Pills are ‘in fashion,’ Prada is telling us

The Prada Mode event featured some of the world’s most addictive drugs

Lubna Hamdan 3 Min Read 4 Min Audio

It’s usually the fashion world’s most wanted clothing items and accessories that embellish a social media influencer’s Instagram feed. But last week, it was the world’s most prescribed pills. 

It seems Prada is telling us pills are “in fashion”.

Last week, the Italian fashion house joined forces with artist Damien Hirst to create a temporary dining set up in Dubai based on his Pharmacy installation, which featured a massive bar decorated with colourful images of the world’s 100 most prescribed pills.

The problem? The pills, which decorated the bar, included anti-anxiety pill Xanax, sleeping pill Ambien and the highly addictive opioid Oxycodone, according to ClinCalc DrugStats Database, for which the rate of deadly overdoses is on a staggering rise among people as young as 15, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But don’t worry, I’ll get to the specific, and rather frightening, figures later on in the article.

Losing the plot?

But while Hirst himself was aware of the dangers of pills, he seems to have the lost his way.

He said in an interview with the Tate Modern museum in 2012: “People have confidence in medicine. I noticed they were looking at shiny colours and bright shapes and nice white coats and cleanliness and they were going right – this is going to be my saviour, except they weren’t reading the side-effects. There seems to be a lot of trickery going on”.

And yet, collaborating with Prada Mode, the fashions brand’s “social club” which it describes as providing members with “a unique experience with a focus on contemporary culture” is, indeed, trickery. 

Are we talking about the “contemporary” culture of pills? Is that supposed to be a “social club” experience? And more importantly, what is a fashion brand doing marketing highly addictive, prescription only pills as fashionable? 

If you’re not concerned, you should be. Think I’m exaggerating? Head over to Prada’s official Instagram account, where the brand asks Hirst, “Which pills from your installation are your favourite?” to which he replies: “Well, I suppose pills are like colours, so it’s hard to pick a favourite… I mean they [drugs] look like sweets, don’t they?”

Except sweets don’t cause you to overdose, do they? And considering almost half of US teenagers aged 13-17 are online on social media “almost constantly”, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, and people aged 15-24 saw the highest year-on-year increase in fatal overdoses (up 49%) in 2020, we should all be very, very concerned that a fashion brand like Prada is marketing pills as “fashionable”. 

I don’t know about you, but I reckon a lot of those teenagers and young people would love to own Prada bags, clothes, shoes. Whatever Prada says is fashionable, they will likely follow through. Just type “Fifteen-year-old girl unboxing cosmetics from Dior and Prada bags” on YouTube and you’ll see one of many teenagers showing off their luxury designer goods. 

In fact, Prada itself said in 2016 it’s looking to expand its social media activities to raise its profile among the “always connected” millennials.

Exempt from responsibility?

When I wrote an article two weeks ago about top Dubai CEOs opting for medication like Xanax due to highly stressful work environments, I made sure to replace the word “pill” with the word “medication”. Because as a journalist, I feel responsible for how I portray highly addictive meds in an article that could be read by anyone, let alone teenagers. So why do fashion brands and social media influencers with millions of followers online feel that they are somehow immune or exempt from this responsibility?

The most disturbing part is the way in which the Prada Mode event was presented on social media.

The brand’s Instagram account featured a video of a spinning tower of pink, blue, green and yellow pills bursting from the desert sands and flying around Dubai’s skyscrapers, only to end in a close-up shot of a giant pink pill spelling PRADA.

Indeed, welcome to Prada Mode: a private social club where pills are “in fashion”. But their side-effects? Well, don’t go looking for help or guidance from your favourite fashion brand or social media influencer. They’ll be onto their next trend by then. And it won’t include paying for your hospital bill.