During an ad break last week, I watched Kate Moss flicker across the screen to advertise her newly launched celebrity fragrance. Women are hip to the clumsy pantomime of scent advertising: we know that (in the absence of smellyvision) sound and visuals can only show us the packaging and evoke a mood, not create an actual whiff, but we've been advertised to for so long that we all know the basic jargon about top notes and base notes and musk and florals. So, in 20 seconds, Kate pouts half-naked in a cornfield under a stormy sky, flicks a velvety black rose across her face, strokes a prickly teazel across the top of her low-rise knickers, briefly sucks her thumb – oooh – and tosses her hair free-spiritedly. Female viewer gets the idea pretty quickly: this is a sexy scent with top-notes heavy on roses and a base of musk beneath. Male viewer (the one on my sofa, anyway) merely says: "Showing her age, isn't she? Looking a bit rough these days." Ageist reprobate. Pot, kettle? She's only 33, dammit.
Female viewer also understands that Kate's new scent is not meant for her. Kate by Kate Moss is manufactured by Coty (not one of your premium brands by any means) and sold in Superdrug to the kind of girls who expect change from a £20 note. Young adventuresses who will buy it by the gallon. Kate doesn't say anything in her TV ad, which is all to the good. Her pictures do the talking. Anyway, her speaking voice is a bit like David Beckham's, which irritatingly distracts the gaze from godlike loveliness. She did speak at her celeb launch (in Marrakesh), when the head of Coty handed her the mic.
Hesitantly, she said: "I tried to encompass everything I feel about being feminine and a bit light and a bit dark. When I put it on I wanna feel fresh and light and as the day goes on I wanna feel sexier." OK, right, absolutely. Got that. The scent's only been out five minutes and by the third day it rose to top spot on the celebrity fragrance Top Ten, knocking Jordan's Stunning down to No2. Stunning is manufactured by Robertet, of whom I've never heard, but I'm guessing they're a tad less premium-brand than Coty.
Until she went through her annus horribilis in 2005, Kate Moss's celebrity fragrance-selling techniques were used by Chanel. They reaped much benefit from her being the face of Coco Mademoiselle, a nice old-fashioned scent latterly tweaked up for the youth market. Coco has now been passed to the 22-year-old Keira Knightley, who is currently a much hotter product (post-Atonement) and is a helpful 12 years younger. Moss lost half her ad contracts after the "Cocaine Kate" scandals two years ago, and it was fun at the time watching the huge fashion and fragrance houses dithering about whether or not to drop Moss. H&M put out a press release about protecting its youth clientele from bad role models; Dior wasn't worried in the least about bad role models. To the tabloids' fury, Moss quickly trebled previous advertising earnings. But her recent pictures – torn, befuddled, tired-looking – makes me think she may have passed her earnings peak. She is not in the new Burberry ads (though she is "still part of the Burberry family", apparently). Her £500K knicker contract from Agent Provocateur has been passed to the baby-faced teenager Daisy Lowe.
I saw Naomi Campbell's pictures from the Milan shows last week. Naomi's life in modelling is almost a mirror image of Kate Moss's. Both appeared on the London scene as teens, both had photogenic faces, both had great bodies for putting inside clothes. Plus they had the same catwalk strut that commanded every camera. Both of them lived the same sort of dangerously rackety lives. Women are told constantly that you get the face (and the body) you deserve. Don't smoke, don¹t drink, don't eat, don't do drugs, don't stop exercising, don't forget the Botox.
Both Moss and Campbell shrugged off all these don'ts and lived by their own rules. Naomi – a little older than Kate at 37 – was modelling a bikini in one of her Milan pictures. Whatever her lifestyle has done to her, it has failed to mark her face or her body. The man on my sofa, having disparaged poor Kate as past it only the day before, had no such insults for Naomi in her bikini. "Fantastic body she's got. For 37, I mean. Incredible. She's looking at 40, but she could be a teenager."
Naomi herself says: "Black don't crack," meaning that her African heritage keeps the unwrinkled skin on her face and her soft bits happily resistant both to ageing and a bad-girl lifestyle. I met her on the day The Mirror's front page showed her coming out of NA with a baseball cap on, and she told me she was going to sue them, partly for breaching her medical confi-dential-ity (ooh, big word). Waving the paper and shrieking, she looked like a very cross 12-year-old. Alas for her – she and Moss are not mirror-images and never could be. The money models make on the catwalk is as nothing compared to the cosmetics contracts. Black girls don't sell lipgloss or celebrity fragrance to a white mass market, which the UK still is, no matter how much community cohesion gets talked up. Naomi's had three goes at perfume-pushing so far: I can't remember the names of any of them. Kate by Kate Moss, from where I'm sitting, looks liked a gold-plated pension for her fellow celeb.
* These days, I barely know the name of one England player; barely know who is in the Premiership. But I mourn Jose Mourinho for his looks alone. A handsome, contemptuous, surly clothes-horse, with his Armani slung with military swagger like an officer's greatcoat. (I should maybe damp down any admiration for fascist-dictator chic.) When I had a 12-year-old boy around the house, I couldn't escape football: he played it, watched it, talked of nothing else. It's a mother's job to keep up: how else can she buy the right boots? I knew as much about Cantona as he did. I understood why the entire first team ran around the field with their collars up; I recognised that stiff-legged, chest-out strut they all affected. It was me who had the T-shirt printed with: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." (Worn for four years solid.) Jose's valedictory press conference, wasn't in the same league, alas.
"When the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot get there you have a problem" was quite spoilt by the sports reporters' audible giggling. *Reuse content