A meal with Dada Daily founder Claire Olshan breaks from tradition. Dada-brand almond butter brussels sprouts and turmeric cabbage petals are main-course offerings, and green head-shaped containers and disembodied wax hands serve as decor. It sounds decidedly aesthetic—and trust us, it is—but for Olshan, it’s not just another bout of Instagram eye candy. (For that, we’d recommend sticking to Dada’s eye-shaped chocolate truffles.) “It’s a really personal aesthetic,” Olshan says. “It was about opening up my guts and spilling them out on the table, and not being scared and not thinking, ‘Is this too much for a food brand? Is this too different for health food?’”
Prior to founding Dada, a health-food company that celebrates its snacks as guilt-free, joyous affairs, Olshan was best known for Fivestory, an Upper East Side fashion boutique housed (aptly) in a five-story townhouse. It’s a venture that Olshan still keeps tabs on, even amid Dada’s infancy, as well as the that of her new son, Maxwell. “People have always said to me, ‘How do you have two companies and a baby?’” she says. “You figure it out. The pie can always be cut up in different percentages.”
Regardless of how the pie is sliced, the market Dada attempts to crack is a competitive one, with countless other indie brands entering the health-food space, attempting to capitalize on burgeoning social media trends. The #healthyfood and #healthyeating hashtags bear 59 million followers and 28 million followers on Instagram, respectively—certainly not a marketplace to scoff at. So it’s more important than ever to differentiate in branding and to have a clear voice that rises above the captioned noise. Especially since, as per Olshan, “It’s just so obvious to me that the consumer is so smart now.”
So for Dada, Olshan does all the social media legwork herself—writing every caption and designing every image—to maintain a sense of individualism and authenticity. She considers it a lifestyle brand that strives to be, as much as it can, “everything for everyone.” Dada in fact markets itself on its out-of-the-box design, rather than cashing in on the ever-popular trends toward veganism, detoxes and the like. “We could have done that. We could have said, ‘Okay, we’re going to get that customer,’” adds Olshan. “But that’s not our brand. There’s a very common aesthetic for health food right now, and we just turned our back to it and went the other way.” Like Dada’s namesake—the 1920s avant-garde art movement heralded by free thinkers like Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí—the brand is built on breaking with norms.
For Olshan, aesthetic is just as much about emotion as it is about followers and “likes.” It’s what, for her, the brand hinges on: the joy of eating, rather than the guilt often prescribed to it. It’s evident with every Instagram post: @dadadaily features black-and-white photographs of Jerry Hall, Irina Demick and Audrey Hepburn, all indulging in Photoshopped Dada pleasures. Artwork by Salvador Dalí even gets the Dada treatment, with schisandra chocolate truffles replacing the all-important eggs in the artist’s Eggs on a Plate Without the Plate (1932). “We didn’t want to create something that was whitewashed and perfect,” says Olshan. “We wanted to bring beauty in this very imperfect way.”