LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
Moschino is turning heads on the runway with its new capsule collection and not necessarily in a good way. The Italian fashion brand's spring 2017 collection features handbags, cellphone cases and dresses. That's normal. Designer Jeremy Scott's prints featuring images of pills and bottles inspired by prescription drugs are not. We called up our friend Jacki Lyden to give us some background. She reports for NPR on fashion from time to time and writes about fashion as culture for The Seams.
JACKI LYDEN, BYLINE: Jeremy Scott is known for having a sense of humor and being the people's designer. I mean, Katy Perry's a huge fan. Madonna's a huge fan. He dresses celebrities. And I think what he's done here - something he's actually done before, using this pill theme - he's obviously sending it up. Just say Moschino, like just say no, you know. His little Cache purses look like pill bottles or prescription bottles.
The clothing - sort of black, little knit sweaters and jackets and tiny shorts and backpacks - have capsules on them. And they're in his traditional really bright, pop art colors. But I think, you know, what's missing here is context. How this looks on a runway isn't the same way that consumers are going to necessarily see it. He's not dressing Katy Perry here. This is about fashion as context. So who outside the celebrity realm is going to wear the clothing?
SINGH: The fashion line is being criticized by doctors, parents and people in recovery.
RANDY ANDERSON: On October 1 - it was a Saturday almost two weeks ago - I woke up, I grabbed my coffee, opened my laptop and I saw this giant prescription pill bottle-looking purse type thing online.
SINGH: Randy Anderson is a drug and alcohol counselor at Minneapolis's Eden House Recovery Services. He's also in long-term recovery for addiction himself.
ANDERSON: In January, I'll have 12 years.
SINGH: The stats about opioids have Anderson most concerned. According to the CDC, opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, and at least half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
ANDERSON: I'm like - our country right now is, according to the CDC, the worst epidemic from drug overdoses we've ever seen and someone wants to make light of prescription medication.
SINGH: So Randy Anderson started a petition asking people to boycott Moschino and retailers that stock the capsule collection, like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
ANDERSON: The next day, 24 hours later, I had 500 signatures. Forty-eight hours later, I had a thousand signatures.
SINGH: The signatures kept coming, reaching over 2,500.
ANDERSON: People were affected. And most of the comments - I read every comment that was ever posted on the petition page - and people were outraged. People have lost loved ones, children, brothers, sisters, mothers, uncles, aunts to this disease, to these overdose deaths. And this was like a slap in the face to them.
SINGH: Randy Anderson also sent direct emails to the retailers themselves.
ANDERSON: At 4 o'clock on Thursday the 6, I received an email from Nordstrom basically saying, Mr. Anderson, we have decided to remove the entire line from all of our store locations and online, and we hope this resolves the matter for you.
SINGH: Randy Anderson is still waiting to hear from Saks Fifth Avenue and still pushing for people to boycott the collection. Some people have criticized him for taking the fashion line too seriously, asking if it really matters.
ANDERSON: And you know what? It doesn't to them, maybe, but to me it does. And I'm - I look at it from an aspect - if I can prevent one person from experimenting or trying a prescription drug and then further becoming addicted and then possibly further going to treatment or even overdose and dying, I've done my part. So if by taking this line from one store prevents one person from ever having that happen, I feel like I've made a difference.
SINGH: In a press statement, Moschino says, quote, "there was never any intent to promote prescription drug abuse." The company goes on to say, "we are disheartened to hear that there has been a misunderstanding of the underlying theme of the collection." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.