Wednesday, 01 October 2008
Angela Buttolph on her new book: Kate Moss Style
Dear Shaded Viewers,
DP: What gave you the idea to write this? Was their any particular instant that a light bulb went off and told you that this is what you were meant to be doing?
AB: This was always my dream book to write. I think it is so surprising that it hasn’t been done sooner. I’ve written about fashion since 1994 and was always writing about Kate’s personal style. If you’re a fashion writer, Kate is so fascinating because it feels as if she has been raised by the fashion industry, she’s the personification of the modern fashion world. Kate Moss IS fashion.
DP: Was it hard to find a publisher, I kind of doubt that it was with a subject like Kate Moss?
AB: My editor, Charlotte Haycock at Random House, was so brilliant because she immediately got that this book should be a celebration of Kate and her style, and not the usual scandalous tabloid-style biographies of Kate – it felt like everyone was so busy looking at the skeletons in her closet, they had forgotten to notice the clothes in there too.
DP: You’ve been a fashion writer, a tv and radio presenter, written treatments for shows, how different was it to embark upon writing a book?
AB: It felt very luxurious to be able to spend so long thinking about just one person; to explore this unique journey of how her personal style had gradually evolved and been influenced so many amazingly stylish people over the years.
It was very much like detective-work. I wanted to crack Kate’s fashion formula. My flat was plastered with images of Kate; we had files and files of photos from each year of her life. But even after seeing thousands of images, I never got bored of her face; I think that’s kind of extraordinary.
DP: How long did it take and what were the biggest hurdles that you had to overcome?
AB: The book was completed in just under a year! But I was working around the clock. I was woman obsessed. I really wanted it to be the book that I would have loved to read; all the secret stories about the clothes, all the tiny little details that are so fascinating.
The biggest hurdles to overcome were probably the fact that sometimes designers were quite keen to take credit for clothes that Kate had worn, that weren’t actually theirs! So we had a few false starts.
DP: If you had to make a list of qualifications for what makes a style icon, what would they be?
1. Have interests outside of fashion that make you aware of a different kind of cool; e.g. music, art, cinema etc.
2. Surround yourself with brilliant, creative people at the top of their game; artists, photographers, musicians.
3. Study iconic photographs, to broaden your visual language.
4. Try on thousands and thousands of clothes; clothes that you don’t think you will like, or that you think won’t suit you, until you develop a ‘third eye’ for style that releases you from conventional thinking about how to put clothes together.
5. Learn to appreciate any garment purely on its own value, not on whether it is fashionable now.
6. Educate yourself about the work of vintage designers; learn to appreciate a quality of fabric and cut that is no longer available.
7. Go the other way –wear a tuxedo and leather trousers to the Metropolitan Ball when everyone is in long gowns, or wear a sweet Fifties prom dress and swept back hair to the NME music awards.
8. Innovate. Mix things that shouldn’t go together; a lace Victorian mourning cape with pvc jeans, punk boots with a sequined dress.
9. Never look like you are trying too hard.
10. When in doubt, buy diamonds.
DP: One of the ideas behind the book was to get into Kate’s head and see how she thinks, a little like playing Being John Malkovich, the 1999 Spike Jonze film , how did you manage to get into her head and what did you find out while you were in there?
AB: Early on I decided that I didn’t want to do a “Get The Celebrity Look” kind of book; i.e. ‘how to do Kate’s festival look’, ‘how to do the Kate Moss red carpet look’.
I wanted to get a crash course in the lessons she had learned from working with the best names in the fashion industry from such a young age. I was determined to get past the usual clichés “Kate was born cool” “she just has an innate sense of style”, and to force people into a deeper examination of how Kate thinks about clothes, and how and why her style changed so radically from one short period of time to the next.
Also, I was very lucky to have the chance to interview fashion designer Liza Bruce. I think Liza’s comments are the true spirit of the book; her insights into Kate’s fashion ‘education’ in the early Nineties were a revelation, quite extraordinary.
I think the biggest surprise was realizing that Kate is an amazingly accomplished woman; well-informed and cultured and interested in many different areas of the arts; from poetry to art and dance. She has an appetite for learning that had been completely overshadowed by her party girl image.
Everybody LOVES Kate. And you can tell when people are just afraid of a powerful or successful person. But everyone is extremely protective of her. And no one has a bad word to say about her; they all say she is a very sweet and funny girl. And they always say ‘girl’.
DP: How easy was it to interview Kate and all the people around her?
AB: This book is almost like a love-letter from the fashion industry to Kate, and I think that the people we contacted could see this would be a fitting and respectful tribute. When Alber Elbaz called he said that he wanted to take part as a thank you to Kate for the part she had played in making Lanvin cool and putting the label back in the spotlight, when she wore his bejeweled silk cocktail dress in 2003.
DP: Did you have someone else setting these this up for you?
AB: I am completely indebted to my brilliant editorial assistant, Alex Butt. He made literally hundreds of phone calls and sent hundreds of emails to track down vintage dealers and movie stars and stylists and photographers and designers. Alex is a legend. And he made me laugh every day.
DP: Who was the most fun to interview?
AB: All those crazy vintage dealers! I learnt so much about vintage fashion during my researc, which I tried to pass on in the book.
