The gray zip-up sweatshirt, priced at $495, is emblazoned with a mock label for prescription extended-release pills.
It’s all part of a cheeky new fashion line designed by the Italian brand Moschino and sold online by Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue — and it’s generating a small torrent of online criticism from people who believe it’s in poor taste amid a raging opioid crisis that has been fueled in part by overprescribing potent painkillers.
“Do you have any idea of the message your company is sending to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose?” Minneapolis substance use disorder counselor Randy Anderson wrote in an online petition calling for a boycott of both Moschino and Nordstrom. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had garnered more than 1,100 online signatures.
Until the fashion line (which Moschino calls the “capsule collection”) is discontinued, Anderson wrote, he will call on consumers to avoid doing business “with any company that so blatantly promotes drug use and perpetuates the stigma of addiction.”
Nordstrom spokeswoman Emily Sterken told STAT on Tuesday that the retailer is “sorry to learn” that some customers are “disappointed” with the line, but said Nordstrom has no plans “at this time” to discontinue it.
The clothing does not specifically reference opioids, or any brand-name drug. The fake labels boast that they contain varying doses of “Moschino couture.”
But that hasn’t stopped critics from blasting the companies involved.
“Your willingness to profit off this epidemic that’s killing thousands astounds me,” wrote one petition signatory, who identified herself as a Georgia nurse.
“Shame on these company CEOs and [their] buyers,” read another entry. The commentators identified themselves as “parents of loss due to opioid overdose,” from Massachusetts.
Prescription opioid overdoses killed more than 14,000 Americans in 2014, quadruple the number of deaths in 1999. Overprescribing of opioids is also blamed for pushing some addicts to heroin.
Anderson counsels people in recovery and sits on the board of a foundation working to train law enforcement and distribute naloxone, the antidote for opioid overdoses. He has watched opioid epidemic ravaging communities in Minnesota, where drug overdose deaths increased 11 percent last year over 2014.
“What I tell people all the time is I can’t treat dead people,” Anderson told STAT. “At the rates people are dying in our country today, it’s almost working me out of a job.”
Anderson said he was “really disgusted” when he discovered the fashion line on social media and has been urging others to call or email the companies to complain. (He learned after launching his call for a boycott of Nordstrom that Saks Fifth Avenue is also selling some of the Moschino items.)
Saks Fifth Avenue did not respond requests for comment. Moschino, an Italian brand, also did not respond.
The “capsule collection” includes multiple accessories, such as a pill-patterned backpack, a leather clutch, and an umbrella that fits into a pill-shaped container. The brand’s promotions are accompanied with the hashtag “#JustSayMoschino,” an apparent pun on the anti-drug use slogan “Just say no.”
At a recent runway show, the designer behind the fashion line told Yahoo! Style, “I always say, fashion is the only drug I do. It keeps me going … and if my shows can give you that feeling of awe and joy again, that’s my gift. That’s what I’m passing on to you.”
— Moschino (@Moschino) September 24, 2016
This story has been updated to include more information about the boycott campaign and a response from Nordstrom.