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Heroin Chic Essay, Research Paper

The Downfall

The problems that face the today’s society have lead to many controversial issues. This is especially prominent when dealing with the fashion industry. For instance, the latest in thing, “heroin chic”, has stirred up a large amount of tension between retailers and consumers in the United States. This shortly lived phenomenon has proven itself both deadly and profitable for all those involved. This hazard involved in the pursuit of fashion is the perfect example of how fashion influences society.

Within the past two years, the issue of “heroin chic” has been mentioned with growing concern in the fashion industry. Designers are purposely portraying the lives of supermodels, such as Kate Moss and Shalom Harlow, as that of the street junkies. This trend, which is slowly coming to an end, depicts the models as being numb and sickly, instead of the beautiful people they really are. This style basically originated with the late photographer David Sorrenti. Ironically, Sorrenti died of a heroin overdose

in 1996. Sorrenti’s style of photography was unique. He glorified the models through making them appear as if they were on a two-week drug binge. They were underweight, their eyes appeared to be deep set, and their facial characteristics were extremely serious. Sorrenti’s style soon caught the eyes of famous designers and began to revolutionize fashion.

As Sorrenti’s photographs were spread throughout the fashion industry, everyone wanted a piece of the “heroin chic” style. This look brought designers, as well as, Sorrenti great fame and fortune. It sent sales boosting through the roof for designers such as Calvin Klein, Gucci, John Galliano, and Prada. These names lead the fashionable world in which we live today. Calvin Klein, however, was more fascinated with this look then the other designers. He began to work hand and hand with Sorrenti. Calvin Klein’s ad campaign changed from his also controversial child pornography ads, to this tasteless campaign involving “heroin chic.” Teenagers as always began admiring the work of their fashion guru, Calvin Klein. They would go to any extent possible to look like the models we so frequently saw starring down at us from the billboards in Times Square. Eventually, time took its toll. David Sorrenti’s habits caught up with him putting an end to his life of heroin addiction.

With Sorrenti’s death, new life was born. People began to open their eyes to this growing disease that could only lead to downfall. The media, as well as some retailers began to publicly discuss this issue of “heroin chic.” Groups such as the National Families in Action formed. They asked Calvin Klein’s competitors to join in refusing to glamorize addiction in any of their ads. Organizations such as this began to form in order to stop this growing trend before it hit the homes of others. People began to take this so serious that a coalition of parents called for a boycott to designer Calvin Klein’s products to protest a new ad campaign that they say glamorizes heroin addiction. However, companies in the fashion industry, as well as, Hollywood still continued to portray this look. Movies such as “Trainspotting,” still became blockbuster hits.

Another aspect of society in which this issue of “heroin chic” claimed extraordinary harm was in the club scene. Teenage kids continued at the same rate, if not increasing, their want to be fashionably accepted. They would dress like the models, and complement the remainder of the appearance through drug use. Sue Rusche, the leader of the boycott called against Calvin Klein said, “It is quite clear to me that they are glamorizing addiction and drug use, and they are doing it at a time when kids’ drug abuse has doubled in the past four years”. This goes to show that the style of “heroin chic” effects all those involved.

On the other hand, executives at Calvin Klein were stated as saying the ads portray real people and have nothing to do with the support or promotion of narcotic abuse. These statements try to defend Calvin Klein’s projection of a world consisting of illusions. However, critics still take a strong stand in their belief that the fashion industry, especially Calvin Klein is trying to promote drug use in their ads.

This intense issue soon gained national attention of the presidency. Clinton’s comments came after an article appeared in the New York Times about the heroin-chic style. The President stated “You need not glamorize addiction to sell clothes”(Internet). This attention put more stress upon companies such as Calvin Klein to change their ad campaign.

Although drug use may occur within the fashion industry, it is totally irresponsible to try to implant these ideas upon America’s youth. Calvin Klein tries to defend acquisitions such as these by saying, the campaign is based on being yourself. However, Calvin Klein should realize that if they are going to assume the role of the leader in the fashion industry, they should assume the responsibilities that go along with this power. In the 1970’s teen model Brooke Shields was hired to proclaim in a jeans ad: ‘Nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s”. This statement if said today would probably bring about no controversy. However, in the 1970’s, this statement was totally unacceptable. It is from examples like this that Calvin Klein should learn from there mistakes and change there process of advertising. This sense of selfish advertising could become more human, still being able to sell the same amount of products.

Since the Presidents statement regarding “Heroin Chic”, much change has taken place in the fashion industry. Companies have adjusted their ad campaigns. There is more of an emphasis on natural beauty, than that of deadly appeal. However, the pain which Sorrenti and Klein have already caused cannot be forgotten by some. Some models, as well as, men and woman from the general population have lost their lives due to this pursuit of fashion. This hazard in the pursuit of fashion should not be taken lightly. If more of an emphasis is not put on the issue of “heroin chic,” more people will be joining Sorrenti is his everlasting numbness.


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