If Apple Made iMilk And Nike Sold Fruit: Designer Groceries As Art

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Fruit by Nike is a piece by designer Peddy Mergui in his exhibit

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Fruit by Nike is a piece by designer Peddy Mergui in his exhibit “Wheat is Wheat is Wheat,” next on display in May at Expo Milano 2015.

Courtesy of Peddy Mergui


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Courtesy of Peddy Mergui

Just eat it.

It’s hard to look at these stylish packages
of citrus fruit, bearing Nike’s iconic swoosh, without having the
athletic company’s famous slogan “Just do it” immediately come to mind.
And that’s precisely the point, says Israel-based designer Peddy Mergui.

He
says packaging tells a story, and can imbue consumer goods with value
and prestige. And he created the Nike fruit as part of a project that
reimagines everyday foods as designer groceries. The goal, he tells The
Salt, is to explore how packaging manipulates our perceptions and
desires.

“In my line of work, I was always asking, ‘What is the ethical
boundary for designers’ ability to influence consumption? Are we using
our ‘tools’ wisely? This got me on a three-year journey to explore my
field [and] examine the way we think as consumers,” he tells us in an
email.

The result, an exhibit called “Wheat Is Wheat Is Wheat,” borrows the visual branding of luxury brands to disturbingly alluring effect.

Yogurt containers in Tiffany blue connote a spoonful of privilege. A breakfast of Coffee by Cartier, Eggs by Versace and Soft Butter by Bulgari feels like the ultimate in decadence.

And a carton of Mergui’s iMilk By Apple
is undoubtedly sleeker than anything we’re used to seeing in the dairy
aisle. It would probably look pretty good in my refrigerator.

Part
of the seduction, says Mergui, is that like many high-end brands, Apple
isn’t just selling you products. “It represents a certain lifestyle, a
community,” he says. And that goes to the heart of what Mergui wanted
his project to explore: How do the values associated with a brand affect
how we feel about a ordinary food products done up in fancy packaging?

“Some will find [the resulting products] playful, ridiculous, exaggerated,” he says. “Some may even feel they belong.”

iMilk by Apple.

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iMilk by Apple.

Courtesy of Peddy Mergui


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Courtesy of Peddy Mergui

Indeed, there is a certain logic to having Nike – a company whose
products are associated with healthy, active lifestyles — peddle fruit.
It wouldn’t actually be the first consumer goods purveyor to make the
leap into foodstuffs. For example, the outdoor clothing and gear company
Patagonia sells smoked salmon provisions – a move which Mergui says makes a lot of strategic sense: “They extended their outdoor brand to outdoor foods.”

For now, the comestibles Mergui imagines remain in the realm of fantasy: Flour by Prada tickles
the fancy in part because an essential food product with a luxury label
— and presumably, with a luxury pricetag — seems so outlandish.

And
yet, the uncomfortable truth of modern food shopping is that there is a
boomin market of luxury foods. And while they may not have designer
labels, they are certainly steeped with a set of values. Why else would
you pay $7 for a half-gallon glass bottle of local, grass-fed milk?
Consumers aren’t just paying for the taste, but the lifestyle and values
it embodies.

“Wheat is Wheat is Wheat” was a hit when it went
on display last April at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design,
says the venue’s executive director, JoAnn Edwards.
The reaction from museum visitors “was unbelievable,” she says — some
left the exhibit asking why more daily goods weren’t given a designer
gloss. Excellent packaging, she says, is “becoming more and more
something consumers respond to.”

  • Infant formula by Chanel, from Peddy Mergui's exhibit
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Flour by Prada
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Soft Butter by BVLGARI
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Salami by Louis Vuitton
    /Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Pickles by Gucci
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Pasta by Ferrari
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Petit Beurre by Dolce & Gabbana
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Coffee by Cartier
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Eggs by Versace
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui
  • Basmati rice by HSBC
    Courtesy of Peddy Mergui

Mergui says he got a first-hand lesson on that while he was designing a container of “Chanel infant formula.”

“A
colleague of mine saw it in my office … and asked where can she get
it,” he says. “She wanted to buy it for her baby. That made me realize
the power [these] luxury values have.”

“Wheat is Wheat is Wheat” will next go on display in May at Expo Milano 2015.

 : NPR

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