It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started, but somewhere along the way, a loaf of bread arrived in the mail. It wasn’t just any loaf, though. It was an invitation to a fashion show—a savvy stunt by Simon Porte Jacquemus to help differentiate his eponymous brand from its competitors during an overpacked schedule at Paris Fashion Week Men’s Fall 2019. Those lucky enough to receive le pain were met with even more comestibles upon their attendance of the event. A stylized take on a classic Provençal breakfast was laid out by cook-slash-caterer, Alix Lacloche, complete with homemade marmalade, oversized blocks of butter, and warm almond milk chocolat chaud. Lacloche–who’s also worked with Lemaire, Repossi, Saks Potts, and Dover Street Market–had under two weeks to pull off the gastronomic feat. “I was asked 10 days before the show to make magic happen, and the whole Parisian fashion world was taking pictures,” she tells CR.
But Jacquemus wasn’t the first designer to enhance his collection with food, and he won’t be the last to do so, either. In other events around mainstay fashion capitals, food has been crossing over in more ways than one. In London, Simone Rocha has a two-year strong collaboration with Laila Gohar, a conceptual designer whose surrealist installations are seen by many as the poster child for the food-as-fashion movement. Gohar, who has no formal culinary training, has become a star in her own right in the process, boasting magazine profiles and over 100 thousand followers on her Instagram handle, @lailacooks. In addition to dreaming up flowery concoctions for Rocha, her resume includes langoustine towers for Ganni in Copenhagen and a two-meter-long sausage for the March 2019 opening of the Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées in Paris.
The ephemeral nature of food is all part of the allure. Back in September 2016, New York-based designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh subverted the trend when she invited models and guests to throw and smash an array of fruits artfully arranged along banquet tables during her Spring 2017 presentation. It was a messy experience during which plates were broken and dresses were stained, but attendees appeared glad (at least on the surface) to have partaken in such a spontaneous act. The re-contextualizing of what food can be is what makes events like these interesting, says Jen Monroe—a chef whose portfolio includes monochromatic spreads for Opening Ceremony, Sandy Liang, and MAC Cosmetics. “I like taking food out of the restaurant and putting it in places it doesn’t belong,” she shares with CR. “I like to play with food, and I like to imagine that the food I make plays with the people who eat it.”
On a more primal level, we all need to eat, and fashion designers today are offering up an idea of how to do that in a style that works in tandem with their moodboard for the season. It’s a practical extension of, rather than an addition to a collection. “When I’m cooking for others I want it to be a representation of that lifestyle,” says chef Camille Becerra, who’s largely credited with pioneering the chic, healthy food (think grain bowls and brightly colored health tonics) that’s become synonymous with New York’s fashion set. “Aesthetics play a big role in my work,” Becerra says. “Food should look beautiful, it should taste well-balanced, and you should feel good after eating it—you need the whole experience.”
Claire Olshan, the founder of Manhattan designer boutique FiveStory, has taken it a step further. Last year she launched Dada Daily, a line of aesthetically-pleasing, healthy snacks inspired by the boundary-breaking Dada art movement. “I had a desire (and need) for a company to bridge the gap between the joy one gets from art, design, and fashion and the joy one gets from being healthy and feeling good,” she explains. “In this day and age, consumers want value from their purchases. They are not just buying the product, they are buying the experience and the inspirational world that the product holds.” In the near future you’ll find her “perfectly crispy Brussels sprouts and vegan cheesy cauliflower popcorn” popping up on the menu of a new restaurant in the city. “Next time you grab a drink at the bar, you’ll do a double take,” she teases.
Speaking of watering holes, there are plenty of new and recent designer food establishments to consider. In Milan, take a bite of Miuccia Prada’s world at Bar Luce—a pastel-colored cafe with brightly upholstered Formica chairs and tables designed by the filmmaker Wes Anderson. At Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar in New York, sip on a martini and dig in to American classics. In Paris—again—there’s Jacquemus. Inside the aforementioned new Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées, the designer pays homage to his favorite color and upbringing in the South of France at Café Citron.
Yet few could argue that the unconventional treatment of food in fashion is new. Back in the 1970s, Irving Penn broke the mold when he photographed salad ingredients for a well-known American fashion magazine, and there are countless subsequent editorial spreads with food front and center. (Carine Roitfeld’s shoot with Eva Herzvigova titled “The Butcher” or her one with Crystal Renn eating spaghetti in 2010 are just two of many that have reached iconic cult status.) Designers have long cited food on the runway and on the red carpet, as well: Consider the Schiaparelli lobster, Lady Gaga’s raw beef dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and Moschino’s tribute to junk food five years ago. More recent examples include indie brand Telfar and its range of White Castle-themed streetwear. The big difference today, then, is that the audience is involved in the physical act of chewing and digesting the meal. Put simply, the days of food as a spectator sport are over. Fashion is starting to make cakes—and we’ve worked up an appetite for eating.END
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