Is Fashion Making Cannabis Cool, or Vice Versa?
“I wouldn’t go as far to say that fashion has helped accelerate the legalization movement,” Holt says. “I think that train was moving steadily and independently long before designers got on board.” While Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, the first mainstream appearance of marijuana in high fashion—designer Jeremy Scott’s greenwash collaboration with Adidas—didn’t appear until 2012, the year that Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. That said, cannabis in fashion has taken off fast. Scott’s collection was spotted on Sky Ferreira and A$AP Rocky. For her Spring 2015 collection, New York-based designer Mara Hoffman released a collection featuring familiar green leaf prints, though she did not actually claim them to be marijuana leaves. “I think cannabis is a beautiful plant,” Hoffman told Style.com. “I am all for its medicinal love and think it should have been legalized years and years ago.”
While Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, the first mainstream appearance of cannabis in high fashion wasn’t until 2012.
The aesthetic of the cannabis leaf—regardless of whether you smoke or not—is not lost on designers searching for inspiration from the fringes of society. Fine jewelry maker Jacquie Aiche, a cannabis user herself, launched her first “Sweet Leaf” pieces in 2009, and has since expanded beyond seven-point leaf pendants into $190 sweatpants and $7000 crocodile clutches made to fit vaporizers. “Most of my [muses] rock the Sweet Leaf, even if they aren’t cannabis users,” she says. “The collection is also a celebration of its botanical beauty. I’ve been lucky to have my main muse, Rihanna, be a huge supporter of the Sweet Leaf collection since the beginning.” And as marijuana became increasingly legalized or decriminalized, Aiche says she noticed that people were less afraid to wear their Sweet Leaf pieces in public. “The fashion community has a creative voice that is respected among media,” she says. “Seeing fashion influencers in the Sweet Leaf definitely changes popular perception of this medicinal plant.”
This summer, fashion label Creatures of the Wind released a four-piece capsule collection in collaboration with System magazine, which dedicated its latest issue—all 140 pages—to weed, including a spread shot by famed photographer Juergen Teller on-location at Canadian cannabis production facility (and Leafly sister company) Tilray. For $135, you can buy a t-shirt embroidered with pot leaves. For $150, a sweatshirt. For $2,500, a parka. And if you never check your receipts after purchase, you can buy a fur coat with pot leaves made to order. “As the substance isn’t legal in all 50 states, I feel the plant design has an edgy appeal due to its illicit nature,” one of the two designers, Chris Peters, told WWD.
When high fashion goes high, the appeal is that you’re wearing something aspirational—unattainable to the masses—that is also edgy and illegal in many states. You’re not a regular weed smoker, with the Bob Marley knockoff stereotypes attached. You’re someone who uses rose gold vaporizers. But just as with haute couture’s appropriation of streetwear (see Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme, or Vetements—which also designed gilded weed grinders in 2016), the use of cannabis imagery and motifs in high fashion raises the question of who gets the privilege of celebrating their cannabis lifestyle out in the public. Gap is not selling cannabis-print tees, after all. Sure, on Etsy, you can find weed-themed t-shirts for around $20, but Rihanna’s not shopping there.
Additional image credits:
Header: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik
First featured image: Courtesy of Elizabeth Lippman/The Hero Shop
Second featured image: Courtesy of Beboe
Third featured image: Courtesy of Creatures of the Wind