A Quick Guide to the Heroin Chic trend
Heroin Chic, one of the, if not the most controversial era of the Fashion industry, was a trend that lasted for a few years back in the 90s. It’s basically a look characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes, dark red lipstick and angular bone structure, not to mention the extreme thinness.

According to the media, the Heroin Chic trend glamorizes drug use and addictions, which created a lot of controversy. In addition to that, the trend was made even more famous with the help of Calvin Klein campaigns whose ultimate goals were to shock people.
Various Calvin Klein advertisings, featuring young models showing a lot of skin, were the key to controversy.

A 16-year-old Kate Moss, topless and straddling Mark Wahlberg, 20 at the time, was promoting CK’s pair of jeans.

 

Another campaign that stood out was one featuring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields, and her iconic, short but shocking line: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

This extreme sexualization of underage models and the glamorization of drugs and toxic lifestyles were denounced by Bill Clinton himself, president of the U.S at the time: “Fashion photos in the last few years have made heroin addiction seem glamorous and sexy and cool.” “The glorification of heroin is not creative, it’s destructive.”
To justify itself, the Heroin Chic trend was said to be a “rebellion of aesthetics”, turning its back on the glossy excess of the 80’s. It was indeed a reaction against the “healthy” and vibrant look of other models such as Cindy Crawford. Designers like Calvin Klein himself wanted to make something different, more “real”.

“The popularity of Heroin Chic is a reaction to the numbness of capitalist success and ennui of pop culture in the grungey 90’s”

 

Photographers like Corinne Day, Steven Meisel and Davide Sorrenti were famous for their Heroin Chic photoshoots, featuring the best models of the era; Kate Moss, Jaime King, Jodie Kidd and more. Even some movies were part of the trend, think The Basketball diaries (1995) or Girl,Interrupted (1999). Basically, movies that symbolized absolute disillusionment. Not necessarily heroin, but a cultural mood on the cusp of grunge.
Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted
Leonardo Dicaprio in The Basketball Diaries
As the editor, Jefferson Hack, explained: “It would be more destructive if fashion featured only happy, smiley people. Fashion has been dealing with real life issues since the Eighties and heroin has infiltrated every part of society. To ignore it is damaging.”
Despite all the controversy, debates and discussions it created, the Heroin Chic trend started fading away in the late 90’s, after the death of one the era’s photographers, Davide Sorrenti, who passed away because of a combination of his illness and his excessive heroin use.

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