The Guardian (1.11.97)

Fashion: Wild Thing
Steven Severin

Anita Pallenberg was the ultimate Sixties rock chick, the rebellious blonde who dated three Rolling Stones and starred in cult films Barbarella and Performance. Now she's gone back to her first true love - fashion.

"Which side of the bed do you lie on?" asked the banner across Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's 1976 Situationist-style T-shirt. Lined up against each other below were the two sides of the pre-punk battleground: on one side, Pink Floyd, Enoch Powell and the Rolling Stones; on the other, the New York Dolls, the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Sex Pistols.

And there, hidden amid the plethora of names and references in the "cool" army, was Anita Pallenberg. No matter that the Stones had fallen from grace - Anita was untarnished, forever the Black Queen of Barbarella. It's an unenviable but enduring image that she has found impossible to shed.

While graciously accepting that her public persona is forever frozen in amber, Pallenberg recently returned to her first love: fashion.

"I spent four of the best years of my life at Saint Martin's," she says.

"The highlight was an exchange trip to Saint Petersburg at the end of the course." St. Martin's was followed by a spell working with Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui in New York and then in London with her old acquaintance, Vivienne Westwood.

"I've been with Vivienne at most of the Paris shows. I've done everything from cutting and sewing to styling. One minute helping out backstage, the next up on the catwalk modelling. Always learning. And with Vivienne, it's always about tailoring. But what else is there?" It is testimony to her intergrity that Pallenberg has not traded on her name and its associations to leapfrog into the glare of designer branding.

"I guess I've always been a rebel. I loathe exploitation. Consequently I'm very choosy. I have my own ethics. These people wanted to put my name on a pair of jeans hoping to make money from my connections with the past. But that's gone. I refused." Our rose-tinted obsession with the Sixties is her bete noire. "I could never understand why people walked barefoot down the King's Road. For one, it was filthy. And why deny yourself the most beautiful part of a wowan's wardrobe, the show?" I mention the 1966/1996 comparison and we start to discuss Brit-this and Brit-that.

"I've lived here for 30 years, on and off, and I still feel like a foreigner. You're not very welcoming. It's that island mentality. We're not all Vikings, you know!" Pallenberg mentions with a grin the prospect of DJing at the ICA, a musical project with Lenny Kaye, and an autobiography on the horizon.

"I've never been in the mainstream and I don't want to start now. It's not that I need to be totally in control, but I don't want work to be the sole thing in my life. I've seen it possess people. Besides, my interests cover many areas - fashion, music, cinema, art. I'm just trying to find my own niche." Said with an innocence most unbecoming of a Black Widow.

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