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What was "Heroin Chic" in the fashion world?

Sep 1

When did "Heroin Chic" happen?

When Sarah Doukas, the creator of Storm Management, spotted 14-year-old Kate Moss at JFK Airport in New York, she signed her up as a model following a trip to The Bahamas.

During her time as a 16-year-old model for The Face, Corinne Day had black-and-white images of herself done by Melanie Ward, stylized, which she then called "The 3rd Summer of Love." Moss was shown as a young unknown, and the photographs were referred to as "grunge" or "dirty realism." 


And this time she was in Levi's ad, Levi's for Girls, shot by Corinne Day. Following his appearance on the cover of The Face, he was asked to do another photo shoot, this time titled "Haute Coiffure" (a French phrase meaning "high-fashion"). It was following this shoot that Moss established himself as an "anti-supermodel" of the 1990s, in contrast to the popular models of the time, like Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell, who were well known for curvaceous and tall figures.

Kate Moss has since gone on to change her ways, she is now involved with Sustainable Fashion amongst other notable projects.

In the fashion trend 'hippy chic' of the mid-1990s, Moss was shown for Calvin Klein with a campaign that created controversy about her weight. Then, during his presidency, Clinton addressed the tendency.  I maintain that "There was nothing else for it. It was a shift away from voluptuous women like Cindy Crawford and a notable occurrence when it was discovered that 'waifs' were thin. There's nothing else to say. There is no upper limit to how many times you may tell yourself you are not anorexic." 

Heroin chic was only starting to take hold during this time period, and for a number of reasons, the heroin popular image was starting to change. Heroin's price had dropped, and its purity had skyrocketed. In the 1980s, as a result of the AIDS crisis, intravenous drug use had grown more dangerous due to the increased use of filthy needles. Availability of high-purity heroin had risen, and snorting had become increasingly popular.


Prior to these alterations, the drug had far less stigma attached to it, and hence it could target a new market of people in the middle-class and the rich, rather than being restricted to the impoverished and the downtrodden.


Even today, Gia Carangi, sometimes known as the "first supermodel," is celebrated for her seminal role in the heroin chic fashion movement. Heroin was introduced into the mainstream in the early 1990s due to increased attention being given to addictions. This design style came together with a spate of movies from the 1990s that explored heroin usage and drug society, including The Basketball Diaries, Singles, Trainspotting, Kids, Permanent Midnight, and Pulp Fiction. 

Analysis and criticism

A lot of mockery and condemnation was directed on heroin chic fashion, particularly from anti-drug advocacy groups.

Glamorizing heroin usage was blamed on fashion designers, models such as Kate Moss and Jaime King, and movies such as Trainspotting. Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton took the criticism to heart and criticized the hairstyle. Other observers rejected the notion that the pictures of fashion serve to make drug usage more alluring. Regarding the influence of advertisements and marketing campaigns, Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine wrote, "People who are attracted to the looks promoted by brands like Calvin Klein and other advertisers... will not also be attracted to heroin, any more than people who wear baggy pants and backward caps are drawn to shooting people from moving cars."