Plucked from obscurity as a 14 year old, Kate Moss changed the world of fashion forever. Now never before seen pictures of the early days of her career are about to be published.
T here were so many ordinary details about the birth of Kate Moss the supermodel that it gave teenage girls everywhere hope that their cheekbones might also cut it on the catwalk.
Spotted at JFK Airport on her way back from holiday by Storm Management founder Sarah Doukas in 1988, Moss hadn’t been hot housed for the cameras. Far from it. Her recently divorced mum was a barmaid, her dad a travel agent and Moss had grown up in Croydon, a byword for the unlovely suburbs of Greater London.
However, for all her apparent ordinariness, it soon became clear that Moss was anything but. Arriving on the tail of those big haired, big lipped models like Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson, as the 80s gave way to the 90s Moss promised something new, something different.
At 5ft 7ins she was comparatively small by supermodel standards and hers was a beauty which also appeared stripped back and bare. It’s that Moss, the one who in 1993 Calvin Klein famously launched an advertising campaign around, who is seen in an intimate collection of never-before-published photographs.
Taken in the early 1990s by her then boyfriend, the photographer Mario Sorrenti the images capture the teenage Moss just before she was catapulted on the international stage and the phenomenon which was heroin chic was unleashed.
“I remember sitting next to her and feeling like my heart was going to stop; I was completely overwhelmed by her charm and her beauty,” remembers Sorrenti of their first meeting on a modelling job in 1991. “When the shoot ended I didn’t think I’d see her again. Several weeks later by chance I met her at a party. We hung out all night, walking into the early morning until we fell asleep in the grass in Hyde Park.”
The two fell in love and spent the next two years together, travelling and collaborating on photographs. She became his muse and during moments of unguarded intimacy on trips to the beach or at home in London he captured the real Moss.
“Kate and I were young,” adds Sorrenti. “She was living in Croydon with her mum and I was mostly sleeping on my agent’s couch. Neither of us had any money and we were crashing wherever we could just to be together.
“We would hang out and take pictures all the time. Being broke meant printing was a luxury that I could barely afford so I would make contact sheets and cut out the images I liked and tape them into my diary.”
Those images were never intended for anything more than a private record, but when Sorrenti showed them to Klein they proved the inspiration for Moss’s career breakthrough. So struck was the designer by the face he saw staring back from the page, that he knew he had found the new face of his perfume Obsession.
That now iconic advertising campaign of mesmerising black and white pictures of a waif-like Moss elevated her to a level alongside Naomi Campbell from which she never came down.
Published by Phaidon, the book entitled simply Kate features 50 of Sorrenti’s portraits from her very earliest days as a model. Released 25 years after the pair first met it’s also a reminder of how one teenage girl achieved longevity in a notoriously fickle business.
“As with most young loves we went our separate ways,” says Sorrenti. “But we have continued to work together over the years and have always remained great friends.”