Gretchen Röehrs’ designs feel as fresh any produce that’s currently in your refrigerator’s crisper. In part, that’s because they really are. Röehrs creates delightful fashion illustrations that incorporate food (think: a voluminous ballgown made up of two pristine kale leaves, or a fish-scaled minidress constructed out of sliced pink radishes). And this month, her first book will be published—just in time for fashion week. But Röehrs’ work is hardly the only example of food and fashion’s somewhat recent love affair. Increasingly it seems, designers are looking towards the culinary arts for inspiration.
But Röehrs’ work is hardly the only example of food and fashion’s somewhat recent love affair. Increasingly it seems, designers are looking towards the culinary arts for inspiration. Take the Spring 2017 collections, for example, which were a virtual riot of mouth watering fruit. Or, think back to the Spring 2016 Couture presentations, which featured repeated references to fine china and root vegetables.
In these past few years however, no designer has made a more memorable impression on this food-forward landscape than Dolce & Gabbana. From the house’s pasta and fish motifs seen throughout their Spring 2017 collection, to the sweet peas and lattuga appointed dresses included in their Spring 2018 runway show, it feels as if it’s Domenico and Stefano’s grocery store, and we’re just living in it.
But where full-fledged frocks such as these can be endlessly ornate, Röehrs has found success in her relatively simple designs. “The process is so quick,” Röehrs says of her work. “It’s really driven by the material that I’m working with. Typically, I sketch a few gestural lines around whatever piece of produce I’m inspired by (read: eating) that day and try to never take it too seriously.”
While Röehrs’ artistic process may be most analogous to gesture drawing with an added snacking benefit, her inspirations are decidedly sculptural in their formalistic tendencies. “There are a lot of very lady-like looks that mimic some classic styles from Zac Posen, if we’re being generous,” Röehrs says. “Irving Penn’s still lives are also such an inspiration for my work—he took the everyday, the mundane, and turned them into something divine. Who else could make frozen peas look so chic?”
Röehrs got her artistic start thanks to a natural inclination towards the everyday canvases of our lives. “I started drawing around or on my food, or any other object laying around, before I even started talking,” she says. “My parents’ home is filled with marker-covered walls that have been painted over and over, and a poor piano that didn’t make it safely out of my wood etching phase. This particular series began a few summers ago while I was bored at my job at a fledging startup. Creating fashionable looks out of my farmers’ market haul was a funny way to pass the time.”
Röehrs’ success should be a lesson to anyone considering pursuing a somewhat niche passion on the side. However, it’s clear that she also sees the world through uniquely food-attuned glasses. (“Haven’t you ever just wanted to run through the grocery store and arrange things by color?” she asks at one point.) When asked if she’s a foodie, though, Röehrs replies, “Foodie, yes; chef, not so much. If left to my own kitchen devices, I generally resort to bathing some cruciferous vegetables in butter and salt and calling it a meal. Luckily, the restaurant scene in where I live in San Francisco provides plenty of chances to eat something inspiring nearly every day of the week.”
Bon appétit then, on the advent of this new book’s release. Here’s hoping too that Dolce & Gabbana serve up some more foodie inspiration of their own in the coming weeks.
Above, take a look inside Edible Ensembles: A Fashion Feast for the Eyes, From Banana Peel Jumpsuits to Kale Frocks (Rizzoli), by Gretchen Röehrs, which will be published February 13, 2018.