Heroin Chic

kate moss

Heroin chic was a look popularized in mid-1990s fashion and characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes, and angular bone structure. This waifish, drug-addicted look was the basis of the 1993 advertising campaign of Calvin Klein featuring Kate Moss photographed by Vincent Gallo.

Emaciated features and androgyny were a reaction to ‘healthy’ and vibrant look of models such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Heidi Klum. A 1996 article in ‘The Los Angeles Times’ charged that the fashion industry had ‘a nihilistic vision of beauty’ that was reflective of drug addiction.

At the time, the popular image of heroin was changing for several reasons. The price of heroin had decreased, and its purity had increased dramatically. The AIDS epidemic had made injecting heroin with unclean needles increasingly risky, and inhalation became a more common mode of use. These changes decreased the stigma surrounding the drug, allowing heroin to find a new market among the middle-class and the wealthy, in contrast to its previous base of the poor and marginalized. The heroin chic trend in fashion coincided with a string of movies in the mid-1990s – such as ‘The Basketball Diaries,’ ‘Trainspotting,’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ – that touch upon heroin use and drug culture.

The trend eventually faded, in part due to the drugs related death of prominent fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti, who was known for his photographs of seemingly strung-out models in stupor-like poses that some felt emulated the blank look of the heroin addict and glamorized drug use. He fell in love with teenage model Jaime King, herself a heroin addict, and began abusing substances himself. In 1999, ‘Vogue’ magazine dubbed Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen ‘The Return of the Sexy Model’ and she was credited with ending the heroin chic era of modeling.

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