Lifestyle Journalist

M. Astella Saw writes about travel, food, retail, design and trends in the lifestyle sectors. Contact me at m.astella.saw (at)

Francesca Sarti, co-founder of Arabeschi di Latte

In a post-digital age in which Conviviality Culture sees people gather around the table again, the live experience will prove to be the ultimate brand event. What is more, food – a universal theme and an accessible one – will increasingly serve as the playful agent that brings all parties together, says Francesca Sarti, co-founder of Italian food design collective Arabeschi di Latte.

‘Food is an everyday necessity, but at the same time it has a lot of things to say, a lot of stories to tell about the people behind the products,’ Sarti tells LS:N Global. ‘It’s a big word.’

With her fellow architects and designers, Sarti has organised workshops, pop-up cafés, hands-on exhibitions and other eating events to demonstrate just how big a word it is. From pasta workshops in Tokyo and a natural beauty session in Milan to this year’s Bramble Café in London, which was based on foraging in the English countryside, the collective uses food to facilitate participation, interaction and engagement. Arabeschi di Latte celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. In doing so, it celebrates people’s growing enthusiasm for the social – and edible – event.

New old rituals

A failing global food system and consumers’ increasing desire for a slower, more meaningful life contribute to the current interest in food and its place in society, believes Sarti. In many cases, this interest manifests itself in a re-appreciation of traditional rituals.

‘We are part of a generation that still had certain rituals in childhood, and slowly lost them, growing up,’ says Sarti. ‘Reviving these rituals, such as the merenda, or teatime, is one of our most important themes. It’s not an invention – it’s very basic. It’s about recovering good habits from the past.’

Play with your food

Arabeschi di Latte’s work, then, is in no small part about looking to tradition to suggest solutions for our food futures.

The work’s aesthetic suggests childlike fun. The group regularly re-appropriates disposable plates and cutlery, and uses coloured sticky tape for customised signage. Despite this, the collective’s aims – to explore how we eat and what this says about how we live – carry the sobering weight of culinary past and present.

‘We like to think that happiness suggests a possibility,’ adds Sarti. ‘You can talk about urgent problems, but with a touch of happiness. Playfulness doesn’t diminish the importance of what you are talking about.’

Our top five take-outs

1: People are hungry for real nourishment. ‘People are more aware of food, of the role food has in society, of the importance of food quality, and of recovering the conviviality of the past,’ explains Sarti.

2: Food can help to create a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere – ideal in a Brandtocratic era in which brand-consumer communication is key. ‘After you have been in our work, you feel you have had a human experience that shows you something about relationships,’ says Sarti. How can your brand speak human?

3: Food design is as much about creating new rituals, as shown in our interview with Catalan food designer Martí Guixé, as it is about rediscovering old ones. ‘We can use design to remind people who have lost that contact with their background and rituals of the past,’ says Sarti. Consider how your brand can create its own rituals, or facilitate the revival of forgotten ones.

4: A hands-on experience involves people fully. ‘Food is taken for granted – you go to the supermarket, and everything is available every day,’ says Sarti. ‘We need to recover the experience [of food] – touching it with your hands makes you aware of its importance.’

5: Beyond product, brands need to create conviviality. ‘There are enough objects – enough chairs, enough tables,’ says Sarti. ‘We prefer to design experience.’

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19 October 2010