MARRAKECH, Morocco — A fashion chameleon for two decades, Kate Moss is now attempting perhaps her most audacious transformation to date — from model to mogul.
This fall, the 33-year-old style icon-turned-fashion designer will add Kate, her first fragrance — created with Coty Beauty, a division of Coty Inc. — to her burgeoning business interests.
The scent follows her much-vaunted apparel collection with Topshop, which bowed in May, and she's also rumored to be collaborating with hairstylist friend James Brown on a hair care line.
"It's something I've thought of doing for a long time, but it just never felt right," said Moss of her debut as a perfumer, adding she decided finally to work on her own scent after sitting down with Coty executives. "It felt natural to take the step."
The fragrance, which industry sources estimate will generate sales of $50 million in its first year and $75 million in year two, is perhaps odiferous confirmation that Moss' presence is as pertinent in the boardroom as on advertising storyboards. "I'd like to be a successful businesswoman for sure," she said during an interview here in June. "I like to know how many units are sold — it's a learning curve, but it's something I'm loving. I like that part [of the process], I'm sponging it all up."
Whereas some of her supermodel contemporaries, such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, have already entered the branded fragrance arena, Coty executives see points of difference with Moss' effort.
"It's targeted for the prestige market," said Steve Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing for Coty Beauty. "It comes with the weight of Kate Moss' association with other luxury brands. That makes her different."
Something that also sets Moss apart is her ability to remain the toast of the fickle fashion set and a household name for almost 20 years. At once the quirky girl next door and glamour goddess, her career's longevity is rare in an industry that prizes youth and novelty. "When I work with a photographer or with hair and makeup, I always want to do something that's not been done before, so I don't get bored and people don't get bored of seeing my pictures," Moss said, explaining her appeal.Moss' career's resilience was put to the test in 2005, when grainy photographs of the model allegedly using drugs were published in a British tabloid. While some brands swiftly declared Moss persona non grata for their advertising campaigns, she returned to her place on the fashion pedestal soon after and has since been more in demand than ever.
Coty, which has worked with Moss for almost six years in her capacity as the face of its Rimmel London makeup brand, maintained its relationship with her throughout the debacle. "It was a reaction of loyalty," said Bernd Beetz, chief executive officer of Coty Inc. "We would never leave a partner alone if they're in difficulty. We could not have imagined at that point such a fantastic turnaround."
Since the scandal, Moss has gone from a brand "face" to a spokesmodel for her own products. Her appearance in the window of Topshop's Oxford Street flagship in London caused a lather of excitement and, while she traditionally shied away from interviews in the past, she spoke with journalists during the fragrance's press launch here.
"I'm really happy that I'm able to have a voice," she said, referring to her business projects. "Now, I'm able to say 'I want such a photographer' and 'I want it to look like this.'"
Though she's not quite ready to give up her modeling career, Moss seems particularly comfortable with behind-the-scenes roles. "With Topshop, I used another model [in the advertising]," she said. "It was nice to dress her, and it was nice to be behind the scenes and not to feel like I had to be in front all the time.
"I still love modeling," she added. "It's nice to be able to do both."
For her debut scent, that meant working on all aspects of the product — from packaging to the juice. Firmenich perfumer Nathalie Lorson concocted the fragrance's floral musk, pink-tinted juice with Moss' preferences in mind.
"When I put it on I want to feel fresh and light and as the day goes on I want to feel sexier," said Moss, adding her favorite fragrances include Penhaligon's Bluebell and Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue.For Kate, Lorson blended top notes of orange blossom absolute, forget-me-not and pink pepper. At the scent's heart are lily of the valley, heliotrope, magnolia and peony, as well as rose petal notes, which Lorson said are at once fresh and rich. "They express the personality of Kate Moss in this duality," she said.
Base notes include patchouli, sandalwood, musk, vetiver and ambret seeds. "I learned a lot about having to smell layers and picking out the scents," said Moss of the juice-creation process. "I don't think people generally smell a perfume and say, 'Oh, that bottom note!'"
Designed by Lutz Herrmann, Kate's packaging is also meant to portray elements of Moss' personality. "She's not only beautiful and glamorous, but she also has a darker side and a rebellious aspect sometimes," said Herrmann.
The glass flacon has a square base, which gradually becomes a rounder form moving toward the bottle's neck, where a rubber band is emblazoned with the scent's name. The flacon is topped with a charcoal-colored faceted cap created to have a vintage feel.
Kate's outer carton is pink with a high-shine finish. It also features a black rose motif, complete with thorns. The Kate Moss logo was created by Peter Saville and Paul Barnes. "The black rose shows the dark side, and the pink shows the soft side of Kate," said Herrmann.
That theme is continued in the fragrance's print advertising, which was lensed by Craig McDean. It features a close-up of Moss' face as she holds a black rose against her lip. Directed by John Mathieson, the TV campaign shows a nearly naked Moss walking through a field of thistles, which morph into roses.
"We wanted to make it very clear that the fragrance is not about fashion — that's why she's not wearing a lot of clothes," quipped Mormoris. "It's very intimate."
Executives declined to comment, but industry sources estimated that Coty will earmark an advertising budget of about $20 million for the scent's first year.
The eau de toilette will be available as 15-, 30-, 50- and 100-ml. sprays priced at 18 euros, 28 euros, 38 euros and 48 euros, respectively, or $24.60, $38, $52 and $65.60 at current exchange. The lineup will also include a shower gel, body lotion and deodorant spray.Kate will be sold through a network of prestige doors and drugstores containing perfumeries. Europe and Asia will get the scent in September, whereas a launch in North America is scheduled for a year later.
With the brand's multitiered distribution strategy and Moss' wide-ranging appeal, Coty executives believe they have the means to reach a wide audience. "[We will] tap into consumer groups that we haven't tapped into before," said Beetz, adding the company is building its portfolio on lifestyle-, designer- and celebrity-oriented pillars with brands such as Davidoff, Marc Jacobs and Jennifer Lopez. "[Moss] overlaps fashion and celebrity."
Moss, however, finds one particular moniker hard to accept. "I don't see myself as a celebrity; I do my job," she said. "I see celebrity as doing the red carpet — I don't do that. I don't like that word."
As if to underscore that down-to-earth attitude, Moss finishes her interview with a sigh and "time for a cigarette break," before scurrying into the courtyard of the luxury riad, or guest house, in the heart of the medina.
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