Los Angeles designer Brian Lichtenberg’s prescription drug shirts, now available through Kitson, are causing quite the stir. Screenprinted in the style of team jerseys (like just about everything else in 2013), the back of the tees are emblazoned with prescription drug names like Xanax, Adderall and Vicodin, a new twist on the still-growing trend of athletic-inspired capitalist worship catering specifically to proud pill-poppers.
Many are calling Kitson tasteless for profiting off of the “glorification of drug use,” a rallying cry that seems wasted (ha) on a fashion brand in an age when pharmaceutical companies perpetually pump hundreds of millions of dollars into direct-to-patient TV, print and online advertising. IMO, the shirts are tacky for an entirely different reason: Brian Lichtenberg stole the idea from a teenager. And not just any teenager, but 19-year-old Alex Kazemi, author of internet novel Yours Truly, Brad Sela, Cat Marnell’s (now ex) TEEN PUBLICIST, and increasingly an unlikely working class hero of the URL generation.
One would assume that designers should be amongst the most empathetic demographics on the issue of shoplifting, but, at least for Lichtenberg, this is sadly not so, at least in the realm of intellectual property. Putting drug names on jerseys may not be the most original idea on the planet, but suffice to say it’s still the ethical choice to offer compensation or at least some credit to the person who first e-mailed it to you. Especially when you e-mail them back, multiple times, even going so far as to wonder who might possibly finance the project.
Looks like Lichtenberg managed to figure it out, minus his original collaborator. So what happened? Did he think nobody would care, or find out? Or has he been dipping into the Xanax and Vicodin himself? Either way, keeping tabs on Kazemi’s rise is becoming a sort of case study in how indiscriminately shitty industry people capitalize off of his ideas while patting themselves on the back, and also a testament to his cultural dexterity that he escapes once again with his dignity intact. Surely, his checks just keep getting lost in the mail.