At the height of the phenomenon, when I was released from the hospice off Melrose after nearly a month stint at Cedars-Sinai I was 95 lbs soaking wet. At the onset of my debacle, a paramedic responding to my 911 call had asked me why I was "so thin". Without hesitation, I responded something to the effect to indicate Hollywood was to blame.
The look, which promoted emaciated features and androgyny, was an alternative that stood in direct contradiction to the healthy and vibrant look of models such as Christy Brinkley, 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, and U.S. News and World Report called the movement a "cynical trend".
Heroin infiltrated pop culture through such figures as Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, and River Phoenix, whose fame brought attention to their addictions in the early 1990s. In film, 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 examined heroin use and drug culture
Rise and fall of the aesthetic
This waifish, emaciated, and drug-addicted look was the basis of the 1993 advertising campaign of Calvin Klein featuring Kate Moss. Film director and actor Vincent Gallo contributed to the development of this image through his Calvin Klein fashion shoots. The trend eventually faded, perhaps in part due to the overdose death of a prominent fashion photographer of the genre, Davide Sorrenti. Sorrenti 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 James King, herself a heroin addict, and began abusing substances himself. Vulnerable due to a lifelong blood disorder, Sorrenti died in 1997 after an injection of an amount that was "not normally considered unusual".
Heroin chic fashion drew much criticism, especially from anti-drug groups.Fashion designers, models such as Kate Moss and Jaime King, and movies such as Trainspotting were blamed for glamorizing heroin use. Then-U.S. president Bill Clinton condemned the look. Other commentators denied that fashion images made drug use itself more attractive. "There is no reason to expect that people attracted to the look promoted by Calvin Klein and other advertisers...will also be attracted to heroin, any more than suburban teen-agers who wear baggy pants and backward caps will end up shooting people from moving cars," wrote Jacob Sullum in Reason magazine."
At the time the ads surfaced, I had never tried heroin. I was a self-described speed junkie and attributed my lanky, emaciated frame to the drug as well my many anorexic habits.
Today, I am HWP (height-weight proportionate) for my size and have been in contact with a host of heroin users more so than in the chic past. it may be a twist of \rony that causes my personal trajectory to come full circle in the way of heroin use and its implications. None of the addicted people I have met through SFAF Needle Exchange or my other drug outreach are as glamorous as I tried to be that long ago season of heroin chic. I look back on my experience with a bittersweet envy and nod to nostalgia. Long Live Kate Moss and the era of the androgynous waif. To think for a brief moment in time, I was the It ticket.