At McDonald’s, a Growing Appetite for Fashion

Jeremy Scott had just started interviewing for the job of creative director at Moschino when he had an epiphany of sorts while driving through Los Angeles.

“I saw the iconic McDonald’s logo,” Mr. Scott said, “and it just hit me: Moschino, McDonald’s.”

“I’ve always been very much about pop culture,” he added.

He got the job at Moschino not long after, and he then began to work with its graphics team to contort the fast-food chain’s golden arches into the shape of a heart, a signature motif of the Italian fashion brand.

Mr. Scott, who left Moschino this year, delved deeper into McDonald’s visual cues while designing his first collection for the label, which was shown in early 2014. It included jackets, skirts and a robe in reds and yellows; a handbag shaped like Happy Meal packaging; and a cellphone case that looked like a carton of French fries with the golden arches-inspired heart on it.

The designer Jeremy Scott’s first collection for Moschino, shown in 2014, featured items incorporating the red-and-yellow palette of McDonald’s and a contorted version of its golden arches logo.Credit…Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

“Whether it’s McDonald’s or Mickey Mouse or Madonna,” he said, “to take any icon that’s so understood globally and then twist it — that’s what makes the message go so long and loud.”

“Who doesn’t like French fries?” Mr. Scott, now 48, added.

His collection raised some eyebrows at McDonald’s because he had not received the company’s permission to rework its logo. “It was an act of rebellion and we were going by the seat of our pants,” he said. But in a deal reached after the runway show, McDonald’s gave Moschino permission to use certain graphics in exchange for a donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

That Moschino collection was far from McDonald’s first association with the fashion world. In the 1970s, children’s clothing designed in partnership with McDonald’s was sold at Sears and other department stores. Later, the designer Jean Paul Gaultier created a futuristic McDonald’s uniform for the 1997 film “The Fifth Element,” and the model Kate Moss wore a makeshift uniform while grilling burgers in a 2003 video by the artist Tom Sachs for W magazine.

But Mr. Scott’s initial Moschino collection “spurred a new wave of creativity, fun and risk taking at McDonald’s,” said Morgan Flatley, the company’s global chief marketing officer and head of new business ventures.

Other buzzy labels have since embraced the aesthetics of McDonald’s, which has also sought out more collaborations with fashion brands. Jennifer DelVecchio, the fast-food chain’s senior director of global brand, content and culture, said that “the intention around fashion has really picked up a lot of pace over the last three to five years,” adding that “we are looking to meet our fans through the things they love.”

This month, McDonald’s announced its latest apparel collaboration: a line of Crocs clogs (starting at $70), some of which resemble the McDonald’s characters Birdie, Hamburglar and Grimace. The collection, which follows Crocs’s partnerships with Balenciaga and Kentucky Fried Chicken, will be sold online.

A new collaboration between McDonald’s and Crocs includes clogs designed to evoke Birdie and other characters associated with the fast-food chain.Credit…McDonald’s/Crocs
Decorative charms resembling the golden arches and popular McDonald’s menu items were created as part of the collaboration.Credit…McDonald’s/Crocs
A logo shirt from the collection McDonald’s made in collaboration with the skate brand Palace, which was released in August.Credit…McDonald’s/PALACE

Heidi Cooley, the chief marketing officer at Crocs, said the footwear taps into the nostalgia people have for McDonald’s characters. She added that Crocs and McDonald’s both “have fans that get tattoos of our iconic products.”

In August, the skate brand Palace released a 15-piece collection designed with McDonald’s that included clothing and a $60skateboard deck emblazoned with an M. Other labels that have recently collaborated with McDonald’s include Cactus Jack, which was started by Travis Scott, and Cactus Plant Flea Market, which last year made toy figurines of McDonald’s characters for a special Happy Meal and a corresponding line of sweatshirts, sweatpants and T-shirts.

At a Vetements men’s wear show in 2019, some models held McDonald’s fries in their hands as they walked the runway — which was staged inside a McDonald’s on the Champs-Élysées in Paris that Vetements had rented for the event.

Some models ate McDonald’s fries in a 2019 Vetements men’s wear show, which was staged inside a McDonald’s in Paris.Credit…Caroline Blumberg/EPA, via Shutterstock

“I remember sitting in a Starbucks, brainstorming where to do the next spring-summer show, when I looked at the iced coffee in my hand, thinking McDonald’s,” Guram Gvasalia, a founder and the creative director of Vetements, said in an email. “The night before, after going out, we ended up at McDonald’s on Champs-Élysées as it was the only place that was open that late, and I still had the aftertaste in my mouth. That moment I knew it was the right place for the next show.”

“McDonald’s is an incredible brand,” said Mr. Gvasalia, 38. “It’s the Louis Vuitton of food. You see it everywhere when you travel, and your heart warms up, as you know what to expect when you go in.”

Vain was paid by McDonald’s for its collaboration and received gift cards from the company. “We ate way too much,” said Roope Reinola, a founder of the brand.Credit…Roope Reinola/Vain

Jimi Vain, 25, a founder of the Finnish streetwear brand Vain, which collaborated with McDonald’s on clothing last year, also mentioned the company’s global footprint as a reason he was drawn to working with it. During his childhood in northern Finland, he said, “McDonald’s was one of the few things in our view of the street that was from overseas.”

Mr. Vain said that Vain’s collaboration was initiated by the Finnish marketing division of McDonald’s. “They needed to get more employees and wanted us to make McDonald’s seem like a cool place to work,” he said. The project involved using materials from old McDonald’s uniforms to design new ones, which were presented during a runway show at a McDonald’s in Helsinki last November and later offered to company employees in Finland.

Vain was paid a fee by McDonald’s, which also covered the costs to produce the runway show and the clothes. Roope Reinola, Vain’s other founder, said the brand received lots of gift cards for fast food as well. “We ate way too much,” he said.

Mr. Reinola, 25, added that Vain did not have total creative freedom over the collaboration. After a photo of fries in a black McDonald’s carton was posted to Vain’s Instagram, he said, emails came in almost immediately “saying that you can’t do that.”

Jeremy Scott said he also faced resistance from McDonald’s when he incorporated its branding into some accessories he had designed for a 2017 Moschino collection inspired by garbage. “The morning after the show, they said they thought it was disgusting that they were associated with trash,” he said. Those accessories were never sold, he added.

There is another rule that collaborators with McDonald’s are expected to abide by, Ms. DelVecchio said: “The golden arches must remain golden.”

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