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Moschino Releases Drug-Themed Collection Amid Protests

The company recently debuted its “Capsule Collection SS17” line featuring an oversized prescription drug bottle shoulder bag — valued at $950 — and a smilarly-themed mini dress for $950 among other drug-inspired products.Says Moschino creative director “I always say, fashion is the only drug I do. It keeps me going.”

Gigi Hadid walked the controversial pill-themed show in Milan. Photo: Getty images

Moschino’s drawn criticism for the capsule and pill themed handbags and clothing. Photo: Getty images

According to a 2014 presentation from Nora D. Volkow, MD, to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, “It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.” So it’s easy to see why some people would be upset or feel that Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott is trivialising an important issue.

The clothing and accessories, selling at upscale department stores like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, have drawn fierce criticism from drug addiction advocates, doctors and parents nationwide who charge the fashion makes pill popping look “chic and cool.”

But most people don’t see it that way.The opposition comes from various people.

“It’s promoting drug use,” said Randy Anderson, an alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota who started an online petition calling for the merchandise to be pulled from shelves at the Mall of America and other locations.

“I’m really disgusted that any retail store thinks this is OK, especially when our country is going through what the CDC has called a drug overdose epidemic,” he said.

Anderson cited an alarming trend known as “Skittles Parties,” in which teenagers raid their parents’ medicine cabinets and bring whatever prescription drugs they have on hand to a home where they pool them from a communal bowl.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that in 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than in any year on record.

Opioids, such as OxyContin and Vicodin — which are prescription drugs — and heroin — an illegal opiod — killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 alone, according to the CDC. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.

“While there is definitely a need for pills for many people in many situations, this ‘Capsule Collection’ makes it appear that pills are always a good thing when the reality is that thousands of people are dying every year from prescription pills,” said Judy Rummler, whose son, Steve, died in 2011 from such an overdose.

The Moschino pill-themed line was reportedly created by American celebrity fashion designer Jeremy Scott, who is based in Kansas. In an email to Wedneday, the company defended its fashion, saying, “There was never any intent to promote prescription drug abuse.”

JUST SAY MOSCHINO @anna_vrc #annacleveland #justsaymoschino #fashionshow #moschino #mfw @itsjeremyscott

A photo posted by Moschino (@moschino) on

“The Moschino capsule collection was inspired by a play on the word ‘capsule’ translated literally as a collection of ‘capsule-themed’ products,” the company said. “A lesser exposed but equally relevant piece of the collection clearly states ‘Just say MoschiNO’ referencing the ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug campaign.

A prominent display of the Capsule Collection line at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in Manhattan drew mixed reactions from customers Wednesday afternoon.

“We are a generation of pills and this line cleverly mocks America’s obsession with prescription drugs,” said one sales associate, as she clutched the bright, over-sized drug bottle shoulder bag in her hands.

“It makes you stop and look and start a conversation about it,” said the woman. “And it captures Moschino’s sarcasm.”

One customer said the clothing line could “help the stigma” surrounding mental illness and prescription drugs, while another claimed it was offensive and only “glorified” drug use.

A spokeswoman for Saks did not immediately reply to a request for comment, while a Nordstrom representative confirmed the store is carrying merchandise from the Moschino line.

“At this time we are one of several retailers that offer items from this collection,” Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow said in an email.

“We’ve heard from some customers who have concerns and we’re sorry they’re disappointed,” Darrow said. “We appreciate the feedback.”

Chris Johnson, an Emergency Room physician and critic of the line, said his first reaction to the clothing was confusion.

“I am not certain what impact the creative team at Moschino was trying to make. On the one hand, we are trying to de-stigmatize disease, particularly mental health, and so if people need medicines to help them function in their day to day life, then by all means take them,” said Johnson, who is based in Minneapolis.

“The problem becomes when we start to identify people by their med list — that to be an authentic American means to be medicated,” he said. “My worry with such fashion statements is that it creates the idea that a person needs to be on medicine first and foremost.”

On Saturday, a petition was launched on asking Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Moschino buyers to stop purchasing items from the collection. “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?” Randy Anderson, who launched the petition, wrote. “I work as an alcohol and drug counselor in Minneapolis, MN and I can tell you firsthand the havoc addiction has on the individual, the family, the community, the healthcare system and the country.”

So far, more than 1,000 people have signed Anderson’s petition. “I raise money to purchase naloxone, the reversal medication for opioid overdoses, and then distribute rescue kits of it to those at highest risk of overdose. Your willingness to profit off this epidemic that’s killing thousands astounds me, and I will not shop at Nordstrom’s until these items are removed from your stores,” Laurie Fugitt, RN and cofounder of Georgia Overdose Prevention, said, commenting on the petition.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with opioids responsible for more than 40 percent of overdose-related deaths. While the Capsule Collection does not directly reference opioids or prescription painkillers, protesters say the designs and the collection’s “Just Say Moschino” slogan blatantly promote drug use.

But, Moschino’s creative director Jeremy Scott doesn’t see it that way. As he told Yahoo Style, “It’s literally a collection of capsules! And when Jacqueline Susann wrote Valley of the Dolls, she called capsule [pills] ‘dolls.’ So it’s a roller coaster of themes, and they can exist separately — the capsule collection and the paper dolls — but they can also reference each other.” The designer then went on to say that he hopes the joy he put into this collection comes across to the public. “I always say, fashion is the only drug I do. It keeps me going … and if my shows can give you that feeling of awe and joy again, that’s my gift. That’s what I’m passing on to you.”

Moschino’s collection features bags, shirts, dresses, backpacks and other accessories either emblazoned with pills or modeled after pill bottles and blister packs. Moschino is known for creating designs based off everyday products. Other collections have featured items including a purse that looks like a stop sign and perfume modeled after window cleaner. Products from the Capsule Collection range from a $175 umbrella to a $1,095 crossbody bag modeled after a blister pack