties, and hers became the enduring look that got here to reign supreme. She was the antithesis of the reigning crop of Amazonian supermodels with legs for miles, hair out to here, and boobs to match.”

While Moss does share lots of the fundamental physical attributes outlined by Mears – “white, thin, blonde, young” – throughout the narrow parameters of what constituted beauty until the increasing diversity of high fashion previously few years, her beauty was in a roundabout way radical. The fragile features, the make-up free, grungy insouciance and the fragile proportions of her body were a world away from the imperious high glamour of the generation that preceded her. The closer you look, the more you recognise the weird configuration of her face: the raised cheekbones, the skinny, piercing eyes, small nose, wide jaw and toothy smile.

Take the assorted representations of Kate Moss by contemporary artists. In Marc Quinn’s sculpture series, Sphinx, she becomes strangely hard, almost simian. An even creepier vision of Moss comes courtesy of the Lithuanian artist Edgar Askelovic, riffing on that ancient ideal of female beauty, the Venus de Milo. The cold stare of the silicone sculpture makes a convincing case for Moss’ beauty being greater than simply symmetry or proportion. When you remove the face from the idiosyncratic spirit that inhabits it, it loses its impact, becoming almost eerie.

Nevertheless neatly she suits into this criterion of beauty that has held fast for hundreds of years, Mears suggests that probably the most radical chapter of Moss’ profession is just starting. “I believe Kate Moss holds truly groundbreaking potential as she ages, because that’s one barrier in our repertoire of beauty that is sort of rarely broken: the near invisibility of older women as beauty icons.” It’s an commentary that’s hard to argue with. Even when the success of Moss as an archetypal vision of female beauty over the past few many years may be rationalised or explained, her enduring appeal as she reaches middle age is a robust two-fingers-up to an industry that prizes youth above all else.

It isn’t just the Moss of past and present that’s compelling. It’s the long run Moss. Even a post-digital artist like Jon Emmony can visualise her in a latest light: as a pearl-encrusted space siren, looking towards a daring latest phase of her profession. “In a world of AI we don’t really want models anymore – there are Instagram accounts of models who’re entirely computer generated,” says Entwistle. “Nevertheless, I don’t think that’s the long run. I believe we’ll all the time take an interest in seeing different beautiful faces that we would like to relate to. In that way, models like Kate Moss will all the time have appeal.”

No amount of scientific evaluation of the attractive body or the symmetrical face could ever capture the incandescent spirit that attracts Moss’ collaborators to work along with her time and again – and no AI model could ever replicate that messy compound of personality traits to realize the identical type of unending appeal. Relating to defining beauty, science can only explain a lot. “There was nobody like her before,” adds Wissinger, “and although many who’ve come after may resemble her, there’ll only ever be one Kate Moss.”

3D artist: Jon Emmony
3D Scanning: iMaker
Concept and Creative Direction: Isamaya Ffrench and Ben Freenman

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