BAKED TO PERFECTION
Fashion has long embraced the joys of cake. So much so that in 2013 LVMH acquired the quaint Milanese coffee shop Cova, which first opened its doors in 1817 and still packs in the city's style cognoscenti with its pasticcera and panettone. Not to be outdone, last year Prada bought nearby pastry shop Marchesi. Established in 1824, it's famed for its biscotti and bonbons that nestle temptingly in the antiquated, gilt-edged shop windows.
When not nibbling on confectionery, fashionistas are wearing it. From Piers Atkinson's strawberries-and-cream hats to Sophia Webster's watermelon high heels, and from House of Holland's ice cream T-shirts to Anya Hindmarch's Frosties bags, the inspiration is often literal—and always lots of fun.
But this season it's more about an undercurrent of sweetness when it comes to accessories. Fendi is the go-to for whimsical bags, and for Autumn/ Winter 2015 its bushy-browed Bag Bugs and sultry Peekaboos come in an edible palette of candy pink and lemon yellow. Meanwhile, Mansur Gavriel's bags have become so desirable it's a wonder someone hasn't tried to consume one yet. Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel launched the label in 2013, and it instantly became the It-girl's It-brand of choice, with collections selling out within hours. Why? The range of deceptively simple styles, such as the signature Bucket and the new Lady, are crafted in Italy from Tuscan vegetable-tanned leather, and have delectable contrast-colour interiors. Camello with yellow? Brandy with blue? Flamma and rose? Don't mind if I do.
Parisian glove makers Maison Fabre have added cartoonish eyes and hungry lip motifs to its heritage designs this season. We advise taking them off before tucking in to an éclair. 'Street couture' trainer brand Joshua Sanders embellishes its women's slip-ons with oversized felt bows for Bow Bomb, and smug teddy bears who answer to the name of Peluche. Stella McCartney 'Elyse' lace-up platforms wouldn't look unusual with glacier cherries perched on top. And MSGM, famed for its indie-kid exuberance, serves up furry yeti boots. In need of a palate cleanser? We would humbly recommend a simple black satchel from Saint Laurent.
The art direction, or lack thereof, of traditional food shop windows has always had an elusive allure for the creative world. There's something about the purity of form of tasty baked goods lined up in neat rows, trapped inside display cases or perched haphazardly on cake stands that have inspired artists for decades.
Pioneering American painter Wayne Thiebaud, who worked in a Long Island cafe selling ice creams and hot dogs as a young man, and whose early works were studies of window food displays, is best known for his patisserie paintings with self-explanatory titles such as Pies, Pies, Pies (1961), Bakery Counter (1962) and Display Cake (1963). Each one is blessed with strokes of oil paint as thick as the tantalising icing they depict. Thiebaud's contemporary, Claes Oldenburg, was inspired by the shabby retail around his Lower East Side studio for his food sculptures. For The Store (1961-64), the artist crammed a window with inedible treats made from plaster and paint. Likewise Pastry Case, 1 (1961-2) huddles pies, sundaes and cake together - a kitsch commentary on urban abundance.
At this same moment, Andy Warhol was designing windows for department stores, Lord & Taylor and Bonwit Teller (Salvador Dali, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and Jasper Johns have all shared this honour too), and kept busy making prints of soup cans, ketchup bottles and bananas. In 1964 he turned a gallery into a supermarket, complete with grocery boxes and a checkout counter. And in 1968 he made a TV commercial for the Schrafft's restaurant chain featuring an orgasmic chocolate sundae.
Chloe Wise has updated this food fantasy with her Bread Bags series and taking things to tongue-in-cheek extremes by styling up urethane loaves as designer hand-bags. Bagel No. 5 (2014) resembles a Chanel purse, complete with cream cheese, gold chain and doubleC logo, and caused a social media frenzy when her actress friend India Menuez wore it to an exclusive Chanel No. 5 dinner party last year. Brand fans thought it was a missed gem from Chanel's Autumn/Winter 2014 supermarket show, when in fact it was an act of interventionist art.
One can only assume that Jean-Paul Gaultier was expressing a similar sense of humour when he curated Pain Couture at the Fondation Cartier in 2004. The exhibition consisted of sculptures made from boulangerie favourites reminiscent of his greatest hits, including the kilt, corset and matelot top. "We can live without clothes but not without bread," he said, somewhat insincerely, at the opening. Bon appetite.