A New Anita Pallenberg Documentary Sheds Light on the Style Icon’s Private Life

According to Billboard, 32 million Americans will attend a concert this year—and they’ll likely think about Kate Moss before they go. That’s because in 2008, Moss wore The Most Famous Concert Outfit Ever—a sheer golden T-shirt dress paired with a low-slung black belt and mud-streaked Hunter rain boots—that regularly hits TikTok and Instagram Reels to this day. But even though the supermodel helped originate modern festival fashion, Moss has her own style icon to thank: ’70s rock muse Anita Pallenberg.

“Anita and I used to go vintage shopping together,” says Moss, who first met the German-Italian artist and Rolling Stones collaborator on a CK One fragrance shoot in 1995. “She had such an amazing knowledge about fashion, and taught me about Fortuny and Schiaparelli.” Before her death in 2019 at age 73, Pallenberg passed along “bagloads” of castoffs to Moss, including the famous gold dress that sparkled even in Glastonbury’s gray and muddy fields.

london may 7 embargoed for publication in uk tabloid newspapers until 48 hours after create date and time model kate moss and actress anita pallenberg attend a private screening of classic film performance at the electric cinema on may 7, 2004 in london photo by dave benettgetty images

Dave M. Benett//Getty Images

Kate Moss and Anita Pallenberg.

“You can’t really discount her influence on fashion,” confirms Alexis Bloom, the co-director of Magnolia Pictures’ new documentary about Pallenberg, Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg, which arrives in theaters this month. “Every single person we spoke with recalled some instance when Anita changed the way they dressed.” That includes Scarlett Johansson, the movie’s narrator, along with designers like Marc Jacobs, Hedi Slimane, and Stella McCartney, who each referenced Pallenberg in recent runway collections. Rebecca Minkoff even based her entire fall 2017 collection on the ’60s icon; if The RealReal is any indication, it is still a popular resale choice, with all but one of the pieces sold out.

Moss calls her, flat out, “the coolest woman on the planet.” When asked about her addiction to microscopic velvet shorts in her indie sleaze era in the doc—now seen on the catwalks of Chanel and Gucci—Alexa Chung admits, “I believe I was trying to channel a debauched Anita Pallenberg in Morocco circa 1967.” Also onscreen, Keith Richards, Pallenberg’s partner of 13 years, candidly says, “I was considered for a while, like, the best-dressed man in the world. It was because I was wearing Anita’s clothes.”


Courtesy of Ella Richards

An original fashion sketch by Anita Pallenberg.

Born in wartime Munich, Pallenberg dropped out of high school to model in Italy and Paris, then decamped to Manhattan—and joined Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd—in the late ’60s. An actress in cult cinema hits like Barbarella and Candy, she also appeared in the Jean-Luc Godard documentary Sympathy for the Devil, which followed the Rolling Stones as their fame broke the stratosphere.

“She couldn’t really blend into the background,” says Catching Fire co-director Svetlana Zill, noting her forceful spirit, raspy laugh, and penchant for wearing metallic bikini tops and vintage Can-Can skirts to the grocery store. “What’s more, people took her creative advice really seriously.” That includes Mick Jagger, who reportedly insisted on re-recording the 1968 album Beggars Banquet after Pallenberg told him it wasn’t the band’s best work. “The Rolling Stones, of course, never gave [Pallenberg] her due,” says Marlon Richards, Pallenberg’s son with the Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist. “But some of their work belongs just as much to her.”

Marlon sometimes wonders if his mother’s outsize fashion fame is largely responsible for her influence on pop culture, including in the music and visual art worlds. Fluent in four languages, she also holds a design degree from the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. “I think she’s been badly misrepresented,” he says. “She never really spoke about herself, you know? She never stood up for herself as an artist…so she was left in this limbo world, really…and I felt like I had to fix it somehow.”

a mannequin wearing a dress

Courtesy of Ella Richards

Another sketch by Pallenberg, courtesy of her granddaughter, Ella Richards.

That fix began when Marlon’s daughter Ella, herself a model for boho-luxe labels like Chloé and Miu Miu (and this very magazine), found an old notebook in her grandmother’s former bedroom after her death. Pallenberg’s written words became the voiceover narrative for Catching Fire; meanwhile, the bags of clothes Ella found stashed in Pallenberg’s house now have their own closets, plural, in Marlon’s rural home. “They have their own energy,” he joked. “It’s like they glow.”

To emulate Pallenberg’s style sensibility, Moss advises piling modern, inexpensive fabrics with costly vintage ones. “I cherish a blue silk velvet robe [from Anita], which is exquisitely beautiful,” Moss says, “and a ’60s gold lurex bikini, which is so major!” Marlon recommends embracing designer finds with a pair of gigantic $5 wraparound sunglasses. “I’m serious, she found the best stuff on Canal Street!” he exclaims. “She was kind of a magpie. She would have heaps of Dior and Saint Laurent and other designer clothes. And then, you know, she’d have a pile of junk right next to it.” Catching Fire co-director Bloom, for her part, suggests an Italian snakeskin boot. “She was no barefoot hippie,” she says. “She loved a gorgeous, well-made boot.”

Zill says attitude is key, too. “She was incredibly beautiful, but she led with magnetism and intensity and humor,” she notes, citing a line from her diary—“I hate the word ‘nice’”—as a directive to go beyond things are simply pretty, instead choosing more interesting or artful pieces that straddle the line between high art and high school hoodie. “One of our interview subjects, who was very close with her, said she would talk to the pope the same way she’d talk to the guy at the deli,” Bloom says. “It was an internal sense of style, and a really giving spirit.”

Moss says Pallenberg also literally gave clothes away. Though she can’t estimate how many of the icon’s pieces she’s accumulated over the years, Moss notes “she was so generous with her clothes, she’d often come over with pieces from her wardrobe for me.”

Some of those pieces—as well as those in the aura-emitting closets at Marlon’s home—may finally be getting their due in the fashion history pantheon. “We’re trying to come up with a plan to donate some of her archives to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,” Marlon says. “The museum itself has been quite amenable to the idea. And honestly, my mother would have loved that. She was, you know, kind of her own work of art.”

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