By Lauren Bravo on April 24th, 2010
Fashion and food. Fashion… and food. It’s one of the most notoriously tempestuous relationships in history, worse than Cathy and Heathcliffe, Tristan and Isolde, Kerry Katona and Mark Whatchamacallit. Both creative, both symbols of indulgence, they seem so compatible in so many ways, yet a lot of the time they just can’t seem to make it work.
But every so often, whether it’s after the conceptual equivalent of a Relate counselling session or because curves are meant to be back in, the two fall in love again. Fashion stops counting calories for a wee while, and food stops being quite so homely, puts on a new frock and looks good. We’re currently riding the wave of one of these reconciliations, in what I believe history textbooks of the future will term the ‘Great Cupcake Commotion of the Noughties’.
At some point in the last few years, cake became acceptable again. After a decade of being force-fed tofu/wheatgrass/goji/ginseng/yoga/Gwyneth Paltrow to extreme levels, the industry rebelled and gave into its cravings. Suddenly sugar, spice and all things nice were back on the menu – and more than snacks, they became accessories. When Carrie and Miranda dissected their love lives while eating cupcakes outside New York’s famous Magnolia Bakery, it sent the fashion world into a frosting-induced frenzy that we still haven’t seen the back of.
Then Heidi Klum bought Victoria Beckham a year’s supply of cupcakes for her 34th birthday back in 2008, and the sugar craze grew. Aside from the obvious question (who was eating those things in the Beckham household?), everyone was excited because it spelled the end for publicly virtuous eating. No longer were we expected to wave away the dessert menu with a bony hand – instead, indulgence was in. And not just a little indulgence, but a LOT. £1000-worth of indulgence, if you’re Ms Klum. Not that we’re complaining, of course. If touting sparkly confectionary can equal carrying the latest Mulberry, then somebody pass us that spatula.
In London, the cupcake scene has been ruled by a few main contenders. There’s the Primrose Bakery, frequented by celeb crowd of North London locals including Kate Moss and famed for their creamy vanilla frosting. Then there’s the New York-inspired Hummingbird Bakery, who have branches in Notting Hill, Kensington and Soho and a bestselling cookbook. Lily Vanilli specialises in decadent cakes topped with cherries, strawberries and nuts, Lola’s Kitchen offer adorable oreo and peanut butter variations, while Candy Cakes are vivid, iced muffins that have been bought by the likes of Madonna and Kate Moss.
But all good things come to an end, and now the cupcake craze is giving way to a new hoard of stylish treats to spend our pocket money on. The magic question remains of course – how compatible can food and fashion ever be, while we’re still expected to fit into sample sizes? But for now, let’s pretend we’ll do some stomach crunches later, and work up an appetite with 2010’s menu:
Marie Antionette may have let the peasants eat cake, but we reckon she kept all the macarons for herself. The cupcake’s lighter, far more elegant cousin, macarons are the fash pack’s new favourite – and they’re as pretty as a picture, with colourful flavours like pistachio, rose, salted caramel and mandarin to co-ordinate with your spring florals (or just dress in black and eat them all). Parisian brands Ladurée and Pierre Hermé are the go-to macaron masters, with the former selling in Harrods and the latter having opened up a wildly successful Selfridges concession in February.
What to wear: The fanciest French fancies around, these delectable darlings deserve an outfit that befits them. Go for candy colours and frou-frou shapes – this is one time that chic doesn’t have to mean understated.
Tea and scones
Everything’s bigger in America – and in the case of cake, that also means sweeter, heavier and more loaded with dentistry-defying frosting. But now the humble English tea is fighting back, as scones and dainty sandwiches have a trendy renaissance and everyone from Victoria Beckham to Kate Moss and Madonna (them again) have been spied ‘taking tea’.
From the oh-so-elegant afternoon tea at Claridges to the quirky parlour at celeb favourite Sketch, the WI standard has had a makeover. Juri’s in Winchcombe is a Cotswolds classic, Betty’s tea rooms in Harrogate, York, Ilkley & Northallerton are Yorkshire institutions, while Brighton’s Mock Turtle café is charmingly outfitted like your Granny’s dining room, and a popular hangout for trendsters and OAPs alike. The Fashionista’s Afternoon Tea at The Berkley in London makes biscuits to look like that season’s catwalk must-haves, inspired by designs from Luella, Stella McCartney, Lanvin and Vikor and Rolf. Meanwhile, Afternoon Tease at Volupté is a burlesque extravaganza, with cabaret acts to watch as you chow down on cake and champagne – all served with gentleman’s relish, we’d imagine…
What to wear: Afternoon tea calls from some old school English elegance. Go for chintzy florals, cardigans and corsages – or anything that won’t show the jam stains.
The cupcake claw may be loosening, but that hasn’t stopped another American eating trend working its way over to our shores. Fifties-style diners have made a huge comeback in the past couple of years, with their shiny décor and menus of burgers, curly fries and milkshakes reminding us all of a time when teenagers were being born, rock and roll ruled the world, and nobody knew what saturated fats did to your arteries. In London, Ed’s Easy Diner is a pre-club favourite, with branches in Soho and Picadilly complete with mini jukeboxes on the tables so you can eat to your favourite rockabilly blues. Then there’s the recent speight of retro bowling alleys, such as the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, which regularly hosts club nights, and the All Star Bowling Lanes, where Princess Eugenie held her 50s-themed 20th birthday last month.
What to wear: Pure ’50s Americana, with turned-up jeans, letterman jackets and be-ribboned ponytails. Watch Grease for some inspiration – but avoid the spray-on trousers if you want to tuck away that second helping of apple pie.