The early nineties haute couture scene became dominated by ‘heroin chic’; a brand of supermodel distinctive for their gaunt-like features, pale skin, dark circles beneath the eyes, and thin, skeletal body-shape.

This term became hugely popularised once Kate Moss entered the modelling world in the early nineties. Her gaunt, strikingly ‘waifish’ features launched her into instant icon status.

Kate Moss – Arthur Elgort

Heroin chic embodies this sense of the girl who doesn’t try hard. It has this sense of ‘I rolled out of bed and threw this on’. It’s purposefully and carefully messy yet still, somehow, chic.

This particular style is the personification of that messy yet sophisticated ‘party girl’ lifestyle; just in the format of high fashion photography. Once again, we can link this back to figures such as Kate Moss who became particularly notorious for her ‘party girl’ lifestyle.

Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss – GETTY

This era of supermodel is distinct in both its style and execution. The grunge look was new for the supermodel world, particularly when you take previous styles into consideration. Previously to heroin chic, the typical style of supermodel was this superbly tall, athletically built string of models. The likes of Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell were the archetype of this specific style.

In comparison, heroin chic was the complete opposite. As opposed to these overtly sculpted, almost Olympian models, grunge focused on the smaller side. The likes of Cindy Crawford were extremely glamorous and feminine, to the point where such figures became the stereotypical ‘pin-up’ girls. By comparison, the grunge, understated style of Kate Moss and Gia Carangi were almost the ‘anti-model’.

The Archetype of the 80s Supermodel – Richard Avedon

The idea of heroin chic is one that has received plenty of controversy and backlash. After all, the entire fashion movement and its name revolves around this idea of the models looking unhealthy and associates them with heavy drug use. There has been suggestion that this trend of looking unhealthy for the purpose of looking ‘chic’ hideously glorifies drug usage.

This is a fair argument to make as, during this time, drug usage was heavy amongst the stars. Heroin chic is, ultimately, reflective of its time. The drug was on the rise and found new popularity amongst middling and upper classes. Pop culture from the early nineties reflects this with numerous films, songs, and celebrities associating with the rising drug.

Kate Moss – Corrine Day

Ultimately, the heroin chic trend died much in the same way that it thrived; hard and fast. The drug-fuelled death of prominent fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti was controversial and was dubbed as the beginning of the end for the new-wave grunge supermodel. After the controversy of Sorrenti’s death, the fashion world began to re-introduce the original sense of the eighties string of supermodel. That glowing, healthy, glamorous portrayal began to reemerge with the likes of Gisele Bündchen seen as the return of the supermodel.

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