“There’s no point in getting a bunch of attention and you know, wasting it,” said Lil Peep in our October 2017 profile of the promising artist. “You got to do something important with the attention you get.”
A month later, Lil Peep was dead from an overdose of fentanyl and Xanax, the 21-year-old's life cut short by an ongoing opioid crisis. His legacy however, sparked a new movement of awareness and activism discouraging drug use altogether, especially amongst Lil Peep's contemporaries.
The ironically-named Lil Xan even denounces the very drug he takes his nom de SoundCloud after on the song “Betrayed,” rapping: “Xans don’t make you / Xans gon’ take you / Xans gon’ fake you / And Xans gon’ betray you.”
While none of these things directly inspired Raf Simons' Fall/Winter 2018 collection, “Youth In Motion,” the parallels between the drug-addled lyrics of popular young rappers and the theme of the latest offering of a designer many of them admire are impossible to ignore.
The glorification and glamorization of drug use isn't limited to modern hip-hop. Simons specifically cites Uli Edel's 1981 film Christiane F., based on German actress Christiane Vera Felscherinow's autobiography Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (We Children of Bahnhof Zoo), as a reference.
In a nutshell, the film chronicles how the titular character develops an equal penchant for pills, LSD, and David Bowie in her early teens, eventually becoming a heroine addict and prostitute in late '70s West Berlin amongst other substance-abusing adolescents.
“Christiane F. ultimately remains a cautionary tale, one that unashamedly and unapologetically depicts the realities of drug use and addiction,” says the label in a press release. “Images of Detlev and Christiane F., the film's anti-heroes—as played by first-time actors Thomas Haustein and Natja Brunckhorst —populate ‘Youth In Motion’ as emotional markers for the persistent relevance—socially and psychologically.”
Simons liberally sprinkles narcotics references throughout the collection. LSD, XTC, GHB, and 2C-B are emblazoned on patches adorning scarves and trouser kneepads.
The late writer and cultural critic Glenn O'Brien gets his due through the inclusion of graphics paying homage to Drugs, a 1983 tragicomic play he wrote with the also departed Cookie Mueller. As the name implies, it deals with the topic of substance abuse, and when it was finally published in 2016 by The Kingsboro Press and For The Common Good (something he nodded to in a Four Pins interview after he was let go as GQ's resident “Style Guy” after 15 years). It came in two colors: “bad cut” yellow and “prescriptive” orange, the latter reminiscent of ubiquitous translucent titian pill bottles.
As a designer who has referenced club culture and a myriad of musical subcultures throughout his career, this is the first time Simons has tackled the darker side of those lifestyles. In no way does the collection glorify the ghosts of the infamous “27 Club,” but rather it highlights the consequences of the invincibility fallacy that many young drug abusers fall for. It's seemingly easy to think you'll quit when you're older and wiser, but far too often you don't live long enough to see that epiphany through.
“Ultimately, 'Youth In Motion' seeks to neither glorify nor condone the culture(s) of drugs; rather 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,” continues the statement from Simons' agency of record.
The show was set on a stage surrounded with flowers, bottles of Côtes du Rhône, dark chocolate, charcuterie, and lightly sugared Belgian waffles–an edible bacchanal still life. It was a symbol of excess that reinforced notions of moderation and the youthful tendency to indulge more with the eyes than the stomach.
One couldn't help but wonder what would happen to the extra set dressing once the show wrapped, but the show's press release assured that leftovers would be donated to City Harvest, a non-profit organization that feeds hungry New Yorkers in need. Similarly, proceeds from the sales of the collection will go to organizations that support addicts in recovery.
Ultimately, as Simons continues to solidify himself as an icon to a new generation of fashion-conscious, creative kids, this season shows he is still finely-tuned to the frequency of youth culture. The references may be different, but the message is as relevant as ever. He is doing something important with the attention he's getting, and in turn reminding us of designer fashion's power to speak volumes about the status quo without ever saying a word.
If you or someone you know needs help in combatting addiction or depression, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
If you’re in the U.S. you can call directly at 1-800-273-8255 Readers in the UK can call the Samaritans at +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90.