The Dark Side of Our Fashion Industry: Drug Abuse


The Dark Side of Our Fashion Industry: Drug Abuse

By Thanush Poulsen

The fashion industry is notorious for the atmosphere of glamour, rush, and partying that surrounds it. Designers, models, and stylists appear to have the lives that a lot of people dream about: fulfilling, vibrant, and gleaming. All the shine, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it are thousands of work hours, overwhelming stress, and pressure that only increase as we go deeper into the field.

It’s not surprising that many people try coping with such enormous load through means that are no less extreme. Drug abuse, in particular, is incredibly common in the fashion industry. The use of illicit drugs and the misuse of prescription medicines are often regarded with no judgment whatsoever. At the same time, it’s easy to get blinded by the sparkling facade and miss the massive normalization of drug abuse in the industry. Many people prefer focusing on the sterile beauty that fashion represents, rather than on the ugly truth. Such lack of concern promotes denial of the condition and makes a person less likely to seek treatment.

Those who do realize they have a problem and want to get help don’t have it easy either. Living in the spotlight, constantly followed by fans and cameras that record your every move, is stressing, even for those who don’t abuse drugs. The news about addiction goes viral extremely quickly and can inflict an avalanche of public humiliation on a celebrity. It makes finding the right facility to get treatment twice as hard due to concerns for confidentiality. For this reason, it’s hard to overestimate the impact a single private rehab center (navigate here) can have on a person’s life.

'See Know Evil' Documentary By Charles Curran Revisits Davide Sorrenti Story & Rise Of Heroin Chic

See No Evil Davide Sorrenti-mini.jpg

'See Know Evil' Documentary By Charles Curran Revisits Davide Sorrenti Story & Rise Of Heroin Chic

On May 20, 1997, Amy M. Spindler wrote for the New York Times about the fatal heroin overdose of the promising young photographer David Sorrenti, 20. Spindler questioned the degree of complicity the entire fashion industry embraced in the advancement of the trend known as ‘heroin chic’.

Unlike the music industry, which has rallied with interventions and programs to get musicians off drugs, or the film industry, where known users have been subjected to drug tests for insurance on movies, the fashion industry has done little to combat the problem among the young in its ranks. The only event mounted to commemorate Mr. Sorrenti's death was a photo exhibition in his memory, called the ''Art of Fashion Photography,'' at a Flatiron district studio during March fashion week in New York. The drugged-looking photos from Detour were on view at that show.

In May 1997, President Clinton denounced the American fashion industry for cynically abusing teenagers and helping spread heroin usage to a new and younger group of people. “Some fashion leaders are admitting flat-out that images projected in fashion photos in the last few years have made heroin addiction seem glamorous and sexy and cool," President Clinton stated. “And as some of the people in those images start to die now, it's become obvious that is not true. The glorification of heroin is not creative, it's destructive. It's not beautiful, it is ugly. And this is not about art, it's about life and death. And glorifying death is not good for any society.”

As his name implies, Davide Sorrenti came from a family of photographers including his mother Francesca, his older brother Mario and sister, Vanina — “the Corleones” of fashion photography according to Francesca. His girlfriend and muse at the time Jaime King had her own struggles with heroin use, writes

A key reason for the Naples-born Sorrenti family coming to New York in the early 1980s was Davide’s painful blood condition, Cooley’s anemia. The disease required frequent blood transfusions and caused the young Sorrenti to look even younger than his age.

Last week Charlie Curran premiered his seven-year-in-the-making documentary “See Know Evil”, a film attempting to tell Davide’s story, at Manhattan’s SVA Theatre, A second screening was held Thursday night, November 15.