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The Intersection of Food and Fashion

by Oana-Maria Moldovan

In the fashion industry self-expression has no bounds and the convergence with somewhat unrelated fields begins to occur, sparking innovation and creativity. One fascinating intersection we’re starting to be seeing more of is food and fashion.

As we start 2024, it becomes evident that these two seemingly opposite things are influencing each other in unexpected and fun ways.

And, they have been for years. During the Renaissance, between the 14th and 17th centuries, a period marked by cultural rebirth and the flourishing of arts, the overlap between food and fashion created new dimensions. Banquets became theatrical performances, with table settings resembling the meticulous craftsmanship seen in couture garments.

The 18th and 19th centuries then witnessed the emergence of distinct culinary and fashion cultures, respectively. This period paved haute cuisine in France, paralleling the rise of high fashion, with both domains becoming synonymous with refinement and luxury.

Food and fashion became intertwined in the lavish courts of Europe, where culinary arts and extravagant clothing served as expressions of power and cultural sophistication.

It could be argued this was, in part, thanks to Marie Antoinette. In her early life as a royal, she had quite the taste for lavish food and fashion - meaning she often combined the two.

The Jazz Age of the 20s brought about a seismic shift in both food and fashion. As societal norms relaxed, jazz music filled the air, and the pursuit of pleasure took center stage, a newfound liberation was reflected in flapper dresses and bold experimental culinary concoctions.

We are talking about cocktail culture and avant-garde fashion of the era that ended up showcasing a shared rebellious spirit, with daring individuals seeking to break free from conventions.

Fast forward to now, and an increasing number of high-fashion brands have begun to intertwine with culinary worlds. From Ralph’s coffee, Burberry’s London Fashion Week greasy spoon pop-up, Gucci’s collaboration with Di Martino, Jacquemus’ toast invites, and much more. 

Despite currently experiencing an economic recession, as the history book tells you, the less money people have, the more they want to seem like they do.

Small things like being able to spend £4 on a Ralph Lauren branded coffee may seem silly and frivolous but is an entry point into the lavish. Yes, £4 for a standard coffee is expensive but £4 for anything from Ralph is more than a bargain. 

Recently, we observe the shift towards the “fashionization of food”, within foodie creative studios taking the lead.

Prominent among these studios is Barbo Stay, whose noteworthy dinners for esteemed fashion houses like Loewe, Dior, Miu Miu, as well as others, have garnered attention.

Similarly, We are Ona, based in Paris, has

curated striking culinary experiences for Jacquemus and Saint Laurent.

This connection has allowed these clothibg brands to expand into hospitality sectors such as restaurants, bars, cafés, or private members’ clubs – take Gucci Osteria, for example, the fashion houses’ restaurant.

While it’s exciting to see the crossover of creative through various industries, is it appropriate in today’s social and political scene?

To create expensive and excessive food during a world where starvation, poverty and homelessness is at a high surely worsens the divide. It feels like the scene from The Hunger Games where, in the Capitol, they take pills that allow them to eat more while the other districts starve. 

Additionally, the emphasis on extravagant culinary experiences as fashion statements may perpetuate a culture of consumerism and materialism, potentially conflicting with principles of social responsibility.

Some critics also argue that certain collaborations may tread the line of cultural appropriation, neglecting the authenticity and cultural significance of some traditional dishes. 

Creative and somewhat fun, the intersection of food and fashion also prompts reflection on its societal impact, particularly regarding issues of accessibility, ethics, and sustainability.

Although these valid concerns exist about the overlap of food and fashion, advocates assert that these collaborations serve as platforms for artistic innovation, pushing the boundaries of both industries. 

They argue that the exclusivity associated with these partnerships is a deliberate choice, catering to a niche audience seeking unique and extraordinary experiences.

It’s important to consider the positive economic impact, too. New businesses ventures result in job creation and economic growth across the two industries, and with in-person cafes and restaurants that would boost the local area due to populating it with more customers.

Truth be told, this intersectionality will create a whole new industry and a whole new world for creative people to express their art within. As with most things, we can be seen both the bad and a good, yet, as fashion fanatics, this new era feels rather exciting.

Edited by Emily Duff

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