'Dazzlingly, amazingly beautiful' / Anita Pallenberg's friends on her inimitable style
'Dazzlingly, amazingly beautiful': Anita Pallenberg's friends on her inimitable style
‘Rock chick’, ‘It girl’, ‘muse’… these are just a handful of the descriptions used to encapsulate the unique power of Anita Pallenberg, the model, actress and designer who died this week. Her friend Pam Hogg says it better though. “Anita was a force, not just an incredible beauty, she lived her life to the full.”
For most of us, Pallenberg’s inimitably eclectic style is filtered through in grainy, dreamy images of her hanging out with her boyfriend Keith Richards and the rest of The Rolling Stones (she is credited as being a highly influential, honourary member of the band), gallivanting through airports or breezing around Morocco in perfectly pitched and totally inventive looks. It arguably defined a whole new genre of louche, creative dressing.
Fashion designer Bella Freud knows what it was like to witness Pallenberg’s appeal from afar. “She was the first woman that I registered as being dazzlingly, amazingly beautiful but who also had something undefinable that made me admire her and be intrigued by her,” Freud remembers.
“That was when I was 11 or 12. It was like she personified all the happiness and satisfaction that music could give you. Listening to records made you feel lit up and happy and then there she was looking completely amazing and original.”
Pallenberg’s earlier years may have been a haze of experimental adventure in which her innate style was a visually rich co-star but later she came to have a more tangible influence on fashion and the industry’s key players in London. “I was honoured to discover she championed my work and bought clothes from my shop in the 80s long before we became friends,” says Hogg. “Later on in 2000, she starred in my first fashion film playing Keith's guitar in a mock band with myself, Bobby Gillespie and her long-time friend Patti Palladin.”
For Freud, it was “a dream coming to life” when she became friends with Pallenberg. “I met her in the early 80s when I was living in Rome,” she remembers. “I was sitting in a cafe in the square by the Pantheon and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said hello and it was her.” Pallenberg and Freud became close, forging a friendship she likens to that of school friends.
She pinpoints Pallenberg’s idiosyncratic style philosophy as particularly inspiring. “Weirdly, we did discuss fashion, even though it’s something one doesn’t usually talk about but she had interesting observations about clothes and style, why things were good or not. It was as if by dissecting someone’s personality she would be able to see something. It was like when I used to listen to my Dad [the artist Lucian Freud] talk about painting and why something was good and I’d think, ‘Wow, that would never have come into my mind.’ She was like that about clothes.”
Her reputation as a fashion inspiration firmly cemented, Pallenberg became more intrinsically involved in the industry. She completed a fashion and textiles degree in 1994 and went on to make some select catwalk appearances, as well as rocking up to parties in looks which were just as effortlessly eclectic as those she wore back in her 60s and 70s heyday.
“I loved her, Anita was very special,” reflects Vivienne Westwood whose clothes Pallenberg adored. “A very strong character; philosophical, dry humour. She used to pop in out of nowhere, it was always great to work with her. She modelled in our shows, once in a beautiful silver dress that suited her no end.”
Last year, Freud even created a t-shirt and knit dedicated to her friend, a gesture acknowledging her influence. “If I’m slightly lost about where I want to be with a collection, I think about her and there’s an immediate electricity which happens.”
Most recently, Pallenberg made a characteristically fabulous turn on Pam Hogg’s catwalk. “She called me up last season the day before my show and asked if she could walk. Incredibly only minutes before a model had called to say she had to cancel,” Hogg remembers.
“I knew by instinct the gold outfit now free would fit Anita perfectly; it was truly destined for her. When I told her it was gold she was like an excited kid asking if she could wear her gold Elvis sunglasses and walking stick. As a surprise the next day she arrived at the venue an hour before showtime wearing a gold fringed fake leopard coat she'd bought from my shop in the 80s. She was awesome, completely stole the show with a standing ovation and screams that could have taken the roof right off.”
That joyful moment is now imbued with extra meaning for Hogg. “I’m so glad she had her last moment of glory knowing the magnitude of love there was for her. It was an honour to be her friend.”