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Smoke and Mirrors: Cannabis, Fashion, and How It All Connects to Rihanna

Published on July 27, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Google “how to dress like a stoner” and you get the following advice: Holes in your pants make you look more “authentic.”Wear a hat that you can also use as an emergency Fritos bowl.Own some “funny” t-shirts.If you’re a woman, don’t wear makeup or heels because you’re “effortlessly” beautiful.

In short, look like you don’t care—or like you haven’t updated your wardrobe since freshman year of college and are still carving apples stolen from the dining hall. The stereotype of the stoner as an outlier to society is outdated. As cannabis becomes increasingly legalized or decriminalized throughout the United States, cannabis enthusiasts are now viewed as foreseeing pioneers in a lucrative lifestyle and medical industry.

Not surprisingly, the fashion industry—which has publicly supported movements such as marriage equality, climate change, transgender visibility, and AIDS awareness—has recently embraced cannabis on the runway and in fashion magazines, from Alexander Wang’s Fall 2016 collection, featuring the leaves on mohair coats and mini bucket bags, to Rihanna’s latest shoe collaboration with Manolo Blahnik, bedecked in gemstones and named “So Stoned” with a wink (Badgalriri has been incorporating weed into her fashion statements since 2011). In 2017, there are grassheads who would happily shell out $2,325 for a pair of heels—that’s a year of cheap hash they’re giving up for a different type of high.

At Hero Shop, an Edie Parker WEED clutch originally retailed for $1,295.
At Hero Shop, an Edie Parker WEED clutch originally retailed for $1,295.

The Appearance of Bud in Upscale Boutiques

When former Vogue editor Emily Holt moved back to her hometown of San Francisco to open the concept store Hero Shop last year, she noticed that there was a wider acceptance of recreational cannabis use amongst Bay Area elite society. “It comes up a lot at dinners and benefits, who has it, who’s doing it and how,” she tells Leafly. Hero Shop, which sells bicoastal it-girl staples like millennial pink Mansur Gavriel sandals and ruffled Lisa Marie Fernandez bikinis, also stocks designer apparel with weed insignia. There was the Edie Parker Jean Weed clutch, a pink-and-green acrylic rectangular box with an interior mirror and pearlescent finish. It originally retailed for $1,295 on—on sale now for $518—and it fits an iPhone 7+, which means it could also fit a vaporizer. Edie Parker also sold an accompanying Weed “vanity tray,” traditionally used for fancy toiletries or perfume bottles, that could be used, for the most discerning smoker, as a $395 rolling tray. In 2013, Edie Parker partnered with Moda Operandi for a custom “420” clutch, written out in Roman numerals for those in the know.

Suits me 👩🏻‍🌾

A post shared by Claudia Mata Gladish (@claudiamariamata) on

One Hero Shop patron and friend of Holt’s is Claudia Mata, a former fashion editor at W known for her long shiny locks, black stilettos, and fondness for piling on the jewels. In 2016, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with her yogi husband (a California native who comes from a family of cannabis entrepreneurs) and two children, where she became inspired to create a soon-to-launch luxury topicals line made especially to appeal to her former fashion magazine colleagues back in New York.

“I wanted to do something with my own luxury mind set and the way that someone like myself would consume it, because I wasn’t really—and [am] still not really—a big smoker,” she says. “It wasn’t a part of my culture necessarily, my daily culture, like it is my husband’s.”

For Mata, after 12 years of working in fashion editorial in New York City, the motivation for becoming a Californian cannabis entrepreneur was the same motivation she entered the fashion industry in the first place: the potential for creative energy and collaboration, and to change people’s mindsets.

“We know that we’re all trying to push the needle in the right direction.”

“We’re all supportive because we all know that we’re all trying to push the needle in the right direction,” she says. “We’re all putting ourselves out there and we all believe in the same thing about the cannabis industry and its potential.” She attended Oaksterdam University (a cannabis college in Oakland), partnered up with a product designer and watercolor artist, and took herbalist courses to learn about creating a line of topicals for people who wear $300 skin creams—people who won’t buy the product if it doesn’t feel good, look good, or smell good. “The packaging is very clean. It’s not pink. It’s unisex,” she says. “It’s something I would buy.”

Beboe's Instagram-friendly cannabis products were created with the infrequent female consumer in mind.
Beboe's Instagram-friendly cannabis products were created with the infrequent female consumer in mind.

How High-End Branding Caters to the Fashion-Conscious

Most mainstream cannabis enthusiasts would assume that what matters most is that the cannabis you consume gives you the effects you desire—but for the fashion-conscious customer who can distinguish an Alexander Wang bucket bag from a Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, the packaging and branding are just as, if not more, important. Rihanna purportedly favors Beboe, a line of single-use vaporizers and pastilles formulated with a sativa-dominant blend of THC and CBD meant for social consumption. Clement Kwan, cofounder of the brand and the former president of luxury ecommerce company YOOX, created the Instagram-friendly rose gold products with the infrequent female customer in mind—someone who is drawn to the packaging before she is drawn to the sativa effects.

