In 1993 River Phoenix collapsed outside of The Viper Room in West Hollywood due to a drug overdose. In 1994, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide while having an extreme amount of heroin in his bloodstream. In 1997, Davide Sorrenti, Mario's younger brother, known for his work surrounding 'Heroin Chic' and his relationship with a proprietor of the trend, Jaime King, was found dead after kidney ailment due to heroin abuse. Cobain's death left millions questioning heroin and why it was sought after, if that's what shaped the Grunge Era apart from the music and how can it not kill you. By 1995, heroin had become one of the most discussed drugs in mainstream media and with it, came the term 'Heroin Chic' in the fashion industry. Influencing thousands of young people who romanticised the idea of being a drug addict, the term ended up being discussed by president Bill Clinton when he denounced the American fashion industry for its blatant promotion of drug addiction and extreme eating disorders.
It's to nobody's surprise then that the fashion industry picked up a trend, that was closely related to the drug that dominated the backrooms of runway shows and one-bedroom apartments in New York City, crammed with 7 models. From runways to teenage bedrooms, 'Heroin Chic' entered the world in a force that is, to this day, unparalleled. The trend took over almost overnight in the early 90s, the fashion industry began replacing the athletic, tan and healthy-looking bodies of the 80s supermodels with 'waif' anti-models like Kate Moss, Jaime King, and Jodie Kidd; casting agents began looking for pale girls with sunken eye sockets and hollowed out cheekbones. What's interesting is that in the era of the Kim Kardashian-esque bodies that dominate social media, the heroin chic look seems to have never left; just quietly lurking in random and rare stories like Ali Michael's 2008 public struggles with anorexia and her rejection from NYFW the following year due to her weight gain. Stories like that prove that the fashion industry's obsession with thinness never stopped and possibly never will, no matter how many 'plus-size' models make it on the runway during NYFW. To top that, the associations with drug abuse may have slowed down and become sparse but they can be seen in plenty of mainstream productions like Edie Campbell's YSL campaign for the Black Opium fragrance.
But, the problems of heroin chic didn't stop at the glamorization of drug addictions and eating disorders in the eyes of teenage girls looking up to models like Moss; the trend ran deeper when it came to the workings behind the scenes of the fashion industry at the time. While the models didn't have to actually be on heroin to look like that, it certainly helped if they were out of it, leaving them in the complete control of the photographers and creative directors. Young girls, some not even 18, were pushed towards destructive drugs like heroin in order to prevent them from speaking up when they were put in uncomfortable situations that a sober woman would probably oppose to. This begs the question of not only how people and the industry abused heroin as a drug but how an industry that's now under the microscope for sexual (and not) abuse of models, seized the opportunity to abuse heroin chic as a trend and treat the people working in it as medicated cattle that can be manipulated and their sick state can be glamourized and sold for profit.
More of the infamous heroin chic pictures: