The slogan of the Los Angeles–based fashion label Meals is “Wear What You Eat.” And if these clothes were food, they would be delicious. The genderless collection—founded by Sam Salad (a pseudonym) and his partner, Rebma (the formerly anonymous designer of the denim label 69)—references rich natural foods in each of the garments.
In the mix is a workwear-style canvas jacket and utility pant set that is displayed in a look book with a human-size avocado in the background. (The clothing’s healthy green hue matches the creamy flesh of the fruit.) A T-shirt is reminiscent of the pale-pink-and-white-striped pattern seen on the body of a shrimp. It’s described as “hand-dyed to resemble a diminutive crustacean. Kosher at last!” Another set (T-shirt, jacket, pants, and pool slides) comes in a sun-ray yellow color with tiny brown dots to replicate the peel of a three-day-old ripe banana. (It’s the perfect timing too: That’s when the tree fruit is the sweetest.)
The food-meets-fashion label launched in August, but Salad had been marinating on the idea for several years. During the denim boom of the noughties, Salad sold jeans on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach across the street from the cult restaurant Gjelina Take Away. “People were sort of gawking at the prices of jeans. They didn’t want to pay for these pants, but they’d spend thousands of dollars at this meal at Gjelina.” After Salad noticed the pattern of no-qualms spending on a multicourse meal, he started to use food lingo to describe the denim. “I would pepper my language with food-speak. I would say phrases like, ‘These jeans are really crunchy, but they’ll feel really buttery over time.’ It was sort of a nuanced change in language.” The concept resonated, and people started buying jeans.
The label’s ethos can be compared to that of a local, eco-friendly farmer’s market. The pockets of the workwear jackets, which are big enough to hold veggies, are billed as being “designed for grocery shopping without bags.” There are utility pants “for competitive foragers” that are roomy and come with knee pockets for “nuts and berries.” Fabrics are sourced from deadstock or vintage materials, meaning that each piece will end up looking slightly different. “It is like imperfect produce. A print will repeat in an odd way, or there will be a run in the fabric, and we will cut around that or accentuate it in some way,” says Salad. “It is all about cooking with what you got.”
Produce inspiration isn’t the be-all and end-all for Salad. The designer, who identifies as a foodie and a die-hard fan of the late L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold, wants to collaborate with local restaurants. One spot on the top of Salad’s list is the local bar HMS Bounty, located in the basement of the Gaylord Hotel. “It was one of the last places that I saw Jonathan Gold and got to thank him and fanboy him,” says Salad. “It is sort of a classic city dive bar, and it has a ton of history.” Another is Chengdu Taste in the San Gabriel Valley. “They have a really wicked logo. It is very much like a punk-band shirt. It is a black shirt with red characters that the servers wear.” Perhaps this uniform will provide Salad with inspiration for a future design—or, rather, a future recipe.