It’s the mid 90s. Models sporting hairdos running wild, pale skin, gaunt appearance and apathetic looks regally ruled the runways. No one ever smiled. TV was oft populated with Mark Renton wearing tight jeans and trashy looking all-stars with the telling evidence of vile leftovers from the night before The hero of our time which we worshiped, regardless of his life of despair, musty reek of sex, drugs, rock, football and bloody sputum. Pop culture has suddenly fallen in love with destruction and imperfections that seemed to have created a completely new fetish. All of a sudden, everything ever considered profoundly immoral and wrong started to be worshiped but without a touch of glamour.
Because glamour was so ‘thing of the past” and thus bogus and boring The nineties were the years when the fashion industry made their way onto a page with flawlessly but unattainable beautiful models and turned them into a nihilistic vision of beauty heralding the new trend known as Heroin Chic, having crowned Kate Moss as its undisputed queen. It was about glorification of addiction, rebellion and despair of a generation, or was there a tremendous need for anti – industry glamour??!! Dunno.
Oversaturation or a societal change? There was a sudden shift. Super models of the pre-era were the complete opposite of the Heroin chic. Models like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer at the beginning of the decade have released fitness videos in which they whittle their healthy, never skinny enough bodies, which made a mockery of all those ‘mortal’ women watching their videos while sweating profusely in their living rooms holding weights in their hands. They were super models, elusive, beautiful in an alien sort of way , everything about them screamed from the rooftops : ‘Perfect , perfect, just perfect!!’ Not a single hair was out of place and they seemed to have gleamed in the limelight unblemished, the makeup was with very good foundation and a smeared red lipstick would represent a world problem. In the early nineties no mascara was smeared in public. And then out of the blue she stepped foot onto the fashion scene, Kate Moss, casually lighting a cigarette after cigarette in the backstage just before the fashion show.
A new generation steps onto the underground scene, mostly self-taught photographers who were bored out of their minds with idealized models that look like people from another planet. The world of fashion was dying for something different and embraced the trend with a completely different end of the spectrum. All manner of editorials at the time flirted with the vision of decay, self-destruction and addiction and indulging in it in a wonderful and somewhat distorted way.
All of a sudden it came to be boring to photograph models under controlled conditions where a single curl of hair cannot seem to be out of place; it seemed to be much more interesting to capture the reality of the streets even in the realm of unspoiled high fashion. Androgynous fashion models sporting wild hairdos, pale complexion, prominent collar bones and dark circles around the eyes were acceptable aesthetics of the ‘cynical sort ‘of the mid-nineties. Torn nylons no longer were a problem and nor was a smeared lipstick. Editorial was moving from the clean and decorated to the streets with shattered glass on a cold gray pavement. The models were placed in the role of modern , tragic heroine lying on dirty floors while appearing as if they had just woken up to be photographed in a semi sleep after a very naughty night wearing expensive designer dress and one missing heel that cost 500 $.
The girls from the pages of fashion magazines are no longer glamorous representation of unattainable perfection. The photos are raw and rugged, mostly black and white to enhance the reality, brutality and emotion. It was a movement against the glamour and the whole philosophy of heroin chic was based on the idea that authentic beauty stems from the fact that something that is considered valuable is treated with nonchalance, disrespect, and even a little abuse. The idea is to show how much you don’t give a fuck!! There lies the charm and appeal of deglamurization of fashion and glorification of despair, neglect, imperfections, rebellion while flirting with the illegal, immoral and dangerous.
In the mid nineties the trend was not giving a fuck for a single thing, and then it was probably more than ever in the history of art when personal feelings of wretchedness and despair were put on a pedestal The Heroin chic became a symbol of resistance to a boring life by the rules. As Renton ironically said: “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career … ‘ throwing all the values and rules to the dogs and opting for something else. The tragic, self-destructive characters who couldn’t care less about themselves or others became the heroes in a weird mixture of infatuation and disgust.
After the death of a young photographer Davide Sorrentia who died of a heroin overdose and his statement earlier on explaining that the concept of heroin chic is not just a matter of aesthetics but of the new reality, the fashion world and political scene have been shaken up to the ground. Media banged on that popular culture and fashion wandered into a sickly blind alley and that in doing so they undoubtedly have spoilt rotten the younger generations. Has the social reality changed?! I don’t think so….
Today it’s all just covered up and photo shopped underneath glitzy editorials, promoting girls with perfectly shiny hair and flawless make-up, which again seem to be morally acceptable idols for the new young generations.
Author: Tina Lončar
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.