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Victoria’s Secret Swim 2012 by Cyril Attias 


January 24, 2024

Sahil Balani

When thinking of the intersection of food and fashion, one might think of sushi-printed socks that one can find at H&M or pineapple printed shirts on SHEIN that usually start trending before spring and summer. But, to me, one can’t contemplate the intersection between food and fashion without thinking of one of the most iconic pop culture moments of the 21st century: the “meat dress,” worn by Lady Gaga in 2010. The dress, designed by Franc Fernandez, was made completely out of raw beef. At the time, Gaga explained that the dress was in response to the importance of standing up for your rights. As Gaga’s statement suggests, the intersection of food and fashion is dynamic, evolving, and always stirs up conversation and thought. While they are vastly different domains, they have deep connections that extend beyond being necessities for us.


Apart from this iconic moment, fashion houses and food brands have, on multiple occasions, collaborated and influenced each other. Jeremy Scott designed the Fall 2014 ready to wear collection for Moschino around an odd pair: Coco Chanel and McDonald’s. In May 2020, Nike collaborated with Ben & Jerry’s to release “Chunky Dunky,” a low-top sneaker inspired by the brand and ice-cream prints. Apart from direct visual influences, food has also been a great source of inspiration for designers to create products. In 1997, Silvia Venturini Fendi was inspired by how people carried their loafs of bread to produce the brand’s famous Baguette Bag. 


Food and fashion often also share a very common source of material: cows. The meat and leather industry work closely to get the most yield from one animal. As concerns over the impact of the cattle industry on global warming grow, both fields have considered and followed up on alternatives. There is a well-established vegan leather industry and there is an increasingly popular trend in vegan food.


Interestingly, a lot of manufacturing processes and trends find strong standing in the food and fashion industries and they usually influence one another. Manufacturing processes and trends, such as exploiting labor for low wages, have found a strong connection to both these worlds. Fast food and fast fashion are both seen as highly negative sources of impact on the body and the environment. The “fast” industry employs minimum wage workers and usually does not compensate them enough for their work of long hours. Thankfully, we can acknowledge social media being a forefront of spreading information about the conditions of sweatshops in the global south. Tragedies such as the 2012 Dhaka garment factory fire have occurred, and small designers expressing their agony over fast fashion companies outright and unapologetically copying their designs have fueled rage and caution in many customers. 


 On the other hand, the rise of the idea of “farm to table,” places emphasis on locally produced food and being cautious about how and what are the origins of the ingredients. The concept of “farm to table” has influenced the idea of “farm to closet,” in the fashion industry. This adoption promotes organic and locally made garments. People are becoming more mindful shoppers, as they care about who is making their clothes, how are these clothes being made, and where are these clothes being made. One also feels special and more invested in a clothing product when they know the value and story it holds. Compare a machine-knit sweater you get at H&M or a hand-woven cardigan made out of alpaca wool from the highlands of Peru that you might buy at a flea market or a local boutique. A counter point is that the latter is more taxing on the wallet. But that is part of the concept: buy a few quality products that last long.

The dynamic relationship between food and fashion is always engaging and captivating. Despite their seemingly distinct realms, they are intertwined in myriad ways. It makes sense why they exert such significant influence on each other; they transcend mere necessity, competing for and sharing resources and having similar impacts on the society and environment. Exploring the intersection sparks thought-provoking, multifaceted conversations.

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