The phrase “heroin chic” which Kate Moss has come to epitomize in our minds is kind of a troubling one. The conflation of substance abuse with something attractive has always made me a bit uncomfortable. So while I can’t say I condone the phrase, the look itself, independent of its horrifying drug use associations, has its appeal. And if there was such a look as “heroin chic" before Kate Moss, it came from the 1981 German film Christiane F. –We Children from Banhoff Zoo. Based on the life of a 14 year old heroin addict, Christiane F., the movie tells the tragic story of teenage drug abuse in 1970s Berlin. Christiane and her underaged friends frequent the discos of Berlin in satin bombers, pin straight jeans, ankle boots, and wispy, skinny scarves much like the ones we’ve seen Hedi Slimane showing at Saint Laurent.
There’s something about Christiane’s style which is particularly heartbreaking. Early in the movie, before her involvement with drugs when she is first going out to the discotheque, there is a certain naiveté in the way she clumsily wears her white blouse and satin bomber jacket, carefully applying red lipstick in the mirror with all the inexperience of her 12 years. She wears this look a few times, with her high heeled shoes carried in a bag after she leaves––its as if she is playing dress up, like a little girl borrowing her mothers grown-up clothes. As her confidence and comfortability in the drug scene evolves, her style becomes more assertive. She dyes her hair red, wears more makeup, and no longer carries her heels in a bag. The clash of her obvious innocence with the horrifyingly dire Berlin drug scene is as dark as it comes. It is most certainly a cautionary tale. Following the release of the movie, real Christiane F. (Christiane Felscherinow) became something of a style icon in Germany, despite the obvious tragedy of her ongoing drug use which continued into adulthood. Her life is a testament to the truth of the phrase “all that glitters is not gold”––I’ll keep the satiny, disco dream clothes and leave the rest.