Once upon a time, high fashion editorials shot inside grocery shops were no more than fantasies conjured by editors, designers, photographers and creative directors. It bridged the gap between the runway and food aisle, turning mundane everyday tasks like buying a carton of milk into a fashion moment. In 2014, even the legendary Karl Lagerfeld saw the aisle as the fitting stage for his Spring/Summer collection. He transformed the Grand Palais into a Chanel Shopping Center and filled the space with Chanel food products—and of course, models-slash-shoppers clad in his latest creations

Perhaps inspired by these visual renderings of the fashion greats, a good number of style enthusiasts (including Rihanna, Angelina Jolie and Chrissy Teigen) have also taken to wearing OOTD-worthy ensembles when food shopping. This soon ushered in a new movement often referred to as “Grocery Fashion.” The year 2020, however, had many of us migrating our entire lives online—food shopping included. For months, many waited in bated breath for the chance to step out again and don their food shopping best.

Meanwhile, the conversation and interest shifted towards e-commerce sites harking on their fresh produce, efficient delivery service, and the best market prices. There were a few that faired well in delivering on their promise. Most struggled in maintaining quality of service and product offerings. On more than one occasion, I’ve had deliveries arrive containing less than half the items ordered and paid for. And from a consumer standpoint, these types of experiences further reaffirm why physically shopping for your food supply is still better than adding to the online cart.

A preview of COOP FRESH’s phygital (a hybrid of e-commerce and brick-and-mortal shops) store in Shangri-La at Bonifacio Global City, was opportunity to dress in grocery fashion again. It also gave select guests that day a peek into the future of food shopping. In this realm physical, tactic experience of shopping in-store merges seamlessly with the conveniences of e-commerce technology. The brand promise was pretty straightforward, and truly relevant especially for city dwellers who’ve had a fair share of online shopping horror stories. The COOP FRESH team details: “We aim to bring customers a frictionless shopping experience that is tech-enabled, intuitive, and efficient.”

The sprawling retail space done in industrial gray with touches of boutique white was a refreshing departure from the cluttered layouts of your typical grocery store. It is configured with a long tea bar that recall chic dining spaces dedicated to fusion cuisine. The merchandise—fresh produce, a wide selection of greens, plant based pantry essentials and healthy nibbles—was, above all, the centerpiece. The team behind this innovative retail concept writes: “Our corner store at Shangri-La will follow a plant-based theme. We will not only showcase our famously fresh produce, but also highlight COOP-branded products including Pullman loaves, homemade gelato, botanical cocktails. These exclusive products will be released in-store and online through ‘drop-style’ rollouts.”

Those invited to sneak into COOP prior to its opening embodied the market demographic informing the brand’s direction. “Our brick-and-mortar store was tailor-made for digital natives. They are urban millennials who are tech-savvy.” Most also hold a preference for conscious or mindful consumption, which the company addresses by utilizing technology. “COOP has developed its own forecasting technology, an A.I Machine Learning Demand algorithm, that accurately forecasts consumer demands and manages supply chain.” This has enabled them to ensure fast deliveries from farm to doorstep while simultaneously reducing food waste.

Last minute food shopping just before Christmas Eve put to test the COOP promise. Fresh juices, several bottles of cold brew, the requisite stash of sparkling water, and a bottle of El Matsu red were added to cart as stock for a holiday escape to the weekend home in the mountains. Other items on the grocery list—wild caught seafood, crisp greens and spices—for a Christmas feast with family were ticked off after a seamless online experience. In other groceries these items were rendered “out of stock.” The website’s Curated Gifts window was another brilliant feature that made shopping for gifts sweeter and easier. While most expected deliveries this week were hopelessly stuck in the rush of the holidays, brown paper bags with the words “Fresh for All Mankind,” were at my doorstep just in time for the big holiday break.