If the various highs and corresponding lows of my late adolescence could be distilled into an item of clothing, I know exactly the form it would take: deliberately faded florals (yellow, red and green on a blue backdrop), the hemline slightly too short, the sleeves a little ruched and the neck a precarious V. I’m talking, of course, about the elusive pansy print dress from Kate Moss’s first collaboration for Topshop, as seen on Alexa Chung, Mossy herself and – to this day – hundreds of eBay listings.
In the mid-Noughties, the idea that a model might turn designer was a new one. That a model might lend their cachet to a mid-priced high street brand rather than, say, a big-name fashion house was unprecedented: this was before Jourdan Dunn for Missguided, before Alexa had us battling for trench coats in M&S, and before Heidi Klum inexplicably launched a line for Lidl. So, when one evil genius (read: Sir Philip Green) gave Kate Moss the go-ahead to re-fashion – and, in some cases, almost directly recreate – her greatest wardrobe hits for Toppers, the resulting collection was a game-changer, covetable but, crucially, affordable. This was 2007, after all, when we all wanted to dress like, look like and BE Mossy. The woman was single-handedly responsible for the rash of waistcoats – each one equally reminiscent of a magician at a suburban kids’ party – that sullied the British high street in the same year.
There’s no question that Kate – the best possible advert for her own designs – was a marketing coup. Remember that photocall at Topshop Oxford Circus, with Mossy striking a pose in a red column dress alongside mannequins dressed in her collection? But unlike the swathes of copy-cat collaborations that Kate’s range inspired, this one never felt like too much of a shameless cash-in because – regardless of Mossy’s name on the label – the clothes themselves were instantly memorable.
Mixing the model’s signature brand of ‘I-woke-up-in-this’ boho with more delicate, vintage-inspired tea dresses and blouses, this was effortless cool before that particular market was cornered by the French girls of Instagram. And if you did want to make an effort, albeit in last night’s eyeliner, sneaking-outside-for-a-fag sort of way, the eveningwear could transform you into a guest at Kate’s own Beautiful and the Damned-themed 30th with sequins, flapper dresses, bias cuts and intricate beading.
Thanks to a combination of clever design and Kate’s star power, the best pieces sold out in moments. That particularly elusive pansy print dress evaded me for nearly four years: first in the initial drop, then the online re-stock, and when I later trawled through every branch of Topshop in the North West (Mum, I’m so sorry). After months of sporadically stalking eBay, making then un-making resolutions to hand over obscene amounts of cash in its pursuit, my decisive moment came when the dress reappeared in Kate’s final collection, which resurrected a handful of the most popular styles from seasons past.
Though that particular item became the crux of my Mossy obsession, there were plenty of others: the blue bandeau dress in an Art-Deco poppy print from the Liberty archives, the striped ‘50s sundress that I’ve worn every summer since 2008, the asymmetrically-sleeved tulle dress (Kate’s is yellow, mine’s in black) and the daisy print blouse with puffball sleeves that, on reflection, probably made me look more like Lady Diana Spencer.
Personal nostalgia aside, these designs have had undeniable staying power. You only need to type Kate Moss Topshop into eBay’s search bar to see clothes from ten years ago with triple-figure price tags (my Moss mini-archive is probably the closest I’ll get to a viable pension) and today’s ‘it’ brands aren’t immune to Kate’s allure, either. Rixo’s extravagantly printed maxis have shades of her more overtly boho designs, while Realisation Par’s influencer-approved styles are surely close cousins of Kate’s poppy print wrap dresses. Here’s to never complaining, never explaining and hemlines that are slightly too short.
5 Kate Moss Topshop Dresses We’d Still Wear
1. The Yellow Off-The-Shoulder-Dress
Kate was wearing La La Land yellow when La La Land was just a figment of Damien Chazelle's colourful imagination.
2. The Flapper Dress
1920s references abounded in Kate's Topshop collection, each of which seemed to feature a flapper-esque showstopper gown like this one.
3. The Metallic Maxi
We like to think of this as either a more wearable version of the transparent slip that Kate wore on a night out with Naomi in the '90s, or as the glamorous evil twin of her Galliano wedding dress.
4. The Floral Mini Dress
Kudos to Kate for managing to make a ditzy print tea dress into the must-have piece of 2007; ten years on, we'd still wear it…
5. The Red Show-Stopper
Definitive proof that Mossy is a fashion visionary: she was channelling the dancing lady emoji a good five years before said lady burst into the popular consciousness.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.