A high-end Italian fashion line with a pill-popping motif is sparking outrage and a campaign by a Minneapolis drug counselor who wants Nordstrom to pull the controversial items from its stores.

Moschino, an Italian clothing brand known for being irreverent, bold and sometimes controversial, launched a clothing line that includes handbags that resemble prescription pill bottles and clothing peppered with colorful capsules. The items, sold at Nordstrom and Saks, are provoking protests in Minnesota and across the country for being tone-deaf and callous about a national drug epidemic that claims tens of thousands of lives each year.

Randy Anderson, an alcohol and drug counselor in Minneapolis, has collected nearly 2,000 signatures on an online petition asking the retailers to remove the Capsule clothing line from its stores. Nordstrom has several retail locations in the Twin Cities, including at the Mall of America and Ridgedale Center.

In his letter to the retailers, Anderson said he will not patronize Nordstrom and is encouraging others to boycott the stores until the items are removed.

On Tuesday, a Nordstrom official said the retailer does not plan to remove the items from its stores.

In the three days since Anderson launched the petition on change.org, many signing the petition have vowed "never to step in Nordstrom" again, chastising the retailer for glamorizing drug use.

Moschino introduced its Capsule line during New York's 2016 Fashion Week, saying the collection is inspired by the packaging and instructional inserts of over-the-counter medication and offers customers a colorful selection of garments. Items include a $950 prescription pill bottle shoulder bag, a $650 short black dress and $695 backpack featuring colorful pills and $1,095 pill-package-inspired purse.

In his letter to the retailers, Anderson notes that most people who became addicted to heroin started with a legal prescription from a physician after an injury or medical procedure — people like Prince, who died earlier this year after an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic. In 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than in any year on record.

Anderson, a recovered drug addict who now works as a counselor at RS Eden in Minneapolis, said the drug-themed clothing is an insult to all the mothers who call him each week to say they lost a child from a prescription drug overdose.

"As an alcohol and drug counselor, I can't treat dead people," Anderson said. "At the number and the rate that people are dying in this country, it's working me out of a job and that's not acceptable."

"Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in this country," Anderson said in his letter. "Do you have any idea of the message your company is sending to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose? … Do you have no moral responsibility in what type of products your company promotes for public use?"

"We've heard from some customers about this collection, and we're sorry to learn they're disappointed," Nordstrom said in a written statement. "Every customer we serve has unique tastes, which is why we offer a wide range of products. We're one of several retailers offering this collection and we can't speak on behalf of the designer or their intentions."

Saks did not respond to a request for an interview.

Despite Nordstrom's response, Anderson said he's not giving up. "I was a home improvement salesman for most of my adult life. I don't take no for an answer. I'm not going to stop."

He's hoping the retailers will be inspired to take action as the number of people joining his campaign grows.

"The only way it's going to affect a giant like Nordstrom is by hitting them in the pocketbook," Anderson said. "I hope in some small way it does."

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788