If we are to believe all we are told, the fashion industry is undoubtedly a rather sour business. From snide remarks about "toothy" Sienna Miller in The September Issue through to grapevine whispers of haute couture fittings ending in tears, it is little wonder that we have come to view fashion in a certain light. An unforgiving one, at that.
In reality, though, fashion folk can be rather sweet. Of course you are bound to encounter the odd inflated ego or catty comment, but in the grand scheme of things, fashion is something of a misunderstood art. It's all sweetness and light, really.
If this were not the case, then how else could we explain the influx of sweet treats swaying the editorial elite? From macaron aficionados (I always trust this lady's judgement) through to meringue artistes and jelly architects, the stylish sugar high has certainly gone from the catwalk to the canape.
Cookies and cakes are suddenly every bit as Instagram-able as elaborate manicures and glossy Rockstuds. And, without a shadow of a doubt, there is now a place in fashion for the foodie.
If you find yourself looking for something rather stylish to sink your teeth into, then you will be hard pushed to beat the feather-light treats from The Marshmallowists, which are only around 24 calories a pop.
A million miles away from Top Hats and BBQ tomfoolery, London-based duo Kim Smart and Oonagh Simms are single handedly putting "the fun back into marshmallows" with their gourmet interpretations of the classics. Sitting pride of place in every glossy from Vogue to Stylist, it is little wonder that we are all making a beeline for Portobello market to get our hands on these chic treats.
Intrigued? You are not alone, so I do hope you enjoy this little Q&A with The Marshmallowists themselves.
What initially inspired you to launch The Marshmallowists?
Working in the drinks industry [Smart] and as a chocolatier [Simms], we both had a desire to do something creative with our respective knowledge.
It was late October 2011 when Simms and I first met in a West London cocktail bar. Simms has just returned from her four-year Chocolatier training in Paris and I [Smart] was ordering a drink.
Conversation soon sparked about our shared love of all things French and confectionery-related. A few drinks later- Sally Cinnamons, to be precise- we had the idea of combining my food & drink industry knowledge with Simms’ expert hands.
After some flawed concepts and a little misspent money on cooking kit we never used, we realised our calling: homemade gourmet marshmallows, the first batch of which were set and cut in Simms' Shepherd's Bush kitchen.
We then set about using the best ingredients money could buy and were determined to please. It wasn’t until we started getting truly fantastic results that we looked for an outlet for our products, and that turned out to be on Portobello Road right outside the bar we first met in!
How best would you describe the brand?
Putting the F.U.N. back into marshmallows. We make a high quality product with super-expensive ingredients, but we don’t try to be snooty about it. I think our customers love the brand because they know it’s top quality but still value for money for gourmet confectionery.
Why do you think your marshmallows have been such a hit among stylish ladies?
They’re extremely eye catching so they’re great for impressing at a dinner party, but they also taste delicious. The alcohol-infused flavours also mean you can have a slight taste of tipple any time of the day without the hangover consequences.
Our marshmallows come in a variety of unusual but complimentary flavours including Raspberry & Champagne, Strawberry & Basil, Passion Fruit & Ginger and Blueberry & Portobello Gin – this definitely draws people in- the men too, for the gin!
You have some delectable flavours, which are your favourites?
The most popular flavour on the stall tends to be Raspberry & Champagne but I suppose our most unusual flavour is Strawberry & Basil. My favourite is Blackcurrant & Mint while Simms’ go-to is Passion Fruit & Ginger.
Fashion and food are becoming ever more inter-related, do you think this applies to The Marshmallowists?
Absolutely, especially with having such a colourful product. We worked hard on the core range to make sure it had enough colour variance in it and I think people respond really well to that. We also take a seasonal approach to the flavours making sure that they are suited to the availability of the base ingredients and to different occasions. For example, our 2012 Winter range was designed especially for hot chocolate, with mallow flavours including Mulled Wine, Peppermint and Maple Baked Apple.
Who are your style icons?
Smart – I love the sleek understated British style of Kate Moss and Rosie Huntington-Whitely for day wear but it’s fair to say I’m a massive Ri-Ri fan and for nights out I tend to wear more colour, prints, killer heels, shorts and an oversized t-shirt.
Simms – I have a darker palate with more androgynous references. I love the scruffy chic of the Olsen twins and if I had unlimited funds would shop in The Kooples non-stop.
Where do you find inspiration for flavours?
Working in the drinks industry and as a chocolatier respectively we both have a good inclination of what flavours work well together. But it is mainly trial and error- and there have been a fair few errors!.. Most importantly, we listen to what our customers say and work with them on bespoke flavours too.
Are you launching any new flavours for Summer?
Details of our new flavours are under wraps at the moment but we do have very exciting things in the pipeline- there was an actual high-five in the kitchen when we looked at Simms’ new ideas! We’ll be at Taste in Regent’s Park this summer (20-23 June) so come and see us there for a taste of summer, Marshmallowists-style!
What advice would you give to any budding culinary entrepreneurs?
Think hard about what you want to do before you dive in and spend money. It’s getting tougher and tougher to differentiate from other brands or even stallholders. That said, the industry is fantastic and we’ve been delighted with how we’ve been welcomed into it, even by people we thought would be ruthlessly competitive.
What does the future hold?
We’re working on making sure as many people as possible know us as the best in the business and when the time is right I’m sure you’ll see some totally new products under the Smart & Simms banner.
THE MARSHMALLOWISTS ARE AT PORTOBELLO MARKET EVERY SATURDAY, BUT YOU CAN ALSO FIND OUT MORE DETAILS HERE AND SHOP ONLINE HERE.