Grover Rad Fashion Collection Takes on America’s Complex Drug History

Over the past two years L.A. designer Lizzie Grover Rad has courted controversy with her collections, building her brand on sparking conversation around hot-button issues like reproductive rights (season one); the billionaire space race (season two); body modification and the pursuit of beauty (season three), and corporate greed (season four).

For her fifth collection, she’s turned her attention to America’s complex and contradictory drug history, and its connection to racism, from the widespread use of morphine in the 19th century to the crackdown on opium dens in Chinatowns, the use of LSD therapy to the war on drugs.

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“I wanted to research the history of drug laws in America, which is very complex,” said the designer, showing her collection on the rack at her Bel Air home, including a stretchy button-down ruched dress in a purple haze print that tricks the eye, a silk side-tie apron top with a charming cannabis flower print, and a oversized T-shirt emblazoned with text from the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

A cotton poplin vest and pants set covered in a subtle black-and-white scribble print of formulas was inspired by Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD, which was used for mental health treatment before it was made illegal during the 1960s. A color-blocked silk bias cut dress in a collage print features a photo of Billie Holiday, among other images, referencing how the “Strange Fruit” singer was pursued by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and its racist commissioner Harry Anslinger.

“He had it out for all the jazz singers,” she said. “There’s so much focus on the Reagan era and the war on drugs, but it started much earlier, and Harry Anslinger was the beginning.”

Rad has been interested in the topic since she was in college and took a course titled “Deviance in Society,” she said.

“It was interesting to learn about LSD and how long it was used in therapy before it was outlawed because of the hippies and the counterculture movement…I’m a big believer in the power of psychedelic therapy and I think it would help so many people,” she said, also acknowledging the downside of drugs and drug policy, including addiction, violence and mass incarceration.

The designer has developed several signature styles, including denim, stretch mesh tops and dresses, and a show-stopping opera coat on which she showcases seasonal artwork. This collection also featured red “Candyman” pills and orange poppy field prints. Prices range from $220 to $2400.

Sold direct-to-consumer through the designer’s website, the brand has doubled sales every season, and Rad is not thinking about partnering with a retailer just yet.

“I like being at DTC prices, which are approachable,” said the designer, who creates two collections a year. Her customer base has expanded outside of California, she said. “There’s a wide range from all over the country.”

Launch Gallery: Grover Rad Releases Collection 005: Under the Influencer, A Trip Down Memory Lane

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