The Biggest Trend at Fashion Week Had Nothing to Do With Clothes

sandy liang nyfw flowers feathers watermelon fruit lilac

When I posted an Instagram of a magnificent fruit spread at Roxanne Assoulin’s press breakfast last week with the caption, “Breakfast buffets are the new street style you heard it here first,” Leandra DM’ed me a few minutes later and said, “Actually though…Runner-up for most Instagrammable thing among fashion ppl, second to clothes, is def artfully arranged nourishment.” And thus, a trend hunt was born. It wasn’t difficult to find evidence of this theory; in fact, Instagram-worthy food abounded over the course of fashion week’s entirety. Since Man Repeller is in the business of peeling back the layers of trends to narrow in on their broader purpose, Leandra and I had a slack conversation to discuss the ubiquity of this movement and its implications within both the industry and the larger conversation we’ve been having about social media. -Harling

Leandra: The biggest trend at fashion week this season is designers feeding their audiences!

Harling: Seriously! And how interesting that the biggest trend has nothing to do with clothes? (Or does it????)

Leandra: Nothing to do with clothes, everything to do with social media? No, that’s not fair, and I hate blaming (and crediting) the internet for everything but I have been thinking A TON about the collective subconscious — groups of people tuning into the same frequencies at the same time and how that informs what happens next. And we’ve been talking so much about food even at Man Repeller — the art of nourishment! SO: we started on this trajectory at Roxanne Assoulin’s breakfast presentation, ya?

Harling: Yes, the Roxanne Assoulin breakfast had everything from yellow kiwis to Lucky Charms and all of it was styled perfectly. I know what you mean re: the internet, though. Sometimes it bothers me that Instagram/social media keeps nosing its way into all my thoughts and theses these days, but that’s sort of the nature of the world we live in, huh? I really appreciated Vanessa Friedman’s article about anti-algorithm fashion that you shared over email because I think it connects to this conversation we’re having in a lot of ways. (Although I do think there is joy to be had in the fashion/experiences that are tailored to the algorithm in addition to those that are not, so I sort of like sampling both.)

Leandra: There’s an argument to be made that social media is becoming the collective subconscious, right? It’s just not really subconscious anymore because it’s viewable outside the confines of a mind for public consumption. Do you think the food-rich presentations and shows have been made to appease the algorithm?

Harling: Absolutely!! Pretty food = likes and engagement. It’s social media currency, and I think it’s very savvy of designers to buy into it, because a show/presentation isn’t always guaranteed an Instagram post — but more often than not, a plate of beautifully arranged food IS.

Leandra: There is also a distinct correlation between food and fashion. It creeps in regularly; I don’t find it to be so new. Maybe it has to do with lifestyle because both entities serve an incredibly utilitarian purpose necessary for survival — clothes keep you covered and food keeps you full. But both can also take a turn for the wildly gluttonous/frivolous. And living between that tension, recognizing their importance for survival but also being able to indulge in what can be sinister about both is where a lot of cool stuff happens.

Harling: Interesting point. By “sinister” do you mean their mutual ability to cater to our more superficial instincts? There’s something simultaneously human and glamorous about both food and fashion, even though those things are seemingly diametrically opposed.

Leandra: To the most hedonistic parts of our identities. Why do you find those things diametrically opposed?

Harling: By human I mean our emotions, our vulnerability, our physicality, and by glamorous I mean something untouchable/elegant/lofty/aspirational. Fashion can occupy both of those spaces quite easily, but I agree that pinpointing the area of the Venn diagram where they overlap is where things get interesting. Same for food. Where else besides Roxanne have you seen artfully arranged nourishment this season?

Leandra: Mansur Gavriel had everyone seated — you were there too right? And we were all served Ladurée dessert. I wasn’t at Sandy Liang, but I saw on our Instagram that food was served there as well. There was coffee this a.m. at Michael Kors…not the same, but close. Hors d’oeuvres at Staud. Anywhere that I’m missing?

Harling: Breakfast at Brock, right? And I heard rumors that there were orange peels dipped in chocolate at The Row, which sounds very chic.

Leandra: Oh yeah, duh, we had avocado toast and croissants at Brock. It was a treat that didn’t really make sense with the Marie Antoinette-if-she-lived-with-Pollyanna-meets-Georgia-O’Keefe vibe of the show, but tbh that was a treat in and of itself. Anyway, WHAT TO MAKE OF THESE THINGS? Do you think they impact the viewing experience? Change your opinion on the clothes? Or the story the clothes tell?

Harling: I think there’s an element of it that is intended to combat fashion week burnout. i.e. here is something delicious to partake in, to make you feel nourished/taken care of during an extremely busy work week with no weekend. But also! Something different from clothes to look at on your Instagram feed, which you might be getting sick of at this point. It’s like a palate cleanser (literally). Other than that, I think it plays a role in helping us envision the 360-degree worlds these designers are creating — worlds that aren’t just made up of clothing. More than ever now brands are trying to CONNECT, and what better way to do that than with food served communally around a table?

Leandra: Good conversation, I guess!

Harling: Yes. Only slightly ironic, then, that everyone will subsequently share it on social media 🙂

Leandra: I agree that food is the most natural and obvious extension to inform “experience” which has become THE buzzword, but the thought of it becoming so pervasive that good food starts to feel like overkill instead of joyful upsets me. And that’s a direction we might well be headed in. The pro, I suppose, is that if it happens, it does require us to reflect inward and appraise, as we have had to do with clothes, what purpose beyond the obvious it serves in our lives. But maybe I’m reading too much into it. Just eat the damn cake, right?

Photo by Harling Ross at Sandy Liang.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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