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6 Fashion Brands That Turn to Food and Restaurants for Inspiration Each Season

Last updated: 02-11-2019

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6 Fashion Brands That Turn to Food and Restaurants for Inspiration Each Season

Simon Porte, the designer behind Jacquemus, gave guests one delicious clue about his Fall 2019 menswear debut in Paris: A save-the-date in the form of a bread loaf, wrapped in a napkin, embroidered with the brand's name.

What should be remarkable at a fashion presentation, is, of course, the clothing. But Jacquemus's collection — inspired by the rural life of Montpellier and the workwear of bakers and farmers alike — was also exciting because of its set design, featuring a sculptural French breakfast spread catered by Alix La Roche, a Paris-based chef to the fashion set. Models and guests were invited to nibble on hunks of cheese, marmalades, butter and homemade sourdoughs alongside cozy almond milk cocoa.

Jacquemus's comestible presentation is part of a growing movement among the fashion industry; forgoing the traditional catwalk format, in favor of more intimate, interactive experiences, often relating to food.

A magazine called Food for Fashion launched in 2015 charting the trend with words from Dev Hynes, John Waters and Twiggy. Buffalo Zine, a surrealist independent fashion publication formatted like a hefty coffee table book, debuted its latest issue in 2018 called "Fashion's Kitchen" entirely devoted to the crossover.

The ways in which kitchens are becoming interdisciplinary places that finally emphasize personal expression extends to sartorial decisions, and designers are taking note. In the food world, Hedley & Bennett, Tilit and Polka Pants are designing some of the first fashionable, kitchen-appropriate clothing that allows back-of-house staff to feel stylish.

Today, chefs walk the runways like pros. Zoe Latta, one half of Eckhaus Latta, throws dinner partiesas avant-garde as her designs in her Los Angeles garden. Raf Simons threw a bacchanalian show in New York for his Fall 2018 collection, with goblets of wine, fresh fruit, charcuterie and even Belgian chocolate and waffles up for grabs on the runway. Chromat'sedible bikini debuted at last year's Miami Swim Week made from seaweed. Not to mention, for Spring 2019, Tbilisi-based George Keburia designed millinery in the form Crayola box-colored chefs hats. The feeling is mutual, too, with the rise of food merch and designers tapping into more food-and-drink-focused collaborations.

Fashion as it engages with food is fun, for sure. It makes presentations less stuffy, more yummy and surely more Instagrammable, but it goes beyond that. Many designers today are engaging with food as a point of inspiration in ways that touch upon identity politics, climate change and waste created in the production of consumer goods. Read on to learn more about some of our favorites.

It's no secret that the fashion industry creates significant waste each year. Microplastics are used by most major fashion labels, which contribute to the degradation of our oceans and potable water supply. Older Brother hopes to combat both of these issues with their natural dyes and fabrics, foraged seasonally. "The colors and process really evolve around that and nature definitely dictates that," says co-founder Max Kingery. Older Brother even has a whole sub-collection called "Hand Me Downs" where items that might be considered "waste" and are completely reimagined and help dictate the design of new, one-of-a-kind pieces.

The label's most recent lookbook features a model wearing a mushroom like a corsage set in a California mushroom farm where they source their natural brown dyes. "We've been utterly fascinated with the power of fungi... [It] ended up very fun but also meaningful to get people more interested in what is going on with fungi. Our store in Venice, [Calif.], we built from fungi — from our counter to our live mushroom farm," says Kingery. These days, chaga, an ingredient co-opted by wellness protein powders, is not typically used for dying clothes. Not only did Older Brother find a new extraction method for the mushrooms, but they work to educate their fans about the historical medicinal properties.

For Older Brother, the slow food movement, that is a commitment to local sourcing in the restaurant space, has been a "pillar inspiration" for the brand since its inception.

Although Los Angeles-based Leeann Huang is making garments that are more conceptual than wearable in the long term, her edible garments are some of the most exciting elements of the fashion world right now. Oh, and she only graduated from Central Saint Martins last year.

"I wanted all the clothes to be surreal and trick people into wondering what was real or not," says Huang. "Jelly and chocolate knits were quite simple because I just had to mold the shape. The beaded trousers [were] casted oranges and walnuts in resin to give a glazed look and to solidify them as beads before incorporating them into the trousers." In the end, Huang expects wearers to consume what's edible of her garments, as a commentary on the state of fast fashion.

Although Huang, who cut her teeth working at Maison Margiela, does not have formal experience working in food (safe for a stint in the kitchen at an ice cream shop), she grew up thinking she wanted to be a chef, obsessed with the way food was presented on shows like "Ace of Cakes" and "Iron Chef." When asked whether she was sad to see clothing she worked hard on be digested she says, "I suppose it's very sustainable that my clothes could be compostable in this age of fast fashion. But in all, I was thinking of these garments more in terms of the show and how people experience them in the moment rather than something for mass consumption or production."

Next season, Huang's collection will focus more on her upbringing. "[I grew up in a] heavily Chinese neighborhood in Los Angeles. So my inspiration is based a lot around childhood images of Cantonese style banquet food and 7-Eleven . I want it to be a cultural hodgepodge through clothes and food," she says.

