L’Oreal Fashion Week Fall 2008. Designers, models, media, members of FDCC, PR coordinators, catering companies, volunteers, bartenders. All running around in a frenzy to make this week a success. Yelling, shouting, screaming at one another. Throwing fits, taking frustration out on others, throwing clipboards and schedules. Black coffee and cigarettes as their diet and energy supply. If you look harder they have another source of energy. One that makes them work faster and more efficient. It makes them happy, glamorous, outgoing, and fabulous. Their secret? Drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol are nothing new in the fashion industry; however, it is getting way out of hand. From Calvin Klein’s rehab stint in 1988 to Marc Jacob’s own in 2007, this problem has not slowed down, but sped up. Back in the 1950’s, a models diet consisted solely of cigarettes and black coffee. Today their diet consists of cocaine, marijuana, heroin – even crack – all washed down with champagne. Dr. Jaynee Cadrez of Cirque Lodge, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Sundance, Utah, explains that cocaine is used everywhere in the fashion industry. “Cocaine abuse is everywhere from the glamorous catwalk to the exotic photo shoots” she says. Yet, she claims it is the worst in models. One of the side effects of cocaine use is the repression of appetite. Models see this harmful side-effect as a benefit. On the runway, models look on top of the world; confident, self-assured, sexy. But behind the stage this Fashion Week, models look nervous, unsure of themselves and shaky. Cocaine helps the models control self-doubt and boost their self-esteem.
Even the designers know the models need a boost from drugs and alcohol. In an untitled article, a man called John Scott retells a time when he helped his wife put on a show. Helping lug around heavy boxes, Scott realized what he was carrying. He was helping to bring in cases and cases of Gevrey Chambertin backstage. When Scott commented on the expensive taste the guests must have, his wife responded by saying “Oh, these aren’t for the guests, they’re for the models. We can’t send them down the runway sober.”
Models are not the only users in this industry. Guests who attended this Fashion Week were encouraged to take a seat at a luxurious bar, sip cocktails and relish in the fabulous event. However, one attendee took advantage of that bar. In fact more than just an attendee, she is the President of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Ms. Robin Kay was to give an opening speech Monday, October 20th, just before the Mango show started. Before she gave the speech she admitted to an unnamed volunteer (to protect his career, of course) that she felt “way too drunk to do this!” He gave her words of encouragement as she walked in front of the packed runway room. Kay proceeded to give a horrendous speech; forgetting names, losing her place on her cue cards, and slurring many, many words. It grew so embarrassing, that a member of Mango – obviously outraged – stormed over to Kay and pulled her off the runway. She was not seen again until early evening the next day, staggering around. The rest of the week she was seen stumbling about, claiming that she “created Fashion Week.” To sum up the extent of her sloppy and odd behaviour, she was dubbed “Miss Crazy” by the volunteers in the runway room.
On the Wednesday of that week, Evan Biddell hosted a party in celebration of his Spring 2009 collection. As he is sponsored by vodka companies and Peroni – an Italian beer – there was free alcohol everywhere. Not one person did not have some sort of alcoholic beverage in their hand. Biddell himself was seen chugging from a 40 oz. bottle of vodka. “I’m not that wasted...okay maaaaybe I am” he slurred to me as I told him to slow it down a bit. Guests were shouting over the music at one another, spilling their drinks on each other as they talked. Some girls made eight trips to the washrooms in groups, coming out laughing and suspiciously more energetic than when they entered. There were many cases of Painted Turtle wine in the back room, and in only a couple hours, it was announced they had run out of their supply.
By the end of the week, everyone was completely run down. However, everyone who contributed to the spectacular events were dying to party. “I need a drink – make that 10 – after today’s work” said one volunteer. “I’m over this, let’s go out and get f***ed up” another shouted – in the morning.
It seems there is no cure for the epidemic of drugs and alcohol in this industry. Some claim the problem is becoming minimal as famous models like Kate Moss are taking the high road (no pun intended), and checking themselves in treatment centres. Yet, many of them fall off the wagon as soon as they go back to word. “It’s either an eating disorder or drugs, and I’m not one for needles” an unnamed 16 year old model explained as she talked about her struggle to stay thin. Another model explained that it only seems like the problem is going away because it is well hidden. Models are shooting heroin in between their toes and under their fingernails so the scares from the needles will not be seen.
It seems all that can be done is to promote a healthier body image among models, as America’s Next Top Model’s first plus-sized model, Whitney Thompson, is trying to do. Models under the age of 16 were not allowed to participate in London Fashion Week this season, but there was nothing prohibiting models that were drunk or high from walking down the runway. There will always be drugs and alcohol in the industry, and with models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell getting second – and third, and fourth – chances, it does not seem as though much is being done to stop this abuse.