I have a confession to make. In the beginning, I did not understand the Kate Moss phenomenon. Call me old-fashioned, but after a decade of Amazonian supermodels pulsing with glamorous, bosomy life, I simply didn’t understand the Piaf-bodied waif with the wan, faraway look in her eyes, nor the Corinne Day and Nigel Shafran photographs that set her adrift in bleak welfare apartments or on gray English beaches.
And then I saw her across a crowded room at a fashion party in Notting Hill, and I was stopped dead in my tracks by her laughing beauty and preternatural elegance. (“I never did a hairy armpit,” says Kate firmly of those late-eighties grunge moments. “You can look dirty, but you can’t be dirty!”)
The simple fact is that Kate is irresistible. There is vulnerability and there is strength, and when she turns on the klieg light of her flirtatious, giggly life force, it is impossible not to fall just a little bit in love. And Kate’s conquests are legion. A pantheon of illustrious cultural figures who define our age have fallen under her spell—including designers John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Gianni Versace, and Dame Vivienne Westwood; photographers Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, and François-Marie Banier; and artists Marc Quinn, Banksy, and Lucian Freud—not to mention a slew of high-profile paramours who have run the gamut from the courtly and urbane to the mad, bad, and frankly dangerous to know.
But how do you catch a cloud and pin it down? Who would, in the words of David Tang, Kate’s wedding-day master of ceremonies, succeed in “persuading not the most easily persuadable girl to marry him”?
Enter Jamie Hince, the 42-year-old guitarist of the critically acclaimed rock band the Kills. “I’ve met them all throughout the years,” says Testino, “but he is the most real. He has a great sense of humor.”
“And style,” adds Vogue Contributing Editor Camilla Nickerson. “And he’s sweet and tender, very loving.”
After a romantic trip to Thailand two years into their liaison, Kate recalls, “we were just so loved up, and he asked me to marry him every day.” But it was curling up together in front of the compelling British television documentary series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings that appears to have sealed the deal. “I am so romantic about Gypsies,” Kate explains. “They’re not allowed to do anything until they get married. So they all get married really young, at sixteen. You can’t believe the dresses. They’re like blinging butterflies times ten; they can’t move down the aisle! It’s so genius. I was just watching Jamie, so cute, and I was like, these girls, they just spend their whole life waiting for that day—let’s do it!”
A week before the nuptials, Mario Testino is photographing Kate’s wedding portfolio (she has shifted her date from Saturday to Friday to accommodate his schedule, reasoning, with a model’s canny logic, that the ceremony will last minutes but the photographs will be forever). Mario has known her since she was a fragile sixteen-year-old, crying her eyes out backstage at John Galliano’s first Paris show. In that dim, distant past, when a model’s success was judged by the number of changes she had in a show, Kate had been given only one outfit and was feeling unloved. Mario comforted her. “You know, in life there’s perfume and there’s cologne,” he told her. “Cologne, you have to spray every fifteen minutes. Perfume, you put a drop and it lasts a week. You’re perfume.”
Mario also saw beyond the image in which she had been cast. “I had seen her out, and she had nothing of the waif,” he remembers. Instead, she reminded him of the “gorgeous” girls he knew growing up in Peru, for whom “life is about having a good time. I love a girl that parties,” he adds, “who can do the glamour and laugh.” (The images that he has taken during their 20-year-plus relationship have resulted in a book, Kate Moss by Mario Testino.)
Mario is shooting the couple for Vogue at a magnificent seventeenth-century Cotswolds mansion. “I so want a stately home,” sighs Kate, admiring the rolling Capability Brown landscape. At 37, she looks ravishing; she attributes her honed form to Jivamukti yoga. “They call it moving meditation,” she says. “It’s loud, loud music, so it’s dynamic, not boring.”
In the pictures you can feel the love, but off-camera nerves are fragile. The groom-to-be “is terrified,” says Kate. His prospective bride is in denial. “Let’s put it this way,” she says. “If I didn’t have my friends. . . . I don’t know how people do it. I’ve had big birthday parties, and I’ve thrown parties for other people, but this is a completely different thing. It’s the Met Ball! Because you have to look at every piece of cutlery; the details are intense. And then you wake up thinking about the ballet shoes for the girls; is the satin ribbon right? I’ve gone mental. Jamie thinks I’m mad, asking, ‘Are you gonna be all right? After the wedding, I’m hoping you’ll get back to normal!’ ”
Kate has called on her friend Sam Gainsbury to realize her vision. With partner Anna Whiting, Gainsbury has produced fashion shows and shoots for some of the most exciting talents around (and, with Joseph Bennett, created the transportingly beautiful mise-en-scène for “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). “Sam is a genius,” says Kate, “but this is the first and last wedding she said she’s ever doing!”
Even Sam was initially daunted by the project, until she consulted her mother. “Mum told me to do it as though it were my own wedding,” says Gainsbury, who proceeded to do just that. “Kate wanted something elegant—not what people thought she might do.”
