Could the next big name in fashion be…McDonald’s? It would appear so! With their upcoming

collaboration with Japanese streetwear designer VERDY, McDonald’s is continuing to show it has major crossover appeal with both streetwear and high fashion.

If this is news to you, it’s just one of many of their recent collabs with artists and designers like Travis Scott and Cactus Plant Flea Market, as well as brands like Crocs, Vain, Vetements, and Palace. Of course, this all begs the major question: Why?

Well, as someone who personally lost her mind when McDonald’s released their Beanie Baby and Inspector Gadget Happy Meal toys (gotta collect them all!), this limited-edition collectible merch is just another way the brand is cashing in on what they do well: being both exclusive and incredibly ever-present to the world at large.

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“McDonald’s is an incredible brand,” said designer Demna Gvasalia in a recent New York Times article on fashion collaborations with McDonald’s, one of which was his own with Moschino. “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.”

In fact, McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable and likable brands in the world, so it would make sense that some consumers would want to wear its logo on their sweater/jacket/tote bag. And the sold out items from various McDonald’s collaborations don’t lie. One of the major trends in food this year wasn’t an ingredient, but a feeling: nostalgia. And McDonald’s is serving feelings to their customers, Big Mac-style, using nostalgia as their secret sauce. Coupled with the limited run of various items (whether it be a new burger or a Hello Kitty bucket), the chain’s genius branding partnerships elicit a warm glow that’s not just from its golden arches.

“When the Soviet Union ended in Georgia when we were kids, the first thing to open that came from the West was McDonald’s,” Gvasalia said in an interview with Vogue about his 2019 Vetements fashion show set in a Paris McDonald’s. “It was like the maker of capitalism, and all the rich people from all around would bring their kids for birthday parties. It was like the place to be! We’d never seen a Big Mac or drank a Coke. I always wanted to be able to have my own celebration in McDonald’s. And now—I can!”

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Many people in my generation used to look forward to scoring the newest McDonald’s Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald VHS tape. Or was this just me? Because I know I watched all of them. But such is the power of something as ever-present as McDonald’s, where a got-to-have-it item extends from the literally consumable (food) to the wearable (clothing and shoes).

As Gen Z comes into adulthood, fast food restaurants are well aware of their hold on this new corner of the economy. After all, Gen Z is a big fan of fast food, and they like coupling their dining with an experiential element. So what better way to attract a new generation than roll out new Happy Meals with artists in residence (like Kerwin Frost), along with the wearables to match. To move from taste-making in food to fashion is the ultimate “you are what you eat,” McDonald’s is capitalizing on how we often crave to self-identify with brands and artists as a shorthand to describe our individual selves.

Being associated with and “working” at popular food brands has also become a PR stunt for celebrities, like Lana Del Rey (Waffle House), Ed Sheeran (Starbucks), and Ben Affleck (Dunkin’, of course). By cosplaying wage work, there’s an every-person warmth that is then lent to these out-of-reach celebrities. Call it “The Bear effect” and you’d likely be right. It’s even more popular now to dress as if you know your way around the kitchen, and that extends to McDonalds’ uniforms. This was the case for the runway looks for both Vain and Vetements, where models wore outfits composed of aprons, hats, and button downs that resembled McDonald’s workers uniforms.

If you long for the day when McDonald’s released more toys than clothes, you’re in luck. They’re going back to their roots in a real way by reviving a Happy Meal icon, McNuggets Buddies toys, in collaboration with the entertainer and streetwear designer Kerwin Frost. The last time they released an adult Happy Meal toy, resellers were pricing them at, wait for it, $300,000! So, much like their merch sales suggest, you’re going to want to jump on this collector’s item fast.