Drugs have played a prominent role in NYFW so far — should we be worried?

The presence of drugs has played a large role in this year's Fashion Week
The presence of drugs has played a large role in this year’s Fashion Week. (Photo: Getty Images)

NYFW has featured some serious smoke shows so far. Figuratively and literally. Weed and other drugs have been center stage in a handful of shows, and at only one of them was the reference welcome.

It started Tuesday at the Death to Tennis show, when a rapper named Smokepurpp, seated in the front row, lit up a joint in the middle of the presentation. Umm … is fashion that boring?

It caused quite a commotion when a security guard approached to tell him to put it out, a move Smokepurpp’s bodyguard did not like. The rapper put out the joint, but the damage had been done. “It was juvenile and not a part of the brand aesthetic,” Death to Tennis commented to Women’s Wear Daily.

"Smoke Show" @donziop by #WhiteApeFilms #nyfw #fashionweek #grungygentlemen

A post shared by iamwhiteape (@whiteapefilms) on Feb 8, 2018 at 4:23pm PST

Not to be outdone by Smokepurpp, another rapper took the act even further at the Grungy Gentleman show the following day. The cast was made up of nonmodels, like rapper Don Zio P, who felt his entrance onto the runway was the perfect time to light up a blunt. He smoked it as he showed off a blue bomber jacket and white pants.

A video of the doobie stunt shows the audience being surprisingly blasé, but people backstage were pretty impressed. “That shit was epic. Never seen f***ing nobody spark blunt on the runway,” remarked one guy wearing an official-looking lanyard. Someone else said he had “big cojones,” with a smile on his face.

But Jace Lipstein, designer and founder of Grungy Gentleman, was not as amused. “I am absolutely appalled by the behavior of the model who walked in my show and completely, without my knowledge, took part in smoking marijuana on my runway,” he told WWD. “I feel extremely disrespected by Don’s lack of respect and commitment towards my brand. I do not condone any type of drug use at, or during, any of my runway shows, and I am taking steps to make sure that outside talent, such as this musician, will never be associated with the Grungy Gentleman brand again.”

A man who identifies himself as Don Zio P’s manager took responsibility for the incident and told WWD he was “not proud of the situation.”

The least scandalous NYFW drug appearance took place later that night. Raf Simons’s Ready to Wear Fall/Winter 2018-2019 collection, called Youth in Motion, was based on a movie called Christiane F., which is about the drug scene in Berlin in the 1970s. Men walked the runway in colorful scarves, overcoats and graphic tees. You may have noticed the patches featuring random letters on the scarves, the knees of jeans, and the elbows of sweaters. They weren’t random. They were the abbreviated names of narcotic substances like LSD, XTC, GHB and 2C-B. Some simply spelled out D-R-U-G-S.

The names of drugs were featured on a number of Raf Simons designs for his
The names of drugs were featured on a number of Raf Simons designs for his “Youth in Motion” show during New York Fashion Week. (Photo: Getty Images)

In case you didn’t get the point, he presented some deconstructed sleeveless hoodies with the word “DRUGS” splashed on the front in big block letters. The lighting in the room was psychedelic enough to make you feel like you were on drugs, and the wine bottles lining the runway could make you feel like you were coming off them.

Just in case you didn't get the message at the Raf Simons runway
Just in case you didn’t get the message at the Raf Simons runway. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Ultimately, ‘Youth In Motion’ seeks to neither glorify nor condone the culture(s) of drugs,” the show notes read. “[R]ather, Simons seeks instead to consider the persistent, almost ubiquitous presence of narcotics (prescribed or otherwise) within our society and acknowledge our often conflicted relationships with them.”

The presence of drugs at a fashion show can send the wrong message, no matter what the designer’s intention. “I must point out that the designer who uses drug names in his designs is contributing/exacerbating the ubiquitous presence of narcotics,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, clinical psychologist from addiction treatment center Seasons, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Few will get his message when it is glamorized in this manner,” she said. “This is really irresponsible use of creativity.”

And while the other designers didn’t mean for this to happen, it can’t be so easily avoided these days. “I certainly don’t think it’s a great idea from a health standpoint, for health messaging, to have models smoking pot on the runway, but that’s kind of the world we live in right now,” Dr. Drew Pinsky, the ultimate expert on all things addiction and pop culture (among other things), tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, some people want to make light of all of it, but all of it, including alcohol, has very serious health consequences. So if you are going to endorse, or encourage, or allow your brand … you’re a marketer … you’re part of the health messaging, potentially,” he warns those in the fashion industry who might not mind a little marijuana.

However, he completely understands the desire to weave the country’s relationship with drugs into art. “On the other hand, I feel bad for the fashion designers,” he says. “They’re artists. And they’re trying to create things that are pertinent to the moment and I get that. So putting the names of drugs on clothing, that’s artistic and the reality of the moment. These things are all around us and I would defend that for sure. That’s just artistic expression.”

And there’s no proof that enjoying a mid-show joint will encourage others to join in. “I don’t know of any evidence that it encourages youth, in fact it might go the other way. Who knows?”

The bottom line is, while the idea of using drugs as props in fashion shows makes Dr. Drew “worried and uncomfortable,” he insists it’s not the fashion industry’s problem because “they’re not a health company, they’re not a health advocacy group.” Of course, as our country faces an opioid crisis, these brands had the right response, and Dr. Drew hopes others would “want to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.”

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