OYUNA in conversation with Imogen Kwok

EARTH SERIES

Imogen Kwok creates multi-sensory culinary experiences such as interactive dinners and edible installations. She sees food as more than a basic human necessity — it as a visceral language to explore art and design. She lives and works in London, graduated with an MA in History of Art from the University of St. Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland. She holds a Grand Diplome from The French Culinary Institute in New York City, NY and has trained at Michelin-Starred restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill Stone Barns.


Imogen wearing Dune sweater.

Photographed by Cathy Kasterine.

You recently said that ‘you use food as a visceral language to explore art and design’, can you tell us a bit more about this?

I use cooking practice as an art form—the ritual of eating moves you emotionally and is a powerful means of communication. My multi-sensory projects embrace the ephemeral nature of food as an organic material. The act of ingesting, while transient, is the most intimate way of understanding a concept because it becomes part of your body. Whether it is in collaboration with a fashion brand, gallery or furniture designer, my interpretation stems from a culinary perspective.


People often link the organic food movement to the sustainable fashion movement, highlighting that we are all asking more questions about where our food comes from and who makes our clothes. Do you have any thoughts on this? What does sustainability mean to you?

Whether it is choosing a garment or sourcing an ingredient, my values are the same : ethical production, detailed craftsmanship and high-quality, low-impact materials. I am very aware of my body and understand how delicious something tastes when it is from an trusted organic farmer’s market; in the same way, the beauty of how a handwoven fabric from a small producer feels against your skin.
The exchange seems quite simple to me; making sustainable choices makes you feel good psychologically as well as having a positive effect on the environment. Keeping this in mind allows me to naturally weave sustainability into my everyday choices.


What book are you reading right now?

I just received How to Wrap Five Eggs by Hideyuki Oka. This is more image-heavy as opposed to text but it’s a seriously wonderful book on traditional Japanese packaging skills that use paper, rice straw, hemp twine and leaves, for example.


What does the future of fashion look like to you?

Sustainability has become both chic and desirable— hopefully this trend will continue so all brands automatically have an ‘environment first’ approach to fashion. Especially regarding how a garment is made— I’ve definitely noticed new, young projects eschewing mass production / fast fashion in support of cool, ethically hand-made pieces.

What I would like to see more of is the reuse of remnant materials from previous collections to create new pieces— surplus is inevitable so it’s important to find ways to transform it into something equally striking as the initial piece. This is something I also do in the kitchen— respect an ingredient by using it in its entirety and expand / enhance its first life by treating it with multiple cooking methods into new dishes.


I have a few simple questions. You can reply with just a word or a couple of words.

If I say blue, what comes to your mind?
Sardine

Strength?
Hands

Softness?
Malleability. Dimple.

Precious?
Cherished