This post was originally published on November 2, 2016.
Let’s hand it to Nordstrom for pulling Italian luxury fashion house Moschino’s new line of sportswear and accessories. Why the kudos? Well, because the purses, dresses and iPhone cases feature giant prescription bottles and colorful prints of pills. Moschino’s concept was super kitschy—think Valley of the Dolls—and might have been cute, if ODs from women hadn’t increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010.
Once the effects of the pills wore off and numerous customers complained that the fashion line was glamorizing drugs, Nordstrom axed the “capsule collection” (bad pun intended) from stores and websites. Who said peer pressure can’t be effective at times?
All the Cool Kids Are Doing It
Although Nordstrom’s refusal to deal the drug-related swag is admirable, the damage may already be done. Fashion influencers like Rhianna, Sofia Richie and the never-not-photographed Hadid sisters have already been seen rocking the offending items. And here’s the sad fact of the matter: almost more than they’re known for singing, modeling and dating douchebags, these ladies are famous for setting fashion trends for their millions of followers. And while sure, nobody is going to confuse a Hadid with a drug counselor or mental health expert, how are we supposed to get young people to understand that partying can turn into full-blown addiction if these chicks are making prescription bottles look like a fabulous accessory?
We can’t assume that all young women are fashion victims who lack common sense, but some are. That label certainly fit me until about the age of 25. The last thing we need are young women buying into the idea that it’s okay to normalize pill addiction because they saw these items on Gigi and RiRi.
Not the First Offense
The collection is the brainchild of LA-based fashion designer Jeremy Scott, who’s been the Creative Director at Moschino since 2013. Known for his bright, playful prints that appeal to teens and feature silly stuff like junk food, teddy bears and cartoon characters, Scott has made more than one foray into more sinister topics. His Fall 2016 capsule collection for Moschino featured a cigarette theme: models walked the runway in dresses full of burn holes, smoke billowing behind them, sporting teeny purses that looked exactly like packs of cigs. He also faced criticism in 2012 after Adidas pulled sneakers he designed that featured a chain and shackle design around the ankles because outraged members of the African American community saw them as a symbol of African slavery.
Scott is not the first designer to be inspired by prescription drugs. He’s not even the most obvious or offensive—just the latest. Kitson sold Xanax, Vicodin and Adderall shirts, a store in England put a Cocaine & Caviar shirt out there and luxury sportswear brand Pyer Moss debuted a drug-themed collection at New York Fashion week in the winter of 2016 that featured t-shirts in different colors with what looked like a warning label from a prescription bottle down the front. The models were also wearing military-inspired hats adorned with combinations of brightly colored buttons emblazoned with the names of drugs—booze, Oxy, molly, Xanax, Prozac and acid. One of them even carried a giant sign that read, “My Demons Won Today—I’m Sorry.” The label officially claims that the collection was supposed to open a dialogue about mental health. Um, WTF? A jaunty hat with pink and yellow buttons reading “Oxy” and “Booze” is now considered a solid way to open a conversation about mental health?
Controversy is Always in Style
The debate about high fashion glamorizing drug use is, of course, nothing new. Back in the 1990s I was a teenager who was actually on heroin during the whole “heroin chic” fashion craze (call me what you want but don’t call me a poser). My idea of fabulous was Courtney Love on the cover of Spin or Sassy looking like she just woke up handcuffed to a dumpster behind a gas station without her pants. I spent a decade in thrift store nightgowns and moth-eaten sweaters that hid my track marks. I’m not sure if I wanted to look like I was on drugs because it was cool or if I was relieved that the strung out look was fashionable because I couldn’t seem to stop using. And look, I have learned enough about myself in the last 20 years to know that I couldn’t blame my drug use on pop culture. But it certainly added gas to the fire.
So listen up, designers: prescription drugs shouldn’t be just another cool graphic or a controversial prop to get some press for your latest fashion line. Whether mature adults realize it or not, there are young people who emulate the things they see on runways, in Vogue or on Rihanna’s Twitter feed. The disease of addiction is no joke and it’s certainly not glamorous. It’s taking over our country and showing no signs of slowing, as evidenced by an annual assessment by the US Drug Enforcement Administration which found that heroin and prescription drug overdoses have now officially surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths.
At least major retailers like Nordstrom are hip enough (once they’ve been shamed) to understand that sometimes the best way to make a statement is to hit a company right in the (metallic faux-leather pill-pack) wallet.