Why the Kate Moss Photos on These Vintage Tees Were Once So Controversial

·Senior Editor

Kate Moss was the epitome of “heroin chic” back in the 1990s, when she pouted and posed in her Calvins — adding fuel to the fire over what quickly became a seriously controversial aesthetic.

But now, just like the rest of the ’90s, old-school Kate is back — and being heralded, with a couple of vintage CK ads now gracing unisex T-shirts, in black or white, that can be yours for just $85 a pop. Proceeds from the shirt — available exclusively through Opening Ceremony, which has outposts in NYC and L.A. — will benefit amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

The featured photos, from 1993, were shot by photographers Guido Palau and David Sims, the latter looking back on that campaign for T magazine in 2014 and noting, “In the ’80s, fashion was very objectified by the industry. It was very self-referencing, and suddenly this thing came along from left field, and people didn’t have to look happy, and they didn’t have to look like they’d made an effort to look good.”

And that was a relief for many, particularly those in the industry. “Focus on the ’90s long enough … and a distinct vision emerges,” said a recent New York Times story looking back at the decade’s fashion. “Beauty was redefined as something simpler, less constructed, echoed in interiors where shiny damask and flowery chintz were tastefully reswaddled in textured neutrals. The stuffing was knocked out of the clothing of the ’80s, the puffing and padding deflated, leaving pieces pulled close against the body: T­-shirt dresses, slip dresses, hipster jeans, ribbed knits. Those clothes conspired to create that most powerful and enduring hallmark of the decade: a slim silhouette.”

But for a slew of others, that slimness (combined with the oft-used vacant gaze) was disturbing — part of the new waif look that many found to be promoting a dangerous message. “Oh, I detest it, I really do,” Eileen Ford of Ford Models said in this 1997 news report. “I think it’s an unhealthy thing to promote, that look, and I don’t see any reason for it. If it would appeal to me visually, then I’d say well, gee, at least it’s beautiful. But it isn’t beautiful. Everybody looks like they’re half dead.” That same feature had David LaChapelle, who helped usher in a very different photography style, noting, “I think it sends out a bad message, when everyone looks like they’re smacked out. You know, it’s not cool.”

Today, while there’s certainly been more awareness around body image and representing a range of sizes — both through ad-campaign protests and the rise of plus-size models — skinny bodies still, sadly, reign on the runway. Which can all make Kate Moss’s jutting hipbone look very ho-hum indeed — not to mention shockingly current. As Opening Ceremony cofounder Humberto Leon told the New York Times of these and other ’90s shots recently, “These images might as well have been shot today, they’re so fresh.”

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