She had originally wanted to get married in the enchanting twelfth-century church at the bottom of her garden, but as it proved too small even for her intimate wedding party (138 guests have been invited to the church ceremony; 39 of those are children), she decided on St. Peter’s Church, in the neighboring village of Southrop, where Lila Grace, her eight-year-old daughter with journalist Jefferson Hack, was christened.
“I wanted it to be kind of dreamy and 1920s, when everything is soft-focus,” says Kate. “The Great Gatsby. The code name was GG for a while. That light and that kind of fun decadence. It’s rock-’n’-roll Great Gatsby!” There will be Edwardian marquees in her field and a circus tent for the children, with a miniature drum kit and their own DJ and tepees for them to sleep in. A stage is being built by hand, “which I’m going to keep for festivals for the future,” she explains.
There are sixteen bridesmaids and flower girls, ages two to fourteen. “They are so good together,” says Kate. The children all clearly adore Kate the den mother; she loves nothing more than having her own houses in town and country thronging with them. She even installed a swing in her London dressing room but packed away the precious clothes after they started seeing a bit too much wear and tear.
Lila Grace is very much in control as she corrals the other children and then executes some dance moves to entertain them (she has a ballet performance on the weekend). Her mother’s friends laughingly compare her to Absolutely Fabulous’s Saffy, the studious, long-suffering daughter to Kate’s giddy Edina. “Mummy, are you stressed?” she asks solicitously at one point.
In the flurry of pre-wedding madness and nerves, the one thing that is keeping Kate sane is the dress. With characteristic loyalty, she has asked her beleaguered friend John Galliano to work on this. “When I put the dress on, I’m really happy,” says Kate. “I forget about everything.”
She wanted “a classic Galliano, those chiffon thirties kind. I’ve lived in his dresses for years, and they just make me feel so comfortable. But it’s so much more couture, couture, couture. Oh, my God, the work that’s going into the dress!” They discussed everything on the phone, and then, when John was out of rehab for the first of four marathon fittings, he brought her “bags full of bits, and pulled tulle and sequins and veils and flowers out. And then we just kind of pinned things together, like the old days, you know?”
“She was very professional and very demanding,” says Galliano, who was inspired by Jazz Age photographs of Zelda Fitzgerald. He had sent a friend to a beloved vintage fair (“because I couldn’t go”), who returned with “a beautiful rosary, which I thought must have been from a fallen angel.” For John it evoked his late partner-in-design Stephen Robinson. “So Stephen is watching,” he says, “nestled in the back of the bow.”
The dress is spangled with tiny golden paillettes (Jude Law will ask him how on earth they are sewn on); in Galliano’s narrative it is as though the scullery maid had picked up milady’s fallen sequins to spangle her own dress. The skirts are symbolically licked with the beaded plumes of a mythical phoenix, “delicate and defiant, like Kate."
“She dared me to be John Galliano again,” the designer tells me. “I couldn’t pick up a pencil. It’s been my creative rehab.”
A week later, it is a perfect English summer day with cotton-wool clouds scudding across forget-me-not-blue skies. Chez Kate, the roses tumbling over the doorways are in full bloom. Inside the house, a tumbling chaos of hair and makeup people and bridesmaids reigns. The bridal party takes off in a convoy of beribboned vintage Rolls-Royces driven by gray-uniformed chauffeurs. Just before she sets off, Kate requests “a few words, a story to inspire her—she loves a bit of direction!” says Galliano. “I told her, ‘You have a secret—you are the last of the English roses—and when he lifts your veil he’s going to see your wanton past!’ ”
At the idyllic church, Victoria Brotherson has arranged low banks of pale, feathery greenery and white flowers—delphiniums, daisies, scabious, and sweet-scented stock—to line the path to the church door and embower its entrance. The effect is enchanting: a scene out of Thomas Hardy. Similar flowers decorate the austerely beautiful interior with its high rustic beams, honeyed stone corbels, and whitewashed walls. Naomi, in a flurry of lemon-yellow Givenchy gauze, is the last to arrive, so all is right with the world (“Trying to upstage me, bitch?” says Kate, laughing).
When Kate appears in her Galliano finery, with her flotilla of bridesmaids and flower girls in their Bonpoint dresses, there are wolf whistles and applause in the church. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Bella Freud, “like she just walked through some fairy garden and came out clad in that. It’s exquisite.”
At the ceremony, conducted by the Reverend Harry MacInnes, Jake Chapman reads a resonant love letter, the cherubic choristers of Gloucester Cathedral sing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and Mrs. Jamie Hince is finally an honest woman. “That was so moving,” says Lucie de la Falaise. “Now she’s all grown up!”
After the ceremony, the bridal party moves into the glorious gardens of the manor house next door, its storied brick walls sheltering them from paparazzi lenses. Photographer Marcus Piggott catches Kate’s bouquet.
Meanwhile, in Kate’s gardens, a Palm Court jazz band is playing “It Had to Be You” in the marquee, while battalions of black-and-white-clad wait staff light the votive candles hanging from fruit trees in their jam jars and antique lanterns, and artfully arrange a pyramid of champagne flutes. Paper cones filled with rose petals for the bridal couple are arranged on little café tables, and antique wicker chairs pepper the lawn. The Second Looks Tent, for guests to change in after the ceremony, is appointed like a Hollywood boudoir with faceted mirror screens, thirties standard lamps, and dressing tables heaving with pink and beige roses.
