For the Love of Carbs - Benjamin Bellwether Fashion Trends

For the Love of Carbs

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Noah Buscher
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As we replaced, yet again, the elastic holding together our buttonhole and button on our jeans (just kidding, we’re wearing sweatpants), we realized another trend being fueled by the pandemic: carbs. Sorry, we mean food. Food prints, food fibers, food charity tie-ins. It’s popping up all over the place, and we couldn’t be more excited…or hungry.

This trend presented itself a bit in the 2010’s, with some iconic designers going so far as to cook up deals like Alber Elbaz for Laduree. With #pandemictrends, once again, mixing up how we look at life and by nature, our clothing, we see this foodie trend coming back in a big way.

The Pandemic Recap

Alright, saying ‘recap’ and ‘pandemic’ in the same sentence felt very weird…because it isn’t over. But, let’s just remember this last year in carbs. First it was the bread. All…the bread. We made sourdough starters, boules for days, we even decorated focaccia loaves with literal gardenscapes. If any designer isn’t using their food as inspiration this past year, let us know and we will DHL over a scoop of our own sourdough starter. From there, we invited chefs from around the world into our homes. We started listening to Samin Nosrat & Hrishikesh Hirway talk about beans for 59 minutes, we started referring to Melissa Clark as just “Mom,” and we developed a deep and lasting crush on Roze Traore (someone give that man a fashion ambassadorship, immediately).

Food has become a deeper part of our lives. Cooking, whether for ourselves or our loved ones, has become ritual. The deeper connection we have with food will certainly translate into our designer’s minds in the next few seasons. Let’s check in with how it’s currently plating out. (Crushed it.)

Foodie-inspired clothing

We, of course, can start with the most core parts of the trend: prints. Let’s call it the mirepoix of this article (is anyone counting the food puns?). We’ve seen both explicit food prints and more texture-like motifs. We firmly stand with the promise of more texture-driven prints here, expect to see a lot more of that in the future. In addition to that, check out our Artist’s Touch trend and how food stills and tablescapes can be printed on a range of clothing. Copenhagen-based, and LVMH Semifinalist this year, Helmstedt took the art route recently in their snake and strawberry print, on a very on-trend robe no less.

Granelito, an indie kidswear brand, opted for the texture approach ‘harvest’ print, complete with the child model holding loaves of bread. London-based jewelry brand FOR ARTS SAKE also doubled down on the carbs with a necklace of croissants and pretzels.

Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty line continues to deliver their Tutti Frutti collection with a range of lingerie that has fruit patches embroidered on them. Nike SoleFood took a similar approach with printed tees (someone in their market didn’t do the due-diligence on the name, however…just trust us on that one).

Perhaps the most interesting piece in this food trend has been Lanvin’s scratch and sniff tee. For $590, plus shipping, you can smell like a cherry, blackberry or strawberry. Just what we need to lull us through our Zoom calls…it’s healthy because it’s fruit right? In another surreal note, one of our fav Instagrammers, Lars LaLa, features food often on their platform; and, who doesn’t want a pizza heel, amiright?

Using food as a sales tool

The next layer on this delicious cake is the advertising. Beauty and aromatherapy brands have been using food in their adverts for years, reflecting the ingredients that are in their products. Now, fashion has started to latch onto this concept.

Dior recently released their ‘St. Honore’ bag, named after their boutique on the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. It’s also the name of a famous French pastry. They had a series of Instagram stories where influencer Lena Mahfouf visited the famous pâtissier, Cedric Grolet, to cook up what look’s like a carb-bomb. And yes, the back wall was filled with the Dior bags and Cedric’s cookbook. With all the food content we are consuming these days, is this not a genius way to merge the two worlds?

Some brands are going the partnership route, like Unemployed Denim’s recent collab with FOMO Cookies. The first 20 orders of their Cozy Collection were delivered with free FOMO cookies. (We are now requiring all of our sweatpants to come with cookies…a perfect marriage.)

Jacquemus and Gelareh Mizrahi both opted for a unique approach to using food in their ads. Gelareh is the genius behind the bodega-themed store, complete with color-coded walls of her bags next to common bodega food items. Jacquemus used a vending machine of bags to sell his L’ANNÉE 97 FW20 collection.

Food Based Fiber

The foodie trend will also translate into fabrics, and there is whole new crop of fibers coming to market.

Czech designer Jiri Kalfar uses banana fibers in a number of his dresses. His fiber blend is a mix of banana fiber, made from banana leaves, and Peace Silk, a method of silk-production where the worms get to leave their cocoons before they are harvested. About a billion tons of banana stems are wasted each year, and it only takes 37kg of stems to produce 1kg of fiber. The fiber production could rely mostly on artisan laborers that work in small communities on electric-free looms, and the crops themselves do not require any chemicals to grow or process.

