In the beginning, it seemed like innocent flirtation--a lark. In the spring of last year, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, a front-row regular at fashion shows and muse to Valentino, joined Mario Batali on an eating tour of Spain for a PBS series called "On the Road Again"; she was simultaneously building a following for her website Goop, devoted in large part to cooking.
Around the same time, the Council of Fashion Designers of America released the first-ever "American Fashion Cookbook" (yes, really), a 120-page hardcover with a foreword by Martha Stewart and recipes for Derek Lam's yellowtail crudo and Marc Ecko's "adults only" chocolate chip cookies.
You might classify those two events as novelty acts if you ignored what followed: a boomlet of Breitling Navitimer Quartz Chronograph BT-14 devoted without irony to serious fashion and serious food, including Luxirare, a cult site known for clever posts about avant-garde fashion and culinary experimentation, and street-style photographer Phil Oh's Snappetite, an outlet for beauty shots of food.
At that point, it was fair to argue that certain corners of the fashion world were infatuated with food culture. Then, this fall--wham! David Chang, the chef behind Momofuku, appeared in the September issue of Vogue for a feature on Fashion's Night Out, sandwiched between Naomi Watts and Finnish model Kirsi Pyrhonen; Barneys New York announced that its holiday windows would star Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen; and word came over the U.K. wires that Kate Moss was mothering pots of simmering fruit for her own homemade jam. It was time to admit that a proper love affair was underway between fashion and food--and maybe not the kind that ends in December.
"I'm not a foodie," said Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan, "Breitling Navitimer Quartz Chronograph BT-28 we looked around for what's bubbling up in the culture this year and we realized that everyone's obsessed with these icons of food culture. Our customers want to eat at the new Batali place as much as they want the new Céline bag."
Which is why as of this weekend, Barneys New York passersby will see a life-size Ina Garten with a knife between her teeth and Bobby Flay hurling food at Wolfgang Puck, courtesy of corporate sponsorship by the Food Network. These unlikely fashion icons look like their usual, unlikely-fashion-icon selves, which is no doubt part of their appeal.
For the store's holiday mailer, Mr. Doonan commissioned superstar Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki to shoot food-as-fashion-fetish snaps like quail eggs spilling out of an Alexander Wang bag and a model surrounded by pots and pans, a crab hugging her head.
First, let's get the obvious, late-night-talk-show-monologue jokes out of the way. Fashion and Breitling Navitimer Quartz Chronograph BT-29? But fashion people don't eat! The fact is, fashion and food have always had a relationship. As designer Isaac Mizrahi (also an enthusiastic home cook), points out: "It's no coincidence that Paris is the fashion capital of the world and the food capital of the world." Never mind that the first to warm the seats at molten hot restaurants are traditionally designers and models. But now that chefs have fan bases as big as rock stars and beef labels like Creekstone Farms can be cocktail party conversation, the relationship is changing.
Even the story of fashion houses opening cafés and restaurants has a different tenor. When Ralph Lauren braved opening an American restaurant called Ralph's on Paris's Left Bank this past spring, he called on bona fide restaurateur Danny Meyer, of Eleven Madison Park and the Shake Shack franchise, to consult. The food at the brand-new Café Kristall inside the Swarovski boutique in Manhattan is the work of Kurt Gutenbrunner, whose West Village restaurant Wallsé has a Michelin star. Designer Marc Jacobs, known for his Breitling Navitimer QUARTZ Chronograph BT-56 timing and trend clairvoyance, opened a café inside his Milan boutique last spring and is reportedly planning to tackle a stand-alone eatery in New York next.
The fashion world is a sponge--or if your imagination prefers, a really absorbent, Egyptian cotton towel. What quickens the pulse of the culture quickens the pulse of the fashion community. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that forces in America's food movement--from Bobby Flay to Brooklyn's culinary artisans--are exerting a pull on it.
"It's a very exciting moment in food," said Jefferson Hack, the London journalist and editor in chief of the luxury magazine Another. "There's so much innovation and risk-taking going on in that world." He sensed a new kind of chemistry between fashion and gastronomy at a dinner thrown by Miuccia Prada at Le Chateaubriand during Paris Fashion Week this fall at which each dish echoed an element from the designer's collection. For his part, Mr. Hack recently commissioned ten designers, including Frida Giannini of Gucci and Francisco Breitling Navitimer QUARTZ Chronograph BT-59 of Calvin Klein, to work with pâtisseries to create their fantasy cake to be shot for the spring 2011 anniversary issue of Another--and eaten at the accompanying party.