Inside, the dining pavilion is lit by Victorian chandeliers, and 1920s silver ashtrays nestle on the tabletops among the nosegays of pale apricot and lilac roses, while Chesterfield sofas and Edwardian palms flank the dance floor—a setting fit for a latter-day Daisy Buchanan.
The guests, arriving through a romantic arbor of hazelnut trees, are an eclectic panoply of twenty-first-century fashion and cultural icons, including musicians Jack White, Bobby Gillespie, and Paul McCartney, and designers Stefano Pilati (who dressed Jamie and bandmate Alison Mosshart), Riccardo Tisci, Dame Vivienne Westwood (in an I Dream of Jeannie ponytail), and Marc Jacobs (whom Kate first met when she modeled in his infamous 1992 grunge collection for Perry Ellis). Seemingly every hair and makeup artist who has teased and powdered Kate through the decades is here, as is the Lord Great Chamberlain, David, the seventh Marquess of Cholmondeley, with his superb bride, Rose Hanbury, in thirties black silk smothered in roses (along with Mario Testino, they are the only people to have been invited to celebrate the weddings of both Kates this year). Manolo Blahnik (who made the bride’s blue-soled wedding shoes) wears a lilac suit and cyclamen dress pumps. Anita Pallenberg (in a golden leaf beanie), Jo Wood, and Marianne Faithfull hold court like worldly seers—they have seen it all before.
“I never go in countryside,” explains Carine Roitfeld, perhaps unnecessarily, as she picks her way gingerly through the grass in a 20-year-old Galliano crepe frock and teetering strappy sandals. “It’s bea-u-tiful.” Annabelle Neilson, in McQueen’s thirties patchwork gown and a sequined bolero, is knocking back a White Russian “to get in the mood.” Daphne Guinness is wearing her own oyster satin version of Wallis Simpson’s Mainbocher wedding dress with a black velvet wimple; Philip Treacy and Stefan Bartlett have been stitching her antique tremblant diamond brooches to it all afternoon.
Colin Field and his team from the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris are setting up the bar on the dance floor. They will be serving the Kate 76, a lethal cocktail of vodka, champagne, crushed ice, and sugar. “I used to keep the bar open a little later than I should,” Field confides, “and we’d work out cocktails with Kate. Because she drinks it, I expect everyone to drink it. It’ll be the drink!”
“Come on, a tavola!” bids chef Daniel de la Falaise, who since February has been growing vegetables and herbs for the feast in his gardens near Toulouse. The menu includes toro tartare with caviar, Longhorn veal with grilled peaches, and strawberry granita dusted with gold leaf, accompanied by Sesti and champagne.
Once the guests are seated, David Tang gamely tries to corral their attention for the toasts. Jamie’s “Best Man,” the Cleopatra-eyed Alison Mosshart, confessing that she is unaccustomed to the “sweaty-palmed world of public speaking,” delivers a heartfelt speech riddled with profanities, and the assurance to Kate that “he’ll always make you happy. He’ll always excite you.” When Kate’s father, Peter, thanks John Galliano for “the beautiful dress,” every guest stands in a spontaneous ovation, and John’s eyes well up.
After dinner, Kate and Jamie cut Peggy Porschen’s cake—actually a pyramid of six cakes, each a different flavor, crusted with droplets of icing-sugar lily-of-the-valley blossoms. Kate has changed into her First Dance Dress—Stella McCartney’s smoky-gray georgette evening gown spangled with steel beads—and she and Jamie dance as Bryan Ferry croons “If There Is Something” (“It’s mine and Jamie’s song”). After Ferry’s set, DJs including Annie Nightingale, Nick Grimshaw, and Queens of Noise spin, with assistance from Jude Law and Sadie Frost’s fourteen-year-old-son, Rafferty, and Kate reappears to rock the dance floor in Stella’s backless golden-spangled minidress, with Louboutin glitter heels.
By 3:30, Tracey Emin is out cold on a Chesterfield in a flurry of Westwood roses and Moll Flanders cleavage, Stefano Pilati is showing his (very practiced) moves on the dance floor, Samantha Morton is whirling like a dervish in a turquoise caftan, and I am wondering if the floor was always listing at this dramatic angle—or is it just the Kate 76s kicking in?
At a quarter to five Kate reappears, looking like a Pre-Raphaelite wood sprite in the diaphanous silk-tulle 1930s wedding dress that Katy England found for her bachelorette party, and proceeds to execute an exuberant tango. Everyone’s mother is still on the dance floor. (At her bachelorette weekend, “my mum was the last to leave,” says Kate, laughing. “The last man standing, my mum was!”)
At six in the morning a china-blue dawn rises over the fields that seem to be littered with exhausted revelers, like the aftermath of a medieval battle.
I can still feel the love.