Swedish Style Diary: Of Food and Fashion

I love thinking about the parallels between the food and fashion industries, but Karin Stenmar of Dem Collective took it a little too far.

Sitting in her office in Stockholm, in a sun-filled old church with soaring ceilings, she picked up a pair of her brand’s new jeans, and told me I could eat them. 

I politely declined, having had my share of muesli and yogurt that morning.

“There’s no chemicals at all,” said the bespectacled blonde, as if the presence of additives kept me from snacking on the pants.

Food is very much a part of Dem Collective’s concept. When Steinmar was on vacation in Jamaica (how innocently these stories begin!), she learned about Ital Food–imagine a Rastafari pronouncing “vital food,” and you’ll hear the derivation. Ital Food is a religious diet tradition that focuses on pure, natural ingredients. So why, Karin wondered, did she see so many Jamaicans eating instant American macaroni and cheese? 

Karin Steinmar

The short answer is not because it’s the cheesiest, but because it’s cheap. But as Karin continued to think macaroni she realized the Rastafaris had abandoned their traditions not just out of thrift, or financial necessity, but also out of addiction to the fat and sugar.

It’s the same thing in fashion, she said, and that’s why the company is called Don’t Eat Macaroni. 

“H&M, for example, they are making people addicted to cheap garments,” she said, invoking the name of the fast fashion giant omnipresent in every conversation I’ve had in Sweden regarding fashion and sustainability. I’m going to meet a press officer at H&M’s headquarters, so I’ll do my very best to get their take on this idea.

I’ve got my own ideas, and lots more to tell you about Dem Collective, but for the moment, I’m trying to sponge up as many ingredients as I can. We can synthesize the soup back in New York.

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