Heroin Chic Degeneration Part 2

A kittenish Kate Moss sits sadly, waiting for her day to unravel. Overwhelmed with heartache, eyes well up with hot tears, but she must continue. Today the celebrated photographer Corrine Day shots her infamous photos of the heartbroken Mossy. Ironically the story is called Under-Exposure Vogue UK 1993 (Fashion editor Cathy Kasterine) and it’s this shoot that becomes THE most talked about and overexposed editorial of the 90’s.

The photos depict a washed out and very skinny Kate, once published they became the basis of heavy debate on where fashion was going.

The term ‘Heroin Chic’ was coined to describe the feeling and was said by many to glamorize drug use and encourage unhealthy eating habits for impressionable teenagers.

Every picture tells a story but this one photo defined the era, the original now hanging in the Tate Modern.

Let’s paint a picture of the day, Kate’s had a rough time arguing with her then-boyfriend, and while most of us would take a day off work and hide under a donna crying and eating ice-cream, she doesn’t have that option. Her career is blossoming and personal issues must take a backseat to the relationship that has just unraveled her.

She’s still a teenager, and been heralded as the anti-supermodel. Kate the ‘waif’ is in, this was the beginning of a fashion industry icon, the ‘face’ that changed the face of the industry.

“I was a swing from more buxom girls like Cindy Crawford and people were shocked to see what they called a ‘waif’. What can you say? How many times can you say ‘I’m not anorexic’?”  -Kate Moss

But then also;

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”- Kate Moss (cheeky!)

Endearingly this was the first time we saw a vulnerable side to Mossy.  The images have raw emotion.

“Fashion photography had always been about fantasy, I wanted to take it in the opposite direction… The best thing I did for fashion was bringing it down to earth, bringing a documentary quality to it. I wanted to put in that feeling of youth culture.” -Corinne Day

“Photography is getting as close as you can to real life, showing us the things we don’t normally see.  These are people’s most intimate moments, and sometimes intimacy is sad.” -Corinne Day

Because of the images Day stopped working for Vogue and with Moss in 1993, as she upset Moss’s agency and Vogue. Day claimed that; “The press took the images far too seriously.” Day has always remained unapologetic, as this was her style of photography, she claimed to never intentionally make Moss look like a heroin addict, or even really start the Heroin Chic movement.

The then editor of Cosmopolitan, Marcelle D’Argy Smith, branded the editorial as “hideous and tragic. I believe they can only appeal to the paedophile market.”

I think its important to look at this editorial in its entirety as together these images transcend the trends they were meant to be showcasing.

“Half-way through the shoot, I realised that it wasn’t fun for [Kate] any more, and that she was no longer my best friend but had become a ‘model’. She hadn’t realised how beautiful she was, and when she did, I found I didn’t think her beautiful any more.”- Corinne Day

It’s also interesting to observe the early-90s influence starting to creep into mainstream fashion: the cover of this issue, shot by Sante d’Orazio, featured a wet-haired Claudia Mason looking fresh-faced in a way that no self-respecting 80s fashion publication would ever have allowed. But of course, this editorial of Kate Moss pretty much overshadowed everything else inside in terms of influence.

Looking at the controversial photographs today, it all seems remarkably conventional.

But Day’s work fired the imagination of a whole generation of photographers. Juergen Teller, Craig McDean, David Sims and Glen Luchford are just some who took her underground look and fed it to the fashion monthlies. Later, Day vanished into documentary and autobiographical photography, but her work ignited a revolution in our ideas of what was beautiful and desirable.

“It is all about freedom, really,” Day said “and being proud of the holes in your jumper.”

Apparently this was the birth of ‘Heroin Chic’ and ‘waifs’ rules supreme, all starting in the UK, but what was happening over in the USA? I’ll look at that in my next story on Heroin Chic Degeneration Part 3 coming soon.

You can Read Heroin Chic Degeneration Part 1 (here)

It seems ironic to add that on 15 September 2005, the Daily Mirror ran front page and inside photos that showed Moss snorting several lines of a white powder that was presumed to be cocaine at a Babyshambles recording session. It has been alleged by singer Pete Doherty that James Mullord, his former manager, sold the photos to the newspaper for more than £150,000 and spent the money on guess what, heroin?