One of the pioneers in food-inspired fashion was avant garde designer Elsa Schiapparelli with her iconic “Lobster Dress” in the Summer 1937 Collection. The Lobster dress was a simple white silk evening gown with a crimson waistband featuring a large red lobster painted on the skirt by Salvador Dalí. It is rumored that Dali also wanted to apply real mayonnaise to the lobster on the dress, but Schiaparelli objected to the idea. Ever since, food has continued to be a vast source of inspiration for clothing ranging from everyday wear to fashion to theatrical costumes.
Today, food and illustration continue to inspire one another in visual arts, as demonstrated by Gretchen Roehrs, a San Francisco-based fashion designer and creative director whose Instagram account combines her love for food and style. Gretchen's whimsical fashion illustrations overlay photos of fresh produce, meats and other edibles as the "clothing" with a few fine lines of ink-sketched models. The artist spent time in New York working behind the scenes in the fashion industry before moving to the West Coast to pursue illustration. She is quoted in Harper’s Bazaar: “There are tremendous parallels between food and fashion. Both really cater to the visual sense, but it's just as important that they have a pleasing texture. Fashion is a lot like cooking in that you can make up for average ingredients or fabrics with beautiful execution and care.” Similarly to Roehrs, Italian illustrator Mattia Caracciolo mixes food and design, using collage and fashion illustration. He initiated a food-project that lasted eight weeks, culminating in an event held in Bologna. The idea was to offer visitors 8 different menus- 2 for each of 4 diet types- vegetarian, vegan, raw and fruitarian, with 8 different colors linked to the menu selections. From this experience Mattia Caracciolo deepens the relationship between food and fashion in his "food collages" also showcased Instagram, his expressive platform of choice to tell his "food-stories," images accompanied by short stories. He comments: “In my designs I like to offer stories about strange characters, related to my personal life experiences or encounters on the street, occasionally overflowing into fashion. Call me a "Fashion Flaneur," for I do what all the mothers and grandmothers tell you not to do at the table: I play with my food- but I do eat it in the end."
In high fashion design, among the thousands of creations that have been inspired by food, Dolce & Gabbana is most notable for their literal reinterpretations photo-real food in their collections' prints. Most recently for the Spring/Summer 2017 collection, Dolce & Gabbana presented items of classic Italian cuisine that are known and loved throughout the globe – pizza, pasta and seafood. From black dresses adorned with photo-real bundles of dry spaghetti tied with red ribbon to dresses painted with vintage tomato sauce and pasta labels, to a fitted burlap sack painted with a "special recipe" pizza, to a pastel pink dress decorated with whole fish photos, the mouthwatering collection showcased some of Italy’s famous flavors. Another great example of fashion paying homage to the food industry can be found in Chanel's limited edition iridescent milk carton shaped "lait de coco" minaudières.
Cross-over and collaboration between fashion and food have also made headlines. For example Stuart Weitzman worked with some most renowned chef to interpret his shoes for a charity project. Among other cooperations Alber Elbaz former creative director of Lanvin and Ladurée, as well as Armani producing its own line of chocolates. Food and Fashion share the same quest for novelty and surprise, aiming to create the next big thing in order to tantalize the audience and keep renewing and reinventing the creative traditions. Lee Tran Lam, who writes one of Australia’s popular food blogs, The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry, compares the influence of trends in the food industry trends and on the catwalks, commenting: “Food, like fashion, is driven by trends, seasonality and the occasional gust of hype.” Fashion and food are two pillars of Italian creativity and culture, both traditional and modern, whose interaction strengthens and enhances their bond in Italy and throughout the world.
Perhaps the most intriguing interrelationships between the two worlds lies in the philosophy of extending taste- both literally and metaphorically- beyond simply the clothes one wears, but into a full food and fashion lifestyle immersion. This is the philosophy that inspired Anna Marconi, formerly of the fashion industry, to create the website Taste of Runway. She says: “Taste of Runway is an act of design, born on an apparently quiet day. But if I think about that, that afternoon was not an ordinary one. It was time for Taste of Runway, an affair of the heart created to share the pleasure of life and give a different taste to fashion. That special taste that can be found only in the kitchen, where every ingredient creates magic, and stories of flavors and people merge together. In the Taste factory we do research, we cook, we take pictures and, lastly, we eat.” The inspiration for Taste of Runaway most often comes from the catwalks. Anna tries to translate for our palate the delights she sees captured during a fashion show. And she says: “I admit that I often observe a dish that has the appearance of a dress, and it's nice when the inspiration happens this way because I often find myself eating in restaurants or at friends' houses, and so I capture that moment in Taste of Runway. I’ve started from the only ingredients I had at my disposal: quite a good knowledge of fashion, a healthy dose of imagination and hope, dreams and creativity, the love for good cuisine. I mixed up all these elements for days, I let them rest for a few nights and I believed in them. That gave rise to the idea of combining fashion and food, two worlds that have never coexisted before.” So from the visual cues of catwalks Anna develops a full menu from appetizers, starters to desserts and drinks.