My favourite interviewee was Tracy Tolkien (of vintage dealers Steinberg & Tolkien) who has the same passion for vintage clothes that Kate does, which proved very insightful - three quarters of Kate’s wardrobe is vintage, so to understand her style, you have to understand that love for vintage fashion.
DP: Did anyone refuse to be interviewed?
AB: Yes. But we got the majority of the biggest names in fashion. Our contributors include Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, to name but a few, so I am very happy. Tom Ford gave a brilliant behind-the-scenes anecdote about Kate getting ready at Stella McCartney’s wedding.
And actually, it was more important to me to get great stories and first-hand accounts of her shopping habits and styling quirks, rather than just getting big names. Fran Cutler had some brilliant memories of Kate getting dressed at Glastonbury festival.
And I am very proud that every comment in the book is credited. There are no quotes “from a close personal friend”.
DP: How would you describe the way you dress and after all this research, has the book effected how you put your self together now?
AB: Totally! I am very much less focused on trends now; and I really try and appreciate each garment on its own merits, not on whether it’s ‘in’ right now, or the label. And of course, now I know all of the world’s best vintage stores!
I actually find that I am buying far fewer clothes, but spending a lot more money. I have lost my appetite for the high street. I just bought some Marc Jacobs high heel biker boots, a deep purple Acne silk cocktail dress.
Also the ‘tight to the torso’ silhouette that is Kate’s signature has been my biggest light bulb moment.
DP: What was the funniest thing that happened while writing this book?
AB: We had a tip off that a beautiful vintage beaded silver flapper dress, that Kate wore on the red carpet with Johnny Depp in 1994, was previously owned by the ex-wife of Hollywood movie star Errol Flynn.
Eventually we got hold of a contact number for Flynn’s ex-wife in Jamaica. We finally got her on the phone, and down this crackly long distance line was this brilliantly deep Bette Davies voice and she rasped “I know the dress you mean, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in it”.
And of course, we realized, we had contacted the wrong ex-wife.
DP: What inspired you the most during your research?
AB: I just had this hunger to find out about why Kate chooses the clothes she does. And because Kate is such an enigma, even the tiniest details about her choices and tastes are fascinating. I’ve written about Kate for so long and suddenly finding out so many new things about her was incredibly exciting.
DP: What was the most stressful thing that you had to do?
AB: It was sort of stressful editing down the pictures because there were so many incredible outfits and we couldn’t include everything. So I was a little heart broken about a couple of photographs.
DP: If you had to choose 5 of your favorite Kate Moss looks, which ones would they be?
The navy sequin dress for her 30th birthday, the grey shift dress she wore at Cannes, the tiger mini dress she wore carrying Lila, the pvc jeans and black lace cape at Glastonbury, and the Ginsberg is God cashmere jumper and miniskirt she wore to tea at Claridges. When I first saw each of these outfits I recall thinking ‘oh, you are just a total genius’.
Style-wise, I loved the Johnny Depp Hollywood red carpet years, and the Pete Doherty years; all those festival outfits.
DP: How do you feel about the upcoming exhibition based on Kate at the Museum of Art Decorative? I’m sure you are going to sell even more books.
AB: The wonderful thing about that exhibition is that it perfectly complements my book! My book is focused on the clothes that Kate chooses to wear, not the clothes she is paid to wear. The Museum of Art Decorative is focusing on her career, so my book will answer all the questions that are left hanging. I would love to be involved in the exhibition, somehow, or perhaps give a talk there. Also, I can’t wait to see it, I know it will be beautifully done.
DP: What kind of distribution plans do you have? Will the book be translated into many languages, I imagine that it will.
AB: Already I know that the book is being translated into Japanese, which is so exciting. And we are exploring more foreign language translations. The English language edition is being sold worldwide on Amazon and all good book stores!
DP: Do you have a book signing tour coming up? Where will it take you?
AB: We’re still trying to work out book signing dates. I am very keen to go to Tokyo. I want to give a few talks, too: ‘Ten Lessons We Can All Learn From Kate Moss’s Wardrobe’ that kind of thing…
On the day my book is published I’ve got a huge fund-raising party for Breast Cancer Care at a beautiful club called Amika in London, with Henry Holland djing and lots of fashiony friends, so it should be fun.
DP: Is this your first book? What comes next.
AB: I previously co-authored Phaidon’s Fashion Book, and I have ghost-written two Top Ten bestselling fashion books. But this is finally the first book with my name on the cover.
I would love to write the biography of a fashion designer or perhaps a fashion stylist next. I would also love to write another ‘style biography’. But, y’know, it’s hard to find a subject as perfect as Kate.
DP: No doubt about that, congratulations. The book will be launched October 2nd.
Posted by diane pernet at 01:31 AM | Permalink
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Just stumbled on this. Sounds like a great read. Will have to find the book now. Thanks.
Posted by: Cashmere Jumper | Sep 27, 2009 8:15:04 PM
Me too! After reading this interview, who wouldn't? Excellent.
Posted by: daniel | Oct 1, 2008 12:49:32 AM
Can't wait to read it. Thanks Diane
Posted by: Randall | Sep 30, 2008 6:45:41 AM