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“The vaporizer and pastilles appeal to the more sophisticated set mostly for the low dosage of our product, the feeling and taste of the cannabis, and overall design,” Kwan explains. “We feel that what we have built is perfect for that dinner party or cocktail [party] on a warm summer evening.” Kwan is hopeful that by attracting tastemaker customers with social capital, Beboe could change the marijuana industry. “We love specifically that Alexander Wang has led this movement for advocacy within the fashion industry which raises awareness, but equally important is raising the sophistication in taste,” he says.


A post shared by VETEMENTS (@vetements_official) on

Elevating the purported tastes of cannabis consumers is also something that Cheryl Shuman, dubbed “The Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills” by the New York Times, is actively working towards. Every morning, the tall, glamorous blonde has a smoothie made of cannabis, wheatgrass, and vegetables before getting ready for her endless nights of hosting dinners and gatherings for the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club. “This is like fine wine, fine champagnes, fine cigars,” she told Business of Fashion. “It’s becoming more chic to talk about it. Like being part of a tribe, if you will.”

Creatures of the Wind recently collaborated on a themed collection for an issue of System Magazine dedicated to cannabis.
Creatures of the Wind recently collaborated on a themed collection for an issue of System Magazine dedicated to cannabis.

Is Fashion Making Cannabis Cool, or Vice Versa?

“I wouldn’t go as far to say that fashion has helped accelerate the legalization movement,” Holt says. “I think that train was moving steadily and independently long before designers got on board.” While Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, the first mainstream appearance of marijuana in high fashion—designer Jeremy Scott’s greenwash collaboration with Adidas—didn’t appear until 2012, the year that Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. That said, cannabis in fashion has taken off fast. Scott’s collection was spotted on Sky Ferreira and A$AP Rocky. For her Spring 2015 collection, New York-based designer Mara Hoffman released a collection featuring familiar green leaf prints, though she did not actually claim them to be marijuana leaves. “I think cannabis is a beautiful plant,” Hoffman told “I am all for its medicinal love and think it should have been legalized years and years ago.”

While Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973, the first mainstream appearance of cannabis in high fashion wasn't until 2012.

The aesthetic of the cannabis leaf—regardless of whether you smoke or not—is not lost on designers searching for inspiration from the fringes of society. Fine jewelry maker Jacquie Aiche, a cannabis user herself, launched her first “Sweet Leaf” pieces in 2009, and has since expanded beyond seven-point leaf pendants into $190 sweatpants and $7000 crocodile clutches made to fit vaporizers. “Most of my [muses] rock the Sweet Leaf, even if they aren’t cannabis users,” she says. “The collection is also a celebration of its botanical beauty. I’ve been lucky to have my main muse, Rihanna, be a huge supporter of the Sweet Leaf collection since the beginning.” And as marijuana became increasingly legalized or decriminalized, Aiche says she noticed that people were less afraid to wear their Sweet Leaf pieces in public. “The fashion community has a creative voice that is respected among media,” she says. “Seeing fashion influencers in the Sweet Leaf definitely changes popular perception of this medicinal plant.”

This summer, fashion label Creatures of the Wind released a four-piece capsule collection in collaboration with System magazine, which dedicated its latest issue—all 140 pages—to weed, including a spread shot by famed photographer Juergen Teller on-location at Canadian cannabis production facility (and Leafly sister company) Tilray. For $135, you can buy a t-shirt embroidered with pot leaves. For $150, a sweatshirt. For $2,500, a parka. And if you never check your receipts after purchase, you can buy a fur coat with pot leaves made to order. “As the substance isn’t legal in all 50 states, I feel the plant design has an edgy appeal due to its illicit nature,” one of the two designers, Chris Peters, told WWD.

Creatures of The Wind x System Collaboration launch @colette July 4

A post shared by CREATURES OF THE WIND (@creaturesofthewind) on

When high fashion goes high, the appeal is that you’re wearing something aspirational—unattainable to the masses—that is also edgy and illegal in many states. You’re not a regular weed smoker, with the Bob Marley knockoff stereotypes attached. You’re someone who uses rose gold vaporizers. But just as with haute couture’s appropriation of streetwear (see Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme, or Vetements—which also designed gilded weed grinders in 2016), the use of cannabis imagery and motifs in high fashion raises the question of who gets the privilege of celebrating their cannabis lifestyle out in the public. Gap is not selling cannabis-print tees, after all. Sure, on Etsy, you can find weed-themed t-shirts for around $20, but Rihanna’s not shopping there.

Additional image credits:

Header: Courtesy of Manolo Blahnik
First featured image: Courtesy of Elizabeth Lippman/The Hero Shop
Second featured image: Courtesy of Beboe
Third featured image: Courtesy of Creatures of the Wind

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Noël Duan
Noël Duan
Noël Duan (@noelduan) is a New York- and San Francisco-based writer, editor, and researcher. She is writing a novel about adolescence in pre-2008 recession Silicon Valley.
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