Don’t Play with Your Food, Wear It: Normani’s Food Couture
On the September cover of Allure magazine, Normani is giving us Motivation to eat our greens by serving us an assorted veggie plate of fashion. Designer Laurel DeWitt created on-site looks made from fresh produce, including a bustier made of artichokes, a headpiece and shoulders of red cabbage, and a cuff made of peppers. Reflecting the singer’s bold and colorful character and music, the striking message cuts deeper than just avant-garde mode to reveal the importance of imagination and aesthetics in inspiring solutions for our planet.
Creations that challenge your idea of norms and what is expected elicit change and make room for important conversations that can provide the starting point for solutions. Food-based apparel is no exception to this as its provocative nature forces you to reconsider the role and use of food and its commentary on our social and environmental worlds. For example, Lady Gaga’s notorious meat dress at the 2010 VMAs was worn as a statement against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy but also sparked dialogues on plant-based diets and animal rights.
The Waste Problem
Normani’s vegetable vestments mix fashion with dinner in a way that generates a discussion on how food can and should be used. The red cabbage and outer shell of artichokes may not be the most mouthwatering produce, but that undesirableness brings up a very real problem: food waste. According to the FDA, food waste in the United States accounts for between 30 to 40 percent of the total food supply. This includes transportation issues, mold, insects, retail over-ordering, and personal over-buying and cooking. It even includes the unused parts of vegetables and the ignored “weird-looking” ones.
Whether it is spoiled, ignored, or thrown out, food waste has consequences for the planet including the land, waste, labor, and energy expended to grow, harvest, transport, prepare, store, and dispose of it. There is a loss across the board that ends in landfills and additional pollution.
The Fashion Solution
One way to approach the problem of food waste is to combine a reduce, reuse, recycle mindset with an appreciation for the arts. The vivacious garments made for Normani stand as an example of food waste management through textile and art. The fashion industry is a notorious polluter known for waste, but through food waste-based textiles it can become an invigorating and cyclical industry.
Although wearing unaltered food as clothing does not give the impression of a long lifespan for the clothes, food-based textiles are a way to reduce food waste especially because it does not matter if the produce used looks weird or is damaged, it can still be reused. An example of a food-based textile is Piñatex, a pineapple-based vegan leather that fights leather production and chemical tanning. It pushes past just wearing pineapple slices as a bra, and turns the food into a wearable, durable textile that also reduces food waste.
A Fresh Produce Lesson
I am still to this day told by my mom to stop playing with my food, but perhaps that imagination and playfulness are what is needed when exploring solutions. One lesson that can be learned from DeWitt’s farm-fresh fashion is the necessity of creativity and art. They took food that would’ve been wasted and the commonly scoffed-at idea of wearing food as clothes, and elevated it into art with a message that immortalizes the food used and gives it purpose. As Solutionists, we should not be limited by what is deemed possible or silly because our answers may lie within the creative and unexpected.