If you’re at all active on social media platforms, chances are you’ve seen the humorous posts revisiting the embarrassingly awful styles depicted in photos from 1970s-era mail order catalogs. There’s a world of velour leisurewear, inexplicably loud prints and wiiiiiide lapels that you can barely believe was the accepted fashion of the day. Yet when you pause to think that our grandchildren will definitely look back at images of 2016 and eye-roll about our current idea of trendy attire, you realize that each era has its own aesthetic that is very real and valid in the moment – and looks unbelievably passé in a decade or less.
Food fashion is no different.
Yes, food has a fashion. In one aspect, it’s the era-specific choice of ingredients and preparations. Increased global awareness and commerce have moved once-exotic produce such as kiwifruit and avocados to the front of our plates in a few short decades, for example. A few years ago, the average consumer had never heard of the sous vide water bath cooking technique; now after 13 seasons of “Top Chef” on TV, millions of us can name-drop it like we studied at Johnson & Wales culinary school.
In another aspect, food fashion is analogous to the seasonal couture runway shows of Tokyo and Milan. There are images of prepared dishes appearing in blogs, on television and in print media that embody the NOW of the culinary zeitgeist, and then in a few years, we will be amused that a plate styled to look such a way was ever de rigueur.
In the 1950s and early ’60s, lifestyle magazines featured color-saturated photos of dining tables laden with too-perfect plates and idealized (but eerily plastic) standards for foodstuffs. It reminds me of the era-telling wardrobes of the “I Love Lucy” cast: men sitting around home reading the newspaper in full suits and neckties, while the wives perched on the edges of sofas in crinolines and lipstick. Who does that in real life?
That was food styling in the postwar decades. The look was stiff, overdone, unrealistic.
Somewhere around the 1990s, things started to loosen up a bit. Just like big sprayed-and-teased coifs gave way to more natural hairstyles on the fashion pages, food photos started to look a bit more relaxed. By the 2000s, we were seeing crumbs (!) on plates, mismatched utensils and imperfect servings without frou-frou garnishes. Our forebears would’ve never thought to leave the kitchen looking so casual!
Not dissimilar from “The Devil Wears Prada” protagonist Miranda Priestly’s lecture about cerulean sweaters, these of-the-moment food looks are not accidental, but often planned and decided for us by industry professionals.
Oh hey, wait – I’m one of those professionals, in this case! PadillaCRT has one of the largest food & beverage practices among independent marcomms agencies in the country, so yes, WE are among the influencers shaping food trends. Our group of dedicated experts lives and breathes the world of comestibles, and we look for the beginnings of trends and nurture them.
That translates to our in-house culinary studio in Manhattan, where we regularly photograph food clients’ products for usage in the mass media. We spend hours fussing over the placement of cilantro leaves and the shadows cast by blueberries in order to share the most appetizing and imagination-engaging images possible with the content-hungry public.
So when you next gaze droolingly upon a photo of a dewy salad on a weathered wood surface, or a trio of oysters on a marble tabletop, perhaps our influence will have informed the look. We strive to understand what consumers of today and tomorrow will resonate with, and we coax that appearance from our gustatory stars.
Today anyone with a digital camera can be a creator and sharer, but the difference is that we are wider-seeing curators. Our images help clients connect with purpose. And that makes for one heckuva tasty workday.
For more information about our Food, Beverage and Nutrition practice, click here