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Cannabis and High Fashion: Is Marijuana in Vogue?

It’s time to celebrate, ladies and gentlemen: because weed is officially in fashion!

Sure, we’ve heard those rumors all before, but this time, you know it’s true, because TMagazine says so. And when it comes to the most cultured of cultural arbiters, the most stylish of style councils, TMag tops the A List. Which is why Instagram’s flower-loving fashionistas wept tears of joy on August 20, as TMag touted: “There is little question that #marijuana, quietly consumed since at least the early 20thcentury, has been having its moment in the sun. The debut of this dazzling necklace by #Bulgari may be the ultimate sign that the drug has become not merely acceptably mainstream, but proudly distingué.” This is a Big Deal, folks: at long last, Lady Cannabis has arrived.

Granted, given that she’s 10,000 years old, TMag’s seal of approval gives “fashionably late” entirely new meaning. Yet, how perfectly timed—less than a month before the Spring 2019 fashion shows began. You got to hand it to them too; TMag really rolled out the red carpet for our Mary Jane, donning 15-carat diamonds and pavé-set emeralds, draped in a pink fur coat and fluted champagne glass. So ravishing, even without any THC in your bloodstream, how can you not feel light-headed simply looking at her? A ditchweed rags-to-riches story if there ever were. At long last, #Marijuana was ready  for her close up, Mr. DeMille.

But talk about all dressed up with nowhere to go—turns out TMag wasn’t kidding when they said “amoment in the sun.” Because in the past month, following hundreds of runway shows, from New York to London to Milan to Paris, not another peep was made about pot. Now, no one expected Armani Privé suits made of Italian hemp—but something, right? Well, apparently, it’s true, what they say: you’re in fashion one day, out the next.

About those rumors, then. Ever since cannabis legalization swept the last election, there’s been a considerable uptick in interest from high fashion quarters, best summarized by the Business of Fashion’s story, “Is Marijuana the Luxury Industry’s Next Opportunity?” Discussing market forces, namely a consistent decline in alcohol sales and ad revenue, the article went on to mention several fashion designers who included pot leaf motifs in their 2016 collections, like Jeremy Scott, Creatures of the Wind and Alexander Wang.

In the end, refer madness didn’t end up hitting the runway in a major way—it was just a motif; nothing more actionable than a floral print. CotW, Scott and Wang weren’t exactly blazing trails on the catwalk—it’s not like Wang pulled a Musk, lighting up a fatty after he took a bow—no, but had he, that would’ve shown some conviction. Which is exactly what was most lacking; these gestures proved little more than lip service to the leaf, provocations posing as progress. A first for the catwalk, yes; original designs, no. Viewed critically, this lack of commitment drew the ire of Allure, who panned Wang’s embellishment as “plastered pot leaves on a few pieces.” Refinery29 didn’t pull any punches, either, reviewing the trend as a “silly and sort of stupid motif in the same way it was silly and sort of stupid to wear a ‘leaf’ earring in high school.” Like, Ouch.

For all the hoopla in the press and across the interwebs, the degree to which the fashion world gets its silk knickers in a twist over the appearance of an eons-old plant leaf is concerning. Especially considering that there are actually thousands upon thousands of different pot leaves—a whole world of different varieties, or, more accurately, cultivars. Coincidentally, it’s also worth noting that Cannabis, the single most complicated, most complex, and least understood plant in the Universe, is entirely female. Go figure. And after all these years, considering Fashion is only just getting its head around women coming in all shapes and sizes, this new relationship promises to be uniquely challenging for both industries.

For all the advances cannabis has made since November 2016, every fashion capital in the world, the United States, U.K., Europe and Asia, still resides in the Age of Prohibition, which explains why their doyennes think and behave accordingly. It’s perfectly understandable, but what kind of forward-thinking journalism can come from such prohibitive environments? To this day, there are still major international publishers who maintain a “no weed” policy with regard to assigning marijuana stories, and will continue upholding that policy so long as cannabis remains Schedule 1. In which case, no journalism will come.

On the other hand, if all press is good press, then when it comes to an editorial TMag, albeit a single paragraph; we’ll take it. And not to split hairs here, but seeing as cannabis has been living with Alternative Facts for nearly 100 years, a good fact-check is long overdue.  

First, TMag’s assertion that pot has been “quietly consumed since at least the early 20thcentury,” is quite simply ludicrous. In recorded history, we know humans have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years now—and not so quietly in numerous cases. Cannabis-infused tonics and tinctures were readily sold in apothecaries throughout the United Sates since at least the early 19thcentury.  

Second, the word “marijuana” was branded by a man named Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The Jeff Sessions of his day, Harry Anslinger railed against cannabis’s “effect on degenerate races,” and went on to say, “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as whites.” Since “loco weed” sounded a bit hysterical, even back then, he rebranded Cannabis as “Marijuana,” which had an exotic, dark and dangerous flavor. These are facts, extensively reported and have been readily available on the Internet for years, and yet, Anslinger’s racism continues to be woven into high fashion’s narrative about cannabis to this day.

It’s September 2018, and even at the most elite level of fashion journalism, when it comes to #marijuana, there is an overall lack of curiosity or anything resembling intellectual rigor. High Fashion teaches itself Cannabis not by putting its nose in a book, or bothering themselves with even a quick Google search, but by looking in the mirror. in purely self-referential terms(incidentally, when it comes to breaking into the luxury market, obviously Grass’s Trojan Horse will be beauty products: vanity always sells).

