You've probably already heard it: Jeremy Scott's latest capsule collection for Moschino was banned from Nordstrom after it was accused of promoting drug use by an online petition. But let's go back to the begging of the story.
During Milan Fashion Week, Scott sent on Moschino's runway a collection inspired by paper dolls with designs that featured white folding tabs around the edges.
As an addition, he included a few designs inspired by pills that were immediately released on the Moschino site to conform with the current "see now buy now" rules of the fashion industry, a trend Scott favoured since his arrival at the Italian label.
The pill inspired "Capsule Collection" (pun intended as the fashion label explained...) includes a black mini-dress, backpack and umbrella covered in prints of colourful pills; a prescription mini-dress and T-shirt and a track suit with packaging and instructional inserts of an over-the-counter medication.
Accessories also include a shoulder bag and a smartphone cover that look like blister packs and a pill bottle purse, and there are also a T-shirt and a mini-dress bearing the words "Just Say MoschiNO", a pun on the "Just Say No" anti-addiction campaign.
Last week, Randy Anderson, a former drug and alcohol user and now counselor in Minnesota, launched a petition on Change.org, accusing the accessories of promoting drug use and trivialising America's drug abuse epidemic.
Anderson asked Moschino "Do you have any idea of the message your company is sending to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose? Have you not seen the countless number of media reports on overdose deaths from prescription pain medication, including the rock and roll icon Prince? Do you have no moral responsibility in what type of products your company promotes for public use? "
After all, pills and pill inspired packages have been around for a long time: the iconic artwork and packaging for Spiritualized's album "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space" made it into music history thanks to its medicine box and CD trapped in a maxi-blister (yes, opening it was a design crime, but you still had to do it to access the CD…).
Besides, the petition calls for "moral responsibility" to a fashion industry that never had one: fashion nowadays is mainly about producing fast garments, generating social media revenue and, well, making money without caring about the people who make the clothes and those who buy them.
In a way, Moschino is therefore almost innocent in this diatribe about drug glamorisation. In fact it should not be condemned for encouraging people to use drugs, but for another reason - copyright infringement. Yes, once again.
From a fashion and history point of view, the pharmacopoeia trend has always been rather popular in fashion. It started indeed around 1930 when Elsa Triolet's designed a porcelain "Aspirin" necklace for Elsa Schiaparelli.
As it happens with fashion cycles, the trend disappeared and reappeared: it was eventually relaunched by Karl Lagerfeld with Chanel's S/S 2007 collection that opened with models in chemist's white coats and included evening dresses covered in bi-coloured pills and aspirins.
Art had its fair share of drugs and pills championed by Damien Hirst in his glass, stainless steel, and aluminium display cases filled with coloured plaster and painted pills (think about "Standing Alone on the Precipice and Overlooking the Arctic Wastelands of Pure Terror", 1999-2000, or "The Dark Continent", 2009-2010, a cabinet filled with black/grey pills).
As the years passed we saw more art and fashion projects commenting on fashion/logo/drug addition: in 2012 artist Jonathan Paul (also known as Desire Obtain Cherish) debuted his series of resin casted acrylic sculptures revolving around the culture of "designer drugs" and came up with a series of high-end "designer" pills branded Hermés, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and YSL.
Then it was the turn of the 2013 "Designer Drugs" editorial by photographer Steve Kraitt that featured a series of brightly coloured pills with the logos of famous fashion houses.
Last year pharmacopoeia was a micro-trend at London's Graduate Fashion Week: among the students who opted for such trend there was Emma Quinn (from the Limerick School of Art and Design at the Limerick Institute of Technology), whose collection didn't encourage drug use, but reinterpreted the obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disease through colour blocking and appliqued pills scattered on her designs.
Damien Hirst launched quite a few years ago a collaboration with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's label The Row consisting in a limited edition of 12 bags (2012). One of the designs from this collaboration actually looks rather similar to Moschino's, though in Hirst/The Row's bag the pills were appliquéd on the black bag; in Moschino's case they were printed on the rucksack.
Yet, you don't even need to go back so many years in the history of fashion: just go on AliExpress, write "pill" in the search and you will get dresses, vests, and shirts covered in prints of pills, for that quick - and above all cheap - thrill.
King of the trivial, Scott who's in the past plagiarised Barbie and her wardrobe, celebrated tackiness and stolen from graffiti artists, wasn't therefore glamorizing drugs at all. In fact he may have even got the idea after designing a Super Mario Capsule collection since there is a Dr Mario videogame, a Tetris-like puzzle game with cascades of colourful vitamins and germs.
In conclusion, accusing Moschino of encouraging prescription drug abuse is a bit feeble: surely an Alexander McQueen scarf with a skull print does not encourage consumers to commit suicide nor a shirt with an image of a gun prompts to engage in violent acts.
As for Nordstrom, well, if Chanel's or Damien Hirst's designs weren't banned when they came out and they weren't accused of pushing people to indulge in drug use, you can't see why Moschino's should be banned.
Defending itself, the Italian label claimed the capsule collection was not intended to glamorize drug addiction, but to spark conversation about the topic (in a way it could also spark conversation about other types of conditions like Emma Quinn did with her collection...). Yet, considering the history of pharmacopoeia in fashion and the similarity with some fashion designs and artworks that preceded it, this capsule collection shouldn't spark a conversation about drugs, but about the lack of originality and the rise of copyright infringement cases in the fashion industry.