Drugs - Why it's ok for Raf but not for other brands

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Raf Simons is undoubtedly a living creative genius of this age and is worshiped within and outside the industry as a fashion god. With an archive that’s as relevant today, with songs being written about it (Please don’t touch my Raf), and current collections that spawn the most hype pieces, it seems the man can do no bad. When he sent his AW18 collection down the catwalk last night in New York, where he now shows his collections, along with those for Calvin Klein, it kicked off an online debate on drug references in fashion.

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An interesting portion of those arguments seemed to revolve around the reaction Raf got to this in comparison to other brands who had previously referenced drugs in their collections, across the spectrum of the fashion industry. Numerous online punters seem to be calling out the hypocrisy they saw, where Simons’ collection was met with critical acclaim, smaller, less influential brands had received the cold shoulder for doing so, and of course not an ounce of credit.

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One brand that seems to have been met with a harsh cold shoulder when it comes to having a drug reference as an integral part of their creative outlet is Fashion Criminal. We recently talked to the driving force behind the brand recently to find that the intensions behind this design was not to exploit drug use, neither to shock or demand attention. Bryan told us that they were in fact replacing drugs with t-shirts and sweaters so their followers could get the same feeling of euphoria and happiness that they would get from illegal substances from wearing the brand.

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Pieces emblazoned with the letters MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy pills, are what the brand Fashion Criminal grew from. The t-shirts and caps have been seen on massive influencers in the game including Ian Connor, Bloody Osiris, and the late Lil Peep, all for the love of the fact that the brand had grown from nothing with the good intensions of giving something for the youth to feel part of beyond the pitfalls of the sash and getting wasted. Young people across the globe have been seen to identify with this and turn out in hoards to pop-ups during the brand’s tour of the United States and European cities.

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Though drug references have seemingly been a part of fashion as long as drugs have been part of youth culture, until recently, overt references had not been as prominent. This is how Fashion Criminal made such a mark on the industry, doing something nobody else was doing at the time. Of course seeing the wave that they made, several others in the industry followed, or copied perhaps as punters on social media may suggest. High fashion brands like Palm Angels started producing pieces with a commentary on the legalisation of cannabis printed on them, very much promoting the use of the drug in contrast to the honourable intensions of Fashion Criminal. However, as a high fashion brand, this collection was accepted with general warmth; there may have been some critics but the general consensus was that it was accepted, and was stocked in shops like Selfridges. Why is it ok for one, but not for the other?

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When it comes to Raf, the press release for the show mentioned that the food used to decorate the catwalk would go to feeding the New York homeless, and that the proceeds from the collection would go to fund the recovery of addicts in the city. This shut the mouths of those that were up in arms about the exploitation of drug use and it’s glamorisation, but of course, Raf can afford that, with suspected millions in sales and a more than healthy (deserved but none the less relevant) pay check from CK.

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The biggest thing to come to the surface here is that we hold high fashion brands and those starting out at the lower end of the market to very different levels of accountability. Although those brands who are household names are open and subject to a lot of criticism, they get through it and their clothes always sell. Why can’t we give the same to smaller brands?

 

Words by Iolo Lewis Edwards

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