The most recent Kate Moss headlines—a slurred speech at a Wall Street Journal event, a “wardrobe malfunction” that exposed one of her breasts outside a London nightclub—are hardly news. The 48-year-old supermodel has always been defined by outré behavior. In 1992, after Calvin Klein made Moss the face of CK, his offshoot brand, she became the 90s’ most prominent party girl. Throughout the 2000s, she was photographed leaving countless nightclubs and parties, often, it seemed, under the influence of this or that.
In September 2005, when Moss was 31, a particular scandal threatened to permanently tarnish her career and legacy. A hidden camera caught Moss cutting and snorting lines of cocaine in a London recording studio—after she’d become a mother and claimed to have sworn off drugs—along with her then boyfriend, Pete Doherty, of the Libertines, and his Babyshambles producer, Mick Jones, of the Clash. The photos appeared on the front page of the tabloid Daily Mirror. Brands, including H&M, Chanel, and Burberry, vowed to stop working with Moss.
And yet this ban only lasted a few months. She apologized, went to rehab, and, by December, was named the new face of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium perfume and was put on the cover of French Vogue. The public seems to love Moss even more when she misbehaves.
Over the years, the model has withstood endless scandals and accusations that she’s an underfed-waif avatar and an outlaw influence for “heroin chic.” While she’s maintained her party-girl persona, she’s also staged a new act: becoming a businesswoman. It’s not just part of the fun—Moss has had real success.
Unlike her fellow supermodels, a sisterhood that regularly rises and falls like hemlines, Moss is intent on cashing in on her resilient beauty and fame by doing more than continuing to pose and preen. This year, Diet Coke named her its creative director. In September, she launched Cosmoss, a beauty line of skin-care and wellness products. Sure, another celebrity-branded product launch is as rare as a yawn. More notably, though, she is the founder of Kate Moss Agency, a talent agency she launched in 2016. Today, it reports net assets of more than $3 million.
Modeling has always been trailed by a cloud of disrepute. The first fashion models were under-employed actors, and the first modeling agency was started by one—John Robert Powers, around 1923. Ever since then, there have been agencies run by former models, including Harry Conover, Dorian Leigh, Natalie Nickerson, and Wilhelmina Cooper.
Kate Moss Agency (K.M.A.), forged in the furnace of 90s supermodel celebrity, is unlike any of its predecessors. Never before has a top model launched a company under the white-hot light of international renown. Agencies have always been a post-modeling next step, never a concurrent one.
Moss started her agency when she silently left her agent, Sarah Doukas, a model turned model manager, and Storm Models after 27 years. Doukas discovered Moss in 1988, at age 14, in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, where Moss and her travel-agent father had spent three days waiting for stand-by seats home to London. Her father was arguing with a desk agent when Doukas spotted her. Conveniently aboard the same plane, Doukas rushed over to the Mosses the moment the fasten seat belts sign switched off. Kate joined Storm Models the very next day.
“The falling-out was bad,” one agency head says of Moss’s departure from Storm. But the scenario was likely not surprising. Says the owner of another agency, “She got tired of paying commissions and she thought she could do a better job representing herself.” In her 40s, she had already proved able to maintain her career beyond a typical model’s use-by date.
To start her own agency, she teamed up with Camilla Johnson-Hill, who bills herself, amorphously, as “a brand manager and producer,” and later brought on Lucy Baxter, a former booker at Storm and now K.M.A.’s chief booker. Moss announced her plan to make stars, not mere models, by combining traditional model management and image licensing with maternal care (“I don’t want the girls to feel insecure,” she’s said), social-media strategies, and multi-media partnerships. “It’s just giving [models] the chance to be creative,” she has said, vaguely.
Kate Moss “got tired of paying commissions and she thought she could do a better job representing herself.”
Baxter describes the company as a “small boutique” agency, where Moss’s daughter, Lila, 20, and her childhood friend Stella Jones, the 20-year-old daughter of Mick, are two of only 19 models. Their careers are managed by the London-based firm’s handful of employees.
Kate’s past, ironically, is what gave her a big head start when she went out on her own: beyond Jones and Lila, who, like her mother, started modeling at age 14, the agency roster is studded with children of her scandalous celebrity friends.
Elfie Reigate, 22, the agency’s first client, was a bridesmaid at Moss’s 2011 marriage to the Kills guitarist Jamie Hince. She’s the daughter of the artist Barry Reigate and Rosemary Ferguson, a model turned nutritionist whom Moss counts among her best friends. K.M.A. also represents Ella Richards, 26, the granddaughter of Rolling Stone Keith Richards. (Modeling’s current reckoning with allegations of industry-wide nepotism do not seem to have phased Moss or her agency, neither of which has publicly addressed the matter.)
Since founding K.M.A., Moss has also poached big names from big agencies, such as Stella Maxwell, a successful former Victoria’s Secret model previously signed with Elite Models, and Jordan Barrett, a 26-year-old Australian with Bruce Weber–model looks. Barrett was discovered by the agency IMG, which got him jobs with Versace, Moschino, and Tom Ford. He was briefly married to Fernando Casablancas, a son of the late Elite founder John Casablancas. Kate and Lila Moss attended their Ibiza wedding, where Mick Jagger’s daughter was best man and the page boy was a Guinness.
But Moss isn’t just selling celebrity spawn. Her agency is also about riding the culture’s edge. Several Moss models are what used to be called “exotics,” men and women with striking, non-traditional looks and attitudes well suited to this diversity-minded time. There’s ex–Storm Models face Georgia Palmer, a multi-racial model who has posed for Versace, Balmain, and Miu Miu; Blondey McCoy, a moody skater boy; and Esmé Creed-Miles, the daughter of actress Sam Morton and Peaky Blinders actor Charlie Creed-Miles. (Esme is one of several models on the agency’s board even shorter than the 5-foot-7-inch-tall Moss.)
Small as it may be, the agency punches above Moss’s waifish weight. Their models’ credits are a roll call of the most coveted brands, such as Balmain, Versace, Miu Miu, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Celine. After Moss and Baxter declined to be interviewed, no one else in the business would respond on the record to requests for comment about the agency. The fashion world is not afraid of Kate, it seems, so much as they are determined that she be allowed to succeed.
It’s hard to say if Moss’s models are doing better or worse than they would have done without her, but, clearly, her fiery glow reflects glory on them. “She’s gotten a lot of attention,” says the owner of a big American modeling agency, sounding a bit envious. K.M.A. is a respectable little business that has neither lit up nor burned down the modeling industry. “If she had a proper team, she could scout and cash in,” says the owner.
“You have to look at where she is in her life,” he adds. “She’s probably made enough money.”
Michael Gross is the New York Times best-selling author of several books, including Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women and 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building