Leader: Fashion firms on the edge over Moss case

The Mirror's lurid revelations of 'Cocaine Kate' Moss and her drug-taking exploits last Friday gave us the opening scene in what has become an intriguing drama played out in the media. It is one that has the reputations of a number of fashion industry players at its heart.

The weekend saw Chanel, Dior, H&M and Burberry, with whom the supermodel has lucrative advertising contracts, sitting tight, thereby tacitly supporting her. But on Tuesday, H&M cracked. It announced it was dropping Moss from its next campaign, saying: 'H&M is strongly against drug abuse and for many years has actively supported the drug-preventing organisation Mentor Foundation... A campaign with Kate Moss is inconsistent with H&M's clear dissociation with drugs'.

H&M's predicament illustrates how fashion companies walk a tightrope when they align their brands to celebrities with edgier lifestyles - especially the 'ubermodel' status of Moss.

The Mirror's revelations were hardly a surprise. The tabloids feasted on Moss's visits to The Priory in her younger days and, more recently, on her relationship with debauched singer Pete Doherty. Moreover, class 'A' drugs are said to be freely available, even endemic, in the fashion industry and Moss's image in the 1990s epitomised the 'heroin chic' of that era.

Aside from her instant recognisability, it is the residue of that image- the raciness it suggests - that makes Moss an attractive brand ambassador for many labels, particularly the relatively conservative Swedish-owned H&M. But a sizable chunk of H&M's customers are young people and the company has rightly decided it has a responsibility to protect that customer base - on moral as well as commercial grounds.

At the time of writing, H&M had acted alone in sacking Moss. But with the Met Police considering an investigation, it remains to be seen if

her other corporate partners can afford to support her much longer. This

piece of drama could run and run.

Daniel Rogers is away.

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