The fashion industry is known for the art, beauty and the overall glamorous feeling of each event. But there is another aspect of this industry that is just as real – substance abuse. Models, photographers, designers, almost anyone in the industry has been linked, in one way or another, with substance abuse. While some managed to overcome addiction and started speaking openly about the issues they were going through, others firmly denied, even when faced with hard evidence. Many of them said that substance abuse does not “discriminate” when choosing its victims, and anyone can take on the wrong path, regardless of their social or financial status.
The contribution that the French designer brought to the fashion industry is unquestionable, but the toll his work took on his life led him to a dark path. After being conscripted to serve the French Army, he was fired from the House of Dior, where he was the head designer for 3 years. During his short serving in the military, he was admitted to a military hospital and received rudimentary treatment to cope with his depression. This is believed to be the time when YSL headed towards substance abuse, which he later overcame, but the scars left were too deep to be cured. Bipolar disorder, severe depression, and other health problems led Saint Laurent further and further away from the spotlight until he only allowed his closest friends to pay him visits to his Marrakech house.
One of America’s most praised fashion designers, Klein was admitted to rehab for the first time in the 80s, when he admitted to using prescription drugs and alcohol. That moment seemed to have brought change to the fashion industry, as his decision to go public and talk about his addiction raised awareness for problems the industry didn’t even know it had yet. He always spoke openly about his battle with addiction, which he called “a lifelong process”. He even spoke about an incident in 2003, when he tried to intervene in a basketball play. He told the press that, after he stopped going to counselling, he suffered a setback, but was then seeking help again.
The news of McQueen taking his own life in 2010 completely destroyed the fashion industry, who saw in McQueen a breath of fresh air. He was always praised for this recklessness and boldness in terms of design, earning him the title “the hooligan of English fashion”. He battled with depression and anxiety, which he tried to keep under control by abusing drugs. He tried to overdose twice, prior to his death, which his psychiatrist called “cries for help”.
“People who battle with anxiety and depression often recur to substance abuse, as a form of coping with everyday life. They perceive drug abuse as a wall that keeps emotions inside. This seems to work for a while, until they need more, or until the wall becomes too weak to hold everything back.” explains a counselor from Heroin Advisor.
Out of all designers who struggled with substance abuse, Galliano seems to have had the most to lose. He was fired from Dior on in 2011, after he went on to engage in an anti-Semitic rage against a group of Italian women in a café, just before Paris Fashion Week. The video was about to cost him his career if it wasn’t for Anna Wintour, who persuaded Oscar de la Renta to allow him temporary residence at his studio. His comeback was a success, as in 2014 he joined Maison Margiela, where to this day, he is the creative director. His story was a happy one but could have ended tragically, if it wasn’t for his groundbreaking talent and his close friends who supported him.