The morning of linguist and burgeoning fashion player Joss Sackler’s show on Monday, most of its attendees likely woke up to some relevant news. Page Six reported late on Sunday night that the “scandal-hit OxyContin heiress” offered Courtney Love more than $100,000 to attend her brand LBV’s Fashion Week show on the terrace of the Bowery Hotel.
“I am one of the most famous reformed junkies on the planet,” Love told the tabloid. “My husband died on heroin. What is it about me that says to Joss Sackler, ‘I will sell out to you?’ Well, I won’t.”
“A fashion line with 24-[karat] gold thread won’t ever cover up or wash away the stains on Joss Sackler and her family,” she added.
Love was referring, of course, to the opioid crisis, and the Sackler family’s connection to it. (Sackler’s spokesperson, Elizabeth Tuke, responded to Page Six by saying, “This is not accurate. Courtney Love is not attending [the show]. I can’t comment any further.” Later on Monday, Love and Sackler continued their dispute on Instagram.) Sackler is married to David, a third-generation member of the family that, since 2008, has made $4 billion from Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Over 400,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses since 1996. The company currently faces roughly 2,000 lawsuits, and is mulling an $11.5 billion settlement.
Whatever the outcome of those suits, the last name has become toxic in certain New York social and philanthropic circles. Most notably, the photographer and activist Nan Goldin has led a series of protests against the Sackler family and institutions that bear its name. Joss Sackler hasn’t been discouraged. She debuted LBV, a fashion line that shares a name with a private social club that she founded, in February. When the New York Times’ coverage of the collection framed it partly in terms of the Sackler name, she wrote an open letter on Facebook: “What you accomplished in your bait and switch text, was to relegate my identity to only being someone’s wife, thereby erasing any signs of my successes or accomplishments as a woman.”
Monday’s show went on without Love, and mostly quietly. There were a few reporters, but no protestors. Ryan Serhant, the real estate broker and Bravo star on Million Dollar Listing New York, was in attendance. Who else went to this sort of thing? A man in all pale pink, a leopard-print scarf, and buck shoes. A woman in a rainbow snakeskin-print dress. A man in a 1975 band T-shirt that read “Modernity Has Failed Us.”
If there was apprehension about being in attendance—and being thought to support the Sacklers—it wasn’t detectable. Guests happily posed for photographers and gave over their names. Upbeat Odesza tracks were somehow in keeping with the brand’s positioning of Sackler as “the undeterred ‘phoenix,’” per an LBV mailer. The crowd yelled with approval, sort of, during the finale. But mostly, the mood for such a controversial event was curiously flat. After the show, reactions to the broader context around it ranged from nonchalance to ignorance.
Milan Krastv “just wanted to see something new,” he said. “A new brand.” LBV’s creative director, Elizabeth Kennedy, is a friend, and he’s a designer himself. “I’m not familiar with any of it,” he said regarding the Sackler family. “I just learned today from another reporter like you,” he said. It “has nothing to do with anything.”
He was with Holly Henry, who described the collection as “lovely,” and asked, “Oh, so [Sackler] was married into this controversy?” with some derision.
Bryan Jacoboski, a member of the LBV club and a self-described investment guy, is a friend of Sackler’s. He described the crowd: “It’s people from LBV. It’s retailers. It’s people in the industry. Media, of course.” He happily shared observations about the show: “Every woman in the United States is gonna want that red raincoat”; the models were “sorted by ethnicity, but also by mood.”
“It’s Joss’s husband’s family,” he added.
Madison Williams and Meeka Hossain, both fashion influencers, were in attendance. They weren’t aware of Sackler’s connection to the show, and to be fair, her name was printed small on the invitation. But they hadn’t even seen an invitation.
Williams liked the collection, but said, “I was not aware of the political context.” She’s from L.A. and had just flown in the night before, and said she’d found out about the show 30 minutes prior to it. “Just via my agency. They asked if I wanted to come, and my hotel was just down the street, so I was just popping over before going to another show.”
“We actually didn’t get the invitation,” she said. “We got a text that said, Can you make it to the show at this time at this place?”
In a brief interaction after the show, Sackler said she was pleased with how it went, even if she didn’t have time to talk about the controversy surrounding it. She’s done that mostly on social media anyway. Outside of the Times face-off, she reportedly texted a Page Six reporter a middle finger emoji after some more unfavorable coverage. In a recent interview with the weekly newsletter Air Mail, she said, “When I get punched, I punch back.” LBV’s website still includes the Times piece on its press page. It just crops out the first half of the headline: ”Uptown, Sackler Protests. Downtown, a Sackler Fashion Line.”
“I just said ‘no comment’; thanks for coming,” she said, walking away.