Along with shelter and food, we need clothing to survive. In fact, you could say fashion and food have a lot in common.
Some people think of food as merely fuel for the body, subsisting on grilled chicken and steamed vegetables, while others indulge in fine wines and foie gras. It's the same for fashion, where people either dress to live, wearing a daily diet of jeans and flip-flops, or flock to the houses of Chanel, Dior, and Prada for their fashion fix.
Mellow Mushroom, of all places, has melded food and fashion for its new House of Shroom line. Unlike, say, Burger King cologne or the Pizza Hut engagement ring, this is absolutely no joke. Elizabeth Brasch, brand manager for Home-Grown Industries of Georgia (the franchisor of Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers) and curator of the House of Shroom collection, takes her job seriously. She heads the creative direction for the overall program and then enlists the help of a group of artists — each with a unique eye and flair. "I oversee what will be released, but at the end of the day, each artist has their own take on the creative direction."
Currently, the designs in the collections are drawn by Buddy Finethy — who first drew the Mellow Mushroom mascot, Mel O. Mushroom — and a creative team comprising Dusty Griffin, Will Evans, Jeff Caudill, Brandon Cottongim, and Chad Hatala, who have all imagined a rich world that combines elements from nature, Alice in Wonderland, stoner and pop cultures, and the pizza chain to create a range of pieces — some funny, some trippy, some elegant. Brasch explains the reasoning behind the hodgepodge of themes and styles. "We have no finite standards other than quality and service. We don't have set colors or a rule about using our logo in a certain way. Our collection isn't cohesive, but I don't think we're ever going to have that because that's not what our stores are like. The consistency is that most things are very weird and very different. Brasch points out the "'Bout That Dough" shirt — featuring a unicorn, a hamster, and a floating pizza — as a good example.
Of course, most shirts incorporate one key feature — pizza. Brasch laughs, "Lucky for us, pizza is very much in fashion."
Though fashion may be fickle, Mellow Mushroom's shirts can be traced back to the pizza chain's origins. "We were founded in the 1970s, and it was important for the company to have meaningful products. Back then, you could walk down the streets of Atlanta and you would see people wearing our shirts all the time."
Another nod to Mellow Mushroom's hippy-dippy beginnings are the stoner references on the online shop House of Shroom. For instance, you'll find hats in the Head Shop and items like pint glasses and frisbees in Personal Stash. Brasch says that although the company has changed into something more mainstream, the stoner references live on. "That was the vibe we were founded on, and it would be remiss not to acknowledge it. What I think is cool is that, since we've become more of a family-friendly restaurant, it almost forces us to be more creative in our nod to our original meaning. It is kind of funny, though. My grandmother wears our shirts and loves them, but I'm not sure she knows what some of them mean. It's a fine line and a gray area, and we're comfortable with that gray area."
Brasch says the company is run more like a fashion house and less like a place that simply puts out promotional product for a restaurant chain. "We are truly looking for this to be a lifestyle brand. Whether or not you eat our pizza, you can still wear the shirts and feel good about them.
"It's a great product. These are high-quality, nice shirts. We have fun, but we are also serious about what we do and what we bring to the community."
House of Shroom features fashions for men, women, and children, along with a range of other items such as shot glasses, hats, socks, flasks, and pint glasses. Seriously, you can pretty much do all of your holiday shopping on this site.
This fantastical V-neck women's shirt features a gal and her owl enjoying the evening sky ($22.95).
Feed the slightly scary Ravenous Rabbit ($17.95) before time runs out.
The Baked Lion ($22.95) gives off a Bob Marley-gets-the-munchies vibe.
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The Cheshire Cat, looking quite satisfied with his pizza prey in his mouth, shows up on a V-neck women's shirt ($26.95).
Do you have one of those friends who constantly posts conspiracy-theory videos on his Facebook page? Get him this Illuminati hat and explain that eating pizza is the only way to ward off the secret cult of celebrities who are really shape-shifting lizard people disguised as Katy Perry and Beyoncé. (The hat is $22.95; years of therapy costs extra.)