LONDON — Sporting skinny jeans and a whisper-thin vintage blouse, Kate Moss doesn’t look like a traditional boardroom-bound tycoon. Then again, the supermodel, who oversees an expanding empire of products bearing her name, has made a career out of breaking with convention.

Her arrival on the fashion scene two decades ago brought a new notion of beauty to the fore. Now, she aims to bring her business acumen to the table, too.

This story first appeared in the November 13, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I want to know what goes on behind the scenes, as well, and how to be successful at that part of the industry,” said Moss, who took up residence in Claridge’s, the plush Art Deco hotel here, for a day recently to promote her latest fragrance, dubbed Vintage, which was introduced in Europe earlier this month. “I’ve got some good teachers.”

According to Stephen Mormoris, senior vice president, global marketing, at Coty Beauty, a division of Coty Inc., which holds Moss’ fragrance license, she is eager to track her fragrance portfolio’s performance and discuss how to drive its sales, which now amount to $100 million at retail annually. Vintage is the latest of three Moss fragrances. The first one, called Kate, was launched in 2007. The second, Velvet Hour, made its debut in 2008. A limited edition fragrance, called Kate Summer Time, was launched in March.

As well as overseeing her fragrances with Coty, Moss’ business interests also include a fashion line with Topshop and a hair care brand with hairstylist James Brown. She is keen to take a stake of the makeup market, too.

“I’ve been modeling for 20 years,” she said, adding she estimates she has spent six years in makeup chairs. “Somebody can do my makeup; I don’t even have to look in a mirror to know what it looks like because I just know by what it feels like on my face.”

Mormoris said Coty may look into having Moss create special color cosmetics collections for its Rimmel brand, which she also fronts.

While Moss continues to appear in myriad advertising campaigns — from Yves Saint Laurent to Longchamp — she seems just as comfortable behind the scenes.

“It’s fun for me,” said Moss. “I still model, and I enjoy doing that, as well. Working on the creative process is really interesting for me because I do know what I like, so it’s fun for me to realize that it becomes part of you. It’s not just putting your name on something; it’s about being very involved in it.”

Indeed, she’s hoping 2009 will be a vintage year for fragrance. Vintage, her latest scent, bowed in Europe earlier this month; it will hit shelves in the Middle East in December, and in Asia, Latin America and Australia early next year.

“We believe Vintage will be the biggest Kate Moss fragrance, as it touches what Kate is all about,” said Mormoris, adding he expects the scent will generate first-year sales of $40 million at retail worldwide.

The fragrance’s genesis — Moss’ love for vintage fashion — has much more humble origins.

“I couldn’t really afford designer clothes when I was young, so I just went to secondhand shops,” said Moss, adding among her most treasured possessions are dresses by Madame Grès and lamé pieces from the Thirties. “It wasn’t called vintage then, it was called ‘secondhand’ when I was 15.”

With the fragrance, Moss opted to highlight the glamorous side of vintage. The scent’s bottle, for instance, was inspired by her love of Art Deco design. Created by Lutz Herrmann, the flacon features concentric squares on its front, plus a rectangular cap. The heavy glass bottle’s smoky hue is a nod to a vintage ring belonging to Moss.

“The imagery is modern, but it’s vintage,” said Moss, referring to the scent’s advertising, which was shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. In the ads, Moss is pictured against a mirrored backdrop reminiscent of Vintage’s bottle design.

“Everything I’m wearing, apart from maybe the shoes, is vintage,” said Moss.

The fragrance’s juice, concocted by International Flavors & Fragrances perfumer Olivier Polge, is a fruity floriental. Its top notes include pink pepper, white freesia and mandarin. At its heart are heliotrope, jasmine and almond flower notes, while its base comprises notes of tonka bean, vanilla and skin musks.

The eau de toilette is available as 15-, 30- and 50-ml. sprays priced in Europe at 15.50 euros, 27 euros and 36 euros, respectively, or $23, $40 and $53 at current exchange. The lineup also comprises a shower gel, body lotion and body spray.


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