Take the New York Times’spraise of Los Angeles-based BEBOE, which they referred to as “the Hermès of Marijuana.” It’s a phenomenal compliment for a fabulous new company from the paper of record. However, it’s also utterly and completely absurd. Not because it’s inappropriate to compare a European luxury-goods company to a California cannabis company, but rather, comparing a nearly 200-year-old house to a 2-year-old brand is, quite simply, lame. 

Finally, what is most disturbing, coming from the highest-grossing fashion publication in the world, is TMagazine’s insistence on referring to weed as a “drug,” rather than recognizing cannabis as a plant. Furthermore, by“marijuana,” TMag means consumption; and, more specifically, they mean consuming THC—getting high. By refusing to recognize that the correct noun is “plant,” TMagazine refuses to recognize cannabis as a botanical poly-pharmaceutical which delivers therapeutic benefits, whatever the individual user’s intent.


Consciously or not, The New York Times Style Magazine  simultaneously elevates marijuana’s status while undermining cannabis’s legitimacy. And intentionally or not, misinformation always perpetuates stigma.

What’s more, the topic of cannabis’s scientific frontier is almost never touched upon from the high fashion/luxury angle. For that matter, neither is CBD, nor CBG, nor CBN, nor any of the other 113 known therapeutic compounds found in the cannabis plant, and which are only the tip of this cutting-edge iceberg. (Repeat: luxury beauty products.) All of which is to say that the greening of The Gray Lady presents a two-steps-forward-three-steps-back proposition, but on the bright side, at least there is movement.

Then again, Fashion’s trademark isits total and oftentimes abject disconnect from reality. Complete with its fail-safe line of self-defense: It’s fantasy. Fashion is fantasy. Yes, indeed, and therein lies the rub. You take 1 Fantasy World x 100 Years of Alternative Facts x 2 Multi-Billion-Dollar Industries . . . What could possibly go wrong?

Seeing as this is a relationship 10,000 years in the making, now might be a good time to remember only fools rush in. Ironically, love—Both cannabis’ and fashion’s very love of fashion—could be what ultimately tears them apart.

The more acceptably mainstream it becomes, the more likely it is that Cannabis and Fashion are on a crash course, once both parties start learning who the other really is. Or rather, once lawyers start realizing who the other is. When intellectual property rights come into play—issues that make renowned brands take a good, long look in the mirror.

It’s like this: when you buy a Tom Ford handbag, you can be sure it’s authentic; retailers can provide verification at the point of purchase. However, how does one know their Tom Ford strain is truly Tom Ford if it hasn’t been tested and certified on Phylos Bioscience’s Galaxy?

Cannabis-luxury-goods buyers beware: how do you know that that eighth of $700/ounce Tom Ford you just purchased isn’t a renamed clone, nothing more than a cheap imposter? Because if it hasn’t had its 23andMe testing, even the grower has no idea if what they are calling Tom Ford is actually a Bruce Banner or a Tangie Kush or a Blue Dream.

Then, of course, what happens when Prada or Gucci or Tom Ford wants his name back? Strain names are arbitrary; trademark laws are not.

Naturally, High Fashion never wants to think of itself as being out of step, never mind passe, but they are, woefully so, and by their own admission. Take Bulgari’s advertorial: “Inspired by the recreational use of cannabis, the necklace is a piece of jewelry with high rate of addiction.” Can you say, open mouth: insert stiletto?! But wait—there’s more—proclaiming the necklace “is an ironic, elegantly risqué way to depict the magical effects that enchanted the generation of the 80s.” Speaking as a child of the 80s who was exposed to weed daily, back in the high-risk heyday of Ronald Reagan’s Drug War, the jeweler’s fantastical sales pitch borders on delusional.

 What’s demonstrated isn’t refinement or sophistication so much as jaw-dropping tone deafness and insensitivity to cannabis history and cultural appropriation. In the United States, alone, millions of men and women, but primarily men, and primarily men of color, have gone to prison for those enchanted moments they enjoyed recreating with #marijuana. As for their laisez-faire mention of addiction in any context having to do with cannabis is mind-boggling.

It’s strikingly offensive in the face of decades of activism to end stigma and advance federal legalization of cannabis. It would seem that cultural sensitivity isn’t required when you’re speaking of a “drug” culture, but suffice to say, there’s cheeky, and there’s poor taste.

Here’s the thing: when in history did fashion not need a healthy infusion of fresh blood and steady stream of advertising revenue? Cannabis will provide both. And when you look at it that way, truth is, she might not know it yet, but Cannabis is already the best thing that’s ever happened to High Fashion.

Regardless, my advice is this: Cannabis, ask not what you can do for high fashion, but what high fashion can do for you. In other words, “Is the Luxury Industry Marijuana’s Next Opportunity?”

Come what may of this blossoming relationship, let’s not kid ourselves: weed will officially be in high fashion when full-page BEBOE ads run in TMagazine. We aren’t there yet, but the time is quickly coming when Elon Musk shows some steel and finally stops drug testing his own employees. And when that day arrives, it really will be high time to pop the cork, raise our fluted glasses, and join RhiRhi in belting out a smokin’-haute Gucci OG chorus of, “DiamondsandWeedareForever…!



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