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Feature: Can premium food replicate success of global luxury market?

by Marzia De Giuli

MILAN, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- In a global fashion market paying increasing attention to the wellness of consumers, food has taken on a leading role in luxury lifestyle, industry experts said at a conference here on Tuesday.

The 2014 edition of the Milano Fashion Global Summit bore the theme "Fashion is food, food is fashion."

"Fashion has fulfilled the needs of millions of consumers, who have become sophisticated also in terms of what they eat. Thus companies are looking with interest at this trend," Diego Selva, the Italian head of investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said.

"The premium food market still is in the early stages, but is giving clear signals of future development, especially in some segments such as coffee and spirits," Selva told the conference.

He said there are good reasons to believe that premium food could replicate the success of the luxury market. "Some niche food companies in the United States, for example, have registered double-digit growth recently as it had happened for the fashion industry in the past," he added.

Indeed, owning an exclusive cafe or a restaurant has become a must for many fashion brands. One of the latest investments was made by Prada, which earlier this year acquired an 80 percent-stake in 190-year-old patisserie Pasticceria Marchesi in Milan.

Fashion brands are striving for the best locations and chefs. It is the case of Trussardi, which early in 2006, opened a restaurant in the heart of the Italian fashion capital. "Differently from some other brands, whose aim is to have a restaurant carrying their name, we have been strongly investing in the high quality of our food," Tomaso Trussardi, CEO of the group, highlighted.

"We define ourselves as a lifestyle company. Lifestyle is made of fashion, design, art and food, and we cannot hide the fact that food is now going stronger that fashion," he said. "It is because people see food as something closer to them. They eat something good in a restaurant and they can try to remake it at home," he added.

Etro has pushed further, showing a perfect combination of fashion and food in its collection for spring 2015 named "We are what we eat." It features a series of looks inspired by ravioli, juicy dishes, fruit, vegetables and shellfishes printed on jackets, tracksuits and trousers.

Recently, the internet has played a key role in building up the joint appeal of fashion and food. For example, the online "dinner parties" launched by luxury e-commerce company YOOX Group are much awaited by fashion lovers who can buy their favorite items while enjoying the sight of delicious dishes and learning their recipes.

It is therefore only natural that food is being used as a pull factor by the world's most famous department stores, from Harrods in London to la Rinascente in Milan, which has created a three-day annual event of cookery courses and cooking demos titled, exactly, "When food meets fashion."

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