Uptown, Sackler Protests. Downtown, a Sackler Fashion Line.February 21, 2019
Last week, at the tail end of New York Fashion Week, in a private suite at the Soho Grand Hotel, models with Day-Glo yellow eyelashes and matching parkas dotted the room. They held handbags with the initials LBV molded in gold, and a few carried yellow ice axes.
Some looked ready to climb — gilded carabiners sparkled here and there, and the models wore chunky Lowa climbing boots — though others wore see-through lace skirts over their bodysuits.
“Designer’s own,” said the designer, Joss Sackler, looking down at a model’s boots and at her own. She was wearing them with a neon-yellow hoodie and her own pair of neon-yellow eyelashes.
Mrs. Sackler, 34, is the proprietress of LBV, a private social club, from where this collection, LBV Care of Joss Sackler, grew. Mrs. Sackler is an avid climber, so she tailored the clothes to suit her lifestyle: hazard yellow for boulder safety, still a cute look for driving home from the Gunks and going straight to dinner; or a white shirt to throw on over bike shorts after the gym for the school run.
“Everything has to transition,” she said. “I have three kids. It has to be easy.”
LBV grew out of a separate interest, in wine. Wanting to share the appreciation of wine with more women than were in the prestigious wine fraternities Mrs. Sackler belonged to, like the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the Commanderie des Costes du Rhône and the Commanderie de Bordeaux, she founded one of her own.
LBV, she was somewhat hesitant to admit, stood for Les Bouledogues Vigneronnes: the winemaking bulldogs. (“We have a French bulldog,” she said.)
The women — and now a few men — who are dues-paying members of LBV are a multifaceted lot, with varied interests, and Mrs. Sackler expanded the society beyond wine to be a social club, with classes and lectures, visits to fashion designers’ studios, workout classes and dinners honoring contemporary artists. (There is still plenty of wine.)
Membership fees begin at $500 annually and go up to $2,500, and Mrs. Sackler estimated that membership hovers at around 50 people.
Though some stores attended the fashion presentation or made appointments to see the collection, the primary mode of sale will be through LBV’s website, and members will get preferential pricing. Some, Mrs. Sackler said, were sprinkled around the room: one of the models in the presentation and a stylist who had helped shape it.
“Most importantly, LBV is a collective,” Mrs. Sackler said. “Everybody wants everyone to do well. We’re all rooting for each other, and we have an awesome team of supportive people.” Mrs. Sackler does not have design training, though she is working on the collection with a designer who worked in French couture.
“When you’re, like, ‘Did you work with anyone?’” she went on, “Yeah, I worked with my friends. And my friends are LBV.”
If Mrs. Sackler’s name sounds familiar, it is probably not for the reasons she would like.
Mrs. Sackler is married to David Sackler, whose family owns Purdue Pharma, the makers of the prescription painkiller OxyContin. Purdue and the members of the Sackler family behind it have been accused of fomenting, and profiting from, the American opioid epidemic.
Last June, the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, filed suit against Purdue Pharma, eight members of the Sackler family (including David Sackler) and several others, alleging that they had misled doctors and patients about the risks of the drug.
“Purdue Pharma created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit,” the complaint states. An amended filing in January included further allegations about the roles played by the Sackler family specifically. David Sackler, a board member from 2012 to 2018, is cited as one of “eight people in a single family” who “made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic.”
In a statement, Purdue Pharma said that the complaint was “part of a continuing effort to single out Purdue” and that the company and the individual former directors mentioned in the suit “vigorously denies the allegations in the complaint and will continue to defend themselves against these misleading and deliberately inflammatory allegations.”
The Sackler family is one of the richest in America, and has given generously and philanthropically over the years to a large number of institutions, many of which have named schools, research centers, wings, libraries, courtyards, halls and even escalators for them.
There is a Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London; a Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and a Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim, where days before the LBV presentation, protesters rained down white slips of paper meant to suggest OxyContin prescriptions.
It was part of a demonstration by Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, a group whose founders include the artist Nan Goldin, a recovering opioid addict. The group had previously staged a protest at the Met.
Given the fury that surrounds the Sackler family, it may stand to reason that Mrs. Sackler’s name would be a liability. When the question was put to her, Mrs. Sackler fell silent and looked away.
“Not at all,” said Elizabeth Tuke, the publicist for the label. “Everyone here who’s been a part of this society knows Joss’s family. They all are big supporters of Joss.” LBV, she added, is “its own entity completely separate from that — aside from that Joss’s last name is Sackler.”
Mrs. Sackler looked up.
“It’s been positive,” she said. “All around positive.”
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