The banana fibers, once processed, are similar to hemp or bamboo in texture; making them perfect for both light- and heavy-weight fabric needs. Some current blends include Kalfar’s banana/peace silk, as well as banana/cotton and banana/pineapple/silk. Milo + Nicki, an ethical womenswear brand, uses a 100% banana fabric that is printed with low impact dyes and sewn into effortless, feminine silhouettes. Raleigh Denim revealed, at Project Fall 2019, a 70/30 cotton/banana blend denim, that’s still for sale in their line.

Speaking of pineapple, you may have heard of the pineapple leaf fiber Piñatex, by the company Ananas Anam. Companies like Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Trussardi, and even Chanel have dabbled in this “vegan” leather alternative. In our humble opinion, we have a couple notes. Firstly, it has a very specific look. The crumbled texture, while beautiful, is again…very specific. It doesn’t always work when looking for that flat leather texture. We will note they have released a “performance” version that is more smooth in texture. Secondly, the blend is not 100% pineapple. Piñatex is mixed with two bio-based plastics, meaning it’s not 100% biodegradable. While it is a step in the right direction, think twice about what happens at the end of the lifecycle for this fabric.

A similar issue faced Cocona, the particle-based activated carbon derived from coconut shells. With a host of performance properties making it exciting to product developers, it was combined with polymers (read: polyester) to become an actual fiber. The jury is out on if these innovations can utilize the alarming amounts of plastic within our oceans, and the businesses that have been using that plastic to make virgin-like recycled polyesters.

Some other kewl food-based fibers being explored? S. Cafe yarns, from coffee grounds, have anti-microbial properties; the waste from wine production can be used to make leather alternatives, from Vegea, used by H&M and &OtherStories; Orange Fiber used, you guessed it, oranges to create a juicy silk-like fabric in Salvatore Ferragamo’s collection; and, seaweed can be used to make Seacell fibers, that could even have positive effects on your skin when you wear it.  

Check out our All About Sustainable in the Fashion Industry Course for more info on the downsides of our current processes.

Sustainability and Food Scarcity Awareness

We would be remiss if we did not mention some of the ways brands are getting involved with the “Zero Hunger” goal of the UN SDG’s. We, as you know, love a charity tie-in and crave the fashion industry’s awareness-driving marketing efforts.

Sky High Farms collaborated with Awake for an exclusive set of tees at Dover Street Market. The non-profit organization is “committed to addressing food security and nutrition by improving access to fresh, nutritious food for New Yorkers who are living in underserved communities by sustainably growing fresh fruits and vegetables, and raising livestock exclusively for the purposes of donation.” So far, the org has donated over 86k lbs of veggies and almost 50k lbs of protein.

Balenciaga and Michael Kors both keep up partnerships with the World Food Programme, the latter donating 100% of profits to the organization on the sale of their charity tees.

A look at the data

According to the data, people aren’t technically looking for food inspired clothing, at least when it comes to print and pattern. There have been a few spikes in “food jewelry” searches over the last five years, but the real story here is that brands are serving people paid ad’s for food jewelry when a consumer Google’s it. The trend there is mostly pastas, fruits and avocados. One would think that if brands are serving the ads, someone is clicking and buying them.

Piñatex remains the big winner over banana fibers, with search volume far outweighing the latter. Piñatex is very popular among Denmark, France, Switzerland, Australia and Hong Kong; but, many people in the US, Canada and Brazilian markets, as well as other parts of Europe, have been searching for the fiber as well.

Interest in the topic of “food scarcity” has increased worldwide in the last year, specifically starting March of 2020. For good reason, as COVID-19 is projected to push another 130 million people into “acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. This is on top of the 135 million people who were already acutely food insecure before the crisis…” What’s even more harrowing? The searches for “food bank near me” far out-indexed the food scarcity search terms. Brands would be smart to include give-back programs around food insecurity awareness, outreach and solutions—especially in their local places of business.

A look at our intuition

As we have stated, this trend will be coming back within the next few seasons. Food-inspired print and pattern will play out in artistic ways to meet the Artist’s Touch trend, as well as more literal forms. The trend will move beyond the generic patches we have seen into more textural print and pattern interpretations. The biggest part of this trend will be around sustainability. Not only food scarcity awareness and the charity tie-ins surrounding them, but also the use of food waste to create more sustainable fibers. The use of waste for fiber is one of the biggest places sustainability and the fashion industry will meet over the next ten years.

All that considered, we put this trend on the early adopters spot on the trend curve.

There is lots of opportunity here. As Covent Garden, London’s West End shopping and entertainment hub, commented on FOR ART’S SAKE post: “Seize the carbs.”