The Milk Bar x Madewell collection exemplifies how chef and restaurants have firmly landed in the pop culture universe. / Momofuku Milk Bar The Milk Bar x Madewell collection exemplifies how chef and restaurants have firmly landed in the pop culture universe. / Momofuku Milk Bar
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Chefs Look Beyond Cookware, Building Lifestyle Businesses

Social media may have helped elevate chefs and restaurants to notable, even aspirational, personalities, but the proliferation of lifestyle brands is starting to take it a step further. The most recent example: a limited edition collaboration between Madewell and Momofuku Milk Bar and its chef and founder, Christina Tosi. Milk Bar has been a hit from its beginning, creating instant favorites like cereal milk ice cream and compost cookies, as Tosi’s talent, creativity, and work thrust her into the spotlight.

Milk Bar recently announced it raised a large round of funding, earmarked to help the bakery expand across the country. With two cookbooks and such a cult following, the Milk Bar brand has been strong for years. This collaboration transcends the typical boundaries of food, though, and goes straight for lifestyle. (Not unlike Momofuku founder David Chang’s collaboration with Nike on a pair of sneakers earlier this year.)

Well-known chefs have lent their names to products for years. Outfit your kitchen with cookware from Mario Batali to Wolfgang Puck, (and more). Buy Frontera Grill salsas and sauces by Rick Bayless in the grocery store. Rachael Ray has a line of pet food, and plenty of pro chefs shill for packaged food, from Fage yogurt to packaged pasta.

The most recent Milk Bar x Madewell collaboration is different. Instead of lending her name to cooking gadgets or food, Tosi shares the Milk Bar brand and image with the clothing retail company, (To be fair, the collection does include a denim-themed cookie mix, but it’s not like Madewell is the first place shoppers think to go for pre-packaged food gifts.) “Joyce [Lee, Madewell’s head designer] and I don’t color inside the lines. We always have our eyes open for inspiration or ideas from unexpected places,” Tosi told Refinery29. “This collection is a reflection of us letting our imaginations and creativity run wild in two areas we’re both passionate about, style and food.”

Restaurant and chef culture has become an important part of pop culture, and collaborations like these are proof. They extend the brands’ images, aligning two otherwise unrelated companies going after the same customer. And, right before the holidays, they’re a big win.

This post originally appeared in the December 6, 2017 Skift Table newsletter. Subscribe to get the latest in your inbox. 

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