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It started with a fridge. Fashion officially entered the kitchen in 2016, when Dolce & Gabbana unveiled their decorative Smeg refrigerators. Hand-painted in their native Sicily and retailing at an astronomical £30,000, they brought high style into the heart of the home — fashion’s final domestic frontier. A colourful collection of “Divina Cucina” kettles, toasters and juicers soon followed. Now, the Italian duo has added a traditional range cooker to the mix. The maximalist “Victoria” stoves come in a vivid citrus-hued geometric design or a blue and white majolica style, so that you can gaze at scenes from Greek mythology while you prepare your arancini.
It’s no surprise that it was the Italian duo who made the connection between food and fashion. Way back in 1992, they sent Naomi Campbell down their catwalk wearing a brassiere emblazoned with the words “tomatoes, potatoes”, and have since made pasta, gelato and greengrocer-print dresses a staple of the summer wardrobe.
But they’re not the only designer cooks in the kitchen. Fendi enlisted the architect Marco Costanzi, the mastermind behind their Milanese HQ, to create the exquisite “Fendi Cucine” (first unveiled at this year’s Salone del Mobile). It features vast kitchen islands, windowed wine fridges and towering storage spaces that echo the sumptuous look and feel of their stores. Cooking has never looked this chic.
The fashion dining experience is not only for the eyes. There’s food, too. For AW18, both Gabriela Hearst and Peter Pilotto fed the fashion editors and buyers seated on their front rows. “Wherever there’s good food it’s always a better experience,” explains Hearst of her decision to present her luxurious collection of women’s work wear at Manhattan’s Café Altro Paradiso over plates of burrata, ricotta malfatti dumplings, fennel salad and panna cotta. Hearst chose the Spring Street restaurant for its warmly rustic interior and its chef, Ignacio Matto. “I love his food. It’s so progressive,” she says of her fellow Uruguayan. “Back home, there’s no Chanel store, so luxury comes from other avenues. Enjoying food with family and friends is a huge part of that ritual.” Hearst spent the duration of the show in the restaurant kitchen, grazing on prosciutto. “It was partly about bringing a moment of repose to the frenzy of New York Fashion Week,” she explains. “It’s such a marathon and people need fuel.”
Did the food influence the fashion? “In a very abstract way, yes,” she says. “Designing clothes is a lot like cooking — you have to have the right ingredients. This collection was about a woman entering the workforce and there’s something very feminine about giving people food and nourishing them — perhaps it’s the Latin in me.”
For the London designer Molly Goddard, who was this week awarded the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize, the foodie feel was less about nurturing and more about good times. Her hedonistic AW18 presentation saw the runway transformed into an industrial restaurant kitchen, where models in richly hued, textural clothes lingered around the stainless-steel worktops, munching on bread while getting sloshed on red wine. “I liked the idea of dressing up but for a party where you end up in the kitchen. That’s often where you have the most fun,” says Goddard, who had in mind the aesthetics of the exposed kitchen at St John in Clerkenwell. “By that time in the night you’re normally finding where the alcohol is kept rather than worrying about who is around. It wasn’t about a beautifully served three-course meal but standing around and picking at the carrots.”
It’s a mood inspired by her own after-hours shenanigans in the kitchen of her friend Jackson Boxer, the chef and restaurateur behind Brunswick House (which recently hosted an extravagant dinner for Gucci), Chess Club and the soon-to-open St Leonard’s in Shoreditch. The designer was captivated by a short film she’d seen by the Argentine artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, which portrays vegetables being crudely chopped. “Food has always been a big part of my inspiration because it’s about being sociable,” says Goddard, who transformed her sophomore London Fashion Week presentation into a sandwich factory and whose previous collections have featured everything from lavish banquets to servings of vermouth cocktails. “To me that means drinking, dancing — and eating. It’s always there subconsciously — the setting feeds into everything.”
And herein lies the reason that so many designers are so preoccupied by cooking: food and the domestic life it represents provides a rich and potent framework for fashion. It’s no coincidence that everyone from Gucci to Burberry to Ralph Lauren runs their own restaurants and cafés (Armani even has his own chocolate, Armani Dolci). Positioned in store or out, they bring a social dimension to the brand, slowing down the retail experience and allowing customers to savour their products for longer.
We also live in a time when the emphasis on entertaining in the home is greater than ever. It’s something to which Francesco Maccapani Missoni, scion of the fashion dynasty, has produced a stylish guide: The Missoni Family Cookbook (Assouline.com, £38, May 1). Compiling a wealth of family recipes passed down through the generations, from Venetian beetroot to insalata al pesto, it offers some surprisingly practical kitchen edicts. Did you know, for example, that you should soak fruit and vegetables with bicarbonate of soda to remove impurities?
“Eating well is a luxury,” says Angela Missoni, the brand’s long-time creative director, from her home in Lombardy, where her own organic kitchen garden is currently planted with everything from lettuce and aubergine to her favourite cuor di bue tomatoes. “You can’t turn on the television without a cookery show being on,” she says. “It’s all part of the growing focus on wellbeing that has been gaining momentum over the last decade or so.”
Food has frequently helped to tell the Missoni story. Campaigns shot by Steven Meisel and Juergen Teller have frequently focused on family feasts. “In Italy the quality and the variety of the food we have is unrivalled,” adds Missoni. “Cooking is our way of enjoying our time together. Even on a normal night a dinner can quickly grow from six to eight to 12 people. It’s very much about taking care of yourself — and those around you.” (Anyone unable or unwilling to master these dishes should head to Daphne’s restaurant in Chelsea, where a selection will be on the menu from May 2.)
Florentine food designer Francesca Sarti says it’s no surprise that the worlds of eating and dressing should so frequently converge. Her London-based studio Arabeschi Di Latte conjures consumable confections for fashion clients ranging from Marni to Zara to Toogood that often resemble anything but food. She’s conceived feasts for Fendi men’s shows inspired by the arid Australian landscape and charcoal banquets to mark the opening of designer Tom Dixon’s new King’s Cross home, Coal Drops Yard. “It’s not simply about sticking a logo on to a cupcake,” says Sarti, whose own culinary fashion fantasy is a Chanel bakery. “It’s about translating the essence of the brand into something edible.” Sounds delicious.
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