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The year was 2005. The era of low-rise skinny jeans and high-brow drug abuse. Britney Spears was smashing car windows with a baseball bat, and you were no one if you didn’t own a Juicy Couture tracksuit. It was a time of iconic (or borderline questionable) fashion; think Von Dutch, Ed Hardy, True Religion, etc. The scandalous minimalism of Y2K style fit the era, which was dominated by pop culture drama. The early 2000s was a time of constant controversy and celebrity scandal, and only one name remained at the forefront of fashion and pop culture discourse: Kate Moss.

The British model turned the 2000s “it girl” was only 14 when she was discovered by Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm model agency. Moss was praised for her “waif” look, which would come to define the next generation of fashion. She gained recognition after her debut for Calvin Klein’s “Obsession” campaign in 1993, during which she was famously photographed nude alongside model-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg. With Klein already being a label with an emphasis on minimalism, Moss’s petite frame made her perfect for the role. She eventually became the face of Calvin Klein, which marked the start of her success and influence within the high fashion industry.

It didn’t take long for Kate Moss to reach icon status. She appeared in ad campaigns for major fashion houses such as Dior, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana, which put her at the forefront of fashion discourse. Moss also appeared in British Vogue in 1993 and made the front page for the March issue only a few months later. The cover shot, a simple portrait of Moss dressed in a dainty tweed bustier, was captured by model-turned-photographer Corrine Day, who described Moss as having a “dirty realism,” a “grunge.” The day was certainly onto something with her perception of Moss. She, without a doubt, has a certain je ne sais quoi. The fragile frame, porcelain skin, dark eyes, and thinned-out hair, a look so jarring yet so beautiful and emblematic of her time. Moss made her ultra-thinness her greatest accessory. Introducing “heroin chic.”
The grungy look is characterized by fair skin, dark circles, thinned-out hair, and emaciated features. The look got its name because its defining features are the same of someone who may be drugged out on heroin, but it’s “chic” because drug abuse is classy when it’s done by the upper class! When you break it down like that, it’s no surprise that Kate Moss was the poster girl for heroin chic in the nineties. She embodies the look almost too perfectly. From her looks down to her demeanor, Kate Moss had the ultimate it factor. However, the similarities started to become too real, which left people wondering: has she taken it too far?

Moss first found herself in the midst of a scandal in 2005, arguably the peak of her career. She had been dating Libertines member Pete Doherty whose heroin addiction was no secret to the public. Paparazzi sightings of the two in public led to Kate being dubbed “a rockstar trapped in a supermodel’s body.” Moss was getting dangerously close to her grungy aesthetic, becoming her alarming reality. Until one day, it did.

“COCAINE KATE,” “COKE FIEND,” “KATE MESS. " The Moss name dominated headlines after a video of Kate sitting next to lines of cocaine was leaked to the press in 2005. The public had always known of her rockstar lifestyle, but this was one of the first times the secret scandals of the elite upper class had been exposed to the public. At this point, the public could see that the “heroin chic” look that Kate had modeled for years had gotten a little too real for her. In the following weeks, Moss was promptly dropped by big names in fashion, such as Chanel, Burberry, and H&M. Her image had been tarnished. She was no longer Kate Moss: Hollywood’s muse. She was now Kate Moss: Hollywood’s mess.

Kate continued to dig herself into a hole of scandal and controversy in 2009 when she was quoted in an interview saying the phrase “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” was her mantra. If you were on Tumblr circa the early 2010s, you’re definitely quite familiar with this infamous line. The phrase was used so often in the ensuing years to promote eating disorders and unnatural thinness. The danger of someone who embodies a certain sought-after aesthetic to promote unhealthy habits to her audience is a dangerous game. Despite her scandalous past, people idolized Moss, which is what made her words so powerful (and harmful) to an entire generation of women and girls.

The scandal and controversy surrounding Kate Moss are undeniable, but who's to say you can’t turn it all around? After spending numerous years in the industry, Kate admits that she has become very business minded. She had to understand the market she was selling to and how to market herself. Following her era of scandal, Kate knew that she needed a rebranding, a personal and professional fresh start. Kate tells media sources in various interviews that she had begun working on herself in her older age. In 2018, Moss told NBC’s Megyn Kelly, “I go to bed, I drink lots of water, not too much coffee, and I’m trying to cut down on cigarettes.” Kate was taking active steps to get better and making it known to the public. She wanted to create an image of rehabilitation, of health. A few years after her exclusive NBC interview, Kate knew it was time to rebuild her professional brand, and she knew exactly how to do it. Moss fully embraced her dark, twisted past as she stepped forward as the new creative director of Diet Coke (get it?). Kate had taken the scandal that surrounded her for so much of her life and turned it into a successful business venture, and the public raved over her cheeky rebranding.

Kate Moss is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in fashion. From “it girl” to “bad girl,” Moss’s rebellious persona made her mark on the industry and on pop culture as a whole. From her beginnings as a fresh-faced teenager to her later status as one of the most sought-after supermodels in the world, Kate has continued to push boundaries and inspire generations of women and girls. Was she perfect? Far from it, but she was unapologetically true to herself, always maintaining a sense of authenticity. Kate owns up to her past controversies and admits that she has grown from her troubled past, which is another kind of iconic. Besides, who doesn’t love a little scandal?

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