"The marijuana industry never had room for professional design while stuck in the criminal sector," Fast Co. noted recently. As such, stoner merch was, for decades, largely limited to cheesy t-shirts and stereotypically Rastafarian-inspired wares, but as marijuana is being legalized – or otherwise decriminalized – in various states in the U.S. (in accordance with state law, as it is still categorized as a controlled substance per federal law), a modern lifestyle movement is mounting around it.
Not only are brands seeking to monopolize on the evolving state of marijuana legalization in many states by way of gourmet edible pastilles and pricey cannabis candles, marijuana is also making its mark on fashion, media, and lifestyle brands, alike. Consider a handful of recent runways and high fashion editorials.
In print, buzzy fashion publication System Magazine used a 60,000-square-foot indoor marijuana facility off the coast of Canada as the backdrop for a Juergen Teller-lensed editorial earlier this year.
Publications like the soon-to-launch tri-annual Broccoli, an elegant and experimental magazine "created by and for women who love cannabis," and Gossamer, the "lifestyle-cum-cannabis publication" that was recently co-founded by former Lucky Digital Editor Verena von Pfetten and former Digg Chief Creative Officer David Weiner, are seeking to add their voices to the conversation.
On the runway, New York-based Alexander Wang, for instance, dressed models in grungy mini-skirt suits, graphically-printed tops (fonts courtesy of graphic designer David Rudnick), laser-cut dresses, and faux fur coats for Fall/Winter 2016. Adorning a number of garments and accessories: Weed leaf graphics. But Wang did not stop there; the designer also featured some joint-rolling models in his corresponding ad campaign.
That same season, New York-based brand Baja East affixed weed plant-shaped pins to some of their garments, and a handful of the models were styled with a single marijuana leaf earring. Vetements, one of the industry's most influential brand in recent seasons, included a weed grinder necklace in its own Fall/Winter 2016 collection.
Still yet, bag brand, Edie Parker, which is known for its personalized acrylic box bags, released versions of its traditional clutch with the word “Weed” boldly printed them, the word “Herb” appeared on others. That bag came after Edie Parker created an exclusive collection for exclusive e-commerce site Moda Operandi in 2013, including a custom bag with the Roman numerals for “420," a code that refers to the consumption of weed.
This past season, Creatures of the Wind showed a boldly-embroidered marijuana leaf jacket, in a continuation of the theme from its Pre-Fall collection, which included weed embroideries on more accessible items, such as t-shirts, almost certainly a move to attract a younger consumer to this otherwise more sophisticated brand (our sources tell us Creatures is trying to branch out from its core base of mostly 45-year olds to younger shoppers). Unsurprisingly, Creatures' weed jacket was the subject of much social media attention, as was the cropped tank with a weed leaf in Christian Cowan's S/S 2018 lineup.
While it is safe to say that at least some designers have been quick to jump on this budding trend, retailers are nothing if not a mixed bag. Big names, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Farfetch, and Barneys New York, opted to stock Wang’s weed-adorned garments and accessories, but they did not want to talk about it. Per WWD, when asked to comment about their weed-adorned offerings, representatives for these retailers declined the comment.
WWD further noted, “Neiman Marcus, which carries ample Wang merchandise, passed on the leaf print.” Instead, the retailer “only dipped into the category with a ‘cannabis scented candle’ last year.”
As for Creatures of the Wind’s Pre-Fall offerings, its smaller stockists chose to stock the garments bearing marijuana motifs, while larger chains, such as Saks and Neiman Marcus, steered clear of them. WWD opined that this likely has to do “with specialty stores being able to express a more personal point of view and buy pieces with an exact customer in mind.”
Given the multiple weed leaf sightings on the runway this season, and the larger movement of the marijuana accessories market being disrupted by design-minded companies – such as Pax, which makes chic iPhone-like vaporizers, and Tetra, a site "dedicated to elevating the aesthetics of the smoking experience” – it seems that this trend is not necessarily going away. It is unclear, however, where, exactly, it is going.
To suggest that marijuana might be going high end would not be a stretch. Cheryl Shuman, the director of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, a high-end purveyor of luxury weed and accessories, bases her entire business model on that premise, after all. And as Motherboard noted just last week, Ms. Shuman is not alone. She “is part of a growing circle of entrepreneurs capitalizing on what she calls the ‘pot com boom.’"
Motherboard's Madison Margolin goes on to note, “With U.S. marijuana sales expected to top $10 billion by 2018, there's a lot of money to not only be made in the legal bud industry, but also to be spent.”
And this is where fashion brands come in. With increased legalization and the corresponding decrease in the stigma attached to marijuana, it only makes sense that forward-looking fashion designers would want to tap into this market of individuals seeking to supplement their in-some-cases newly-legal pastime with merch (consumers – and fashion brands – are nothing if not obsessed with merch).
Or as Etsy artisan Pilar Johnson puts it, “It’s all about trying to make something more modern and chic that reflects who the cannabis user of today is." Those users include high fashion shoppers, making this an opportunity that some brands simply do not want to – and/or cannot afford to – miss out on.