What Is It About Fashion’s Unhealthy Obsession with Fast Food?


Is there a more unlikely couple than fashion and fast food? The industry that essentially underwrote Kate Moss’ infamous line, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” might as well adopt the motto: “If you can’t eat it, wear it.”

There’s a certain aura of lowbrow cool associated with Bella Hadid snarfing down Big Macs at an Alexander Wang afterparty. (Supermodels, they’re just like us!) The downtown designer is a notorious junk food enthusiast, and has featured McDonald’s pop-ups, Hooters waitresses, 7-Eleven Slurpee machines, and more at his fashion week blowouts over the years.

But Wang is just one power player who has glamorized greasy grub. Consider those now-iconic Paris Hilton ads for Carl’s Jr. from 2005. Or Terry Richardson, who has a bona fide fetish for capturing models eating suggestively. From messy plates of spaghetti to juicy burgers to phallic popsicles and…bananas (duh), the photographer has sexualized nearly every item found at your local grocery store. Even fast fashion brand Forever 21 has taken the bait, recently teaming up with Taco Bell in a confusing collection of bodysuits and saucy, tie-die hoodies.

But then there are designers who have gone the extra mile to actually incorporate fast food iconography into their collections. We won’t soon forget when Jeremy Scott sent a parade of McDonald’s-inspired looks down his debut Fall 2014 Moschino runway. Cell phone cases, handbags, sweaters, visors, and more came plastered with the designer’s (barely distinguishable) take on the iconic Golden Arches, stirring up all sorts of trademark issues along the way.

Many of those Moschino McDonald’s pieces sold out almost instantly, and it’s fair to consider Scott a sellout for ripping off one of the most recognizable logos on the planet. Other designers are approaching fast food fashion in a more authentic way. “It’s just a little tacky and tired to have this appropriative and ironic attitude. It’s about 50 years too late for it to mean something,” says Telfar Clemens, the Liberian-American creative force behind gender-neutral brand TELFAR, who recently redesigned the uniforms for White Castle.

Clemens has been frequenting the White Castle near his childhood home (where he still lives) in LeFrak City, Queens since 1991, and had a deep-rooted, personal connection to the restaurant chain when he began reworking their uniforms earlier this year. After debuting his new uniforms on 10,000 employees around the country in September, last week Clemens launched an additional Telfar X White Castle capsule now available online—100 percent of the proceeds go to pay bail for minors held on Rikers Island. “The idea was to make people aspire to wear what someone working at White Castle is wearing and break down that barrier,” Clemens tells CR Fashion Book.

Continuing to weigh in on the fast food trend in fashion, Clemens argues: “I think this is happening because the gap between people actually making culture and people who can afford fashion is getting wider and wider. Fashion has to get it’s relevance from millions of people—to serve a tiny handful of actual customers. Appropriation is their way of trying to be relevant to that mass, while still making their customer feel superior to them.”


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