The streetwear-inspired garments by Zeynab Izadyar are all handmade in Brooklyn, with graphics inspired by Persian food packaging, most often rice and tea bags. "Food is what goes inside and clothing is what goes outside. What goes inside the body eventually will be shown on the outside," says Izadyar. "Persian food takes a relatively long time to cook, in other words it's a slow-made food, the way that Vvork Vvork Vvork has been slow-made wearables. It's funny that some Persian stews taste better the next day and that is what I hope can happen with my work over the time."

Izadyar's interest in working with food in design came from cooking techniques she learned growing up in Iran. "I learned how to use natural dyes [to decorate] food from my mom, dying rice toppings with saffron, beets, red cabbage and chives while learning how to cook," she recalls. "We used turmeric, onion peels and rhubarb root powder to dye eggs and onion extract as invisible ink to write secret hidden letters."

Vvork Vvork Vvork employs a command for color combinations: reds, forest green and lavender hark back to the flag of Iran and the designer's roots and are given a playful update with the collection's ongoing checkerboard motifs. It seems especially radical to launch a line proudly displaying Arabic, in an era where cruel Islamophobia is spearheaded by the current Presidential administration. Vvork Vvork Vvork highlights the traditions of Iranian food while reimagining its tenets into a fashion-forward context that we can’t wait to see more of.

Sandy Liang grew up at Congee Village, a Lower East Side-meets-Chiatown restaurant staple, owned by her father. Her namesake line, which launched in 2014, is mostly known for its lurid, faux-fur coats and street-style-worthy fleece jackets, but food is in Liang's design DNA, trickling into motifs of mangosteens and guavas throughout her collections.

"When I first started my line [in Fall/Winter 2014], I was super into Chinatown grandmas and their amazing patterns and prints," she explains to Bon Appetit. One might see Liang's designs as new form of archive, keeping the history of Chinatown's food culture alive, in an era in which gentrification threatens its very fiber.

Liang's interest in cooking extends to celebrations, too. She's held presentations during New York Fashion Week at her father's Cantonese-style restaurant, as well as the notorious Mission Chinese Food. Last year, Liang commissioned food artist Jen Monroe, known in New York for her monochromatic dinner parties, to create a totally blue, edible tablescape for her Fall 2018 show. A recent photo shoot for Office Magazine features a model in her clothing chowing down with chopsticks, and her lookbook has modelsshopping the meat grocery aisle. Liang's inventory SKUs are also given with food-related names.

Plus, Liang is obsessed with Food Network queen Ina Garten, going so far as to celebrate a recent fashion week with cake covered in photos of the Barefoot Contessa.

Similar to Leeann Huang, Mediterranean jewelry brand Keef Palas explores ephemerality through details made of dried peppers, peanuts, walnuts, olives, garlic and more. Founded by Claire O'Keefe and Eugenia Oliva in the summer of 2016, Keef Palas refers to the co-founders' last names, as well the Greek goddess Palas, who in a battle against Poseidon for the guardianship of Athens, offered an olive tree up in exchange. (Eugenia's last name means "olive.") The duo live between Mallorca and Barcelona in Spain, and want their collection to directly reflect local Mediterranean ingredients. 

"If we moved to California one day, we would design a Pacific collection," says Oliva. "There's a phrase that we like from Patricia Highsmith: 'We spend our lives looking for what we have in our backyard.' The Keef Palas philosophy is to play with the resources we have. The key is humor and anarchy."

And while the $50 price point seems like a scam for something intentionally made to degrade, the concept is one to stand behind. Keef Palas doesn't keep a back stock of its product, rather producing to order like at a restaurant. Earrings are vacuum-packed and kept in a fridge until they're ready to be sent off to their new owners. "Even if some styles like garlic or chili are able to be consumed. The significance of those materials to the project is bringing Mother Nature closer to people who in general are so disconnected with it today," says Oliva. 

The emphasis here is enjoying the pieces while you can, and not trying to indefinitely own them in the neoliberal capitalist sense.

Kara's Holiday 2018 campaign featured some of the handbag brand's favorite friends and family at Bar Beau in Brooklyn's Williamsburg to shoot a decadent lavender feast designed by experimental food stylist, Jen Monroe. (Her client list also includes Sandy Liang and Opening Ceremony.) "We've been inspired by a return to things that are incredibly valuable but sometimes overlooked today, like gathering with friends and family to share a meal," says Founder and Creative Director Sarah Law.

The ad imagery features Tyra Mitchell and Naeem Khaliq with their children, Cold Picnic's Ava and Aurora, Katja Blichfield and Adele Thibodeaux, as well as Law herself alongside Sofie Pavitt, with a delightful tablescape featuring purple cauliflower, purple majesty potato mash with onion flower, inky gemelli pasta, micro pepper flowers, daikon kaiware shoots, purple asparagus, nigella seeds and Monroe's take on world-famous restaurant Alinea's famous clear pie.

More recently, Kara has been showcasing its bags modeled by hairstylist-cum-chef Masami Hosono of Vacancy Project. "While the creation of food can be more immediate, there are still many similarities between the work of a chef and a fashion designer," says Law. "Each person is using their craft as a tool to communicate an idea."

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