If you know anything about the team at Himkok and their approach to creating their cocktail menus, you’ll know they never do anything by halves. You’ll also know that they love to collaborate with fellow Norwegian creatives. Their last, hugely exciting partnering saw them team up with the the brilliant illustrator Esra Røise. The result? Only the first cocktail menu in the world to explore the NFT space.
So where would they turn next? Cue music, cue lights, cue runway and strike a pose avec cocktail naturellement, for the super cool Fashion Meets Mixology collection. Yes, the drinks are things of beauty on the eye and knowing the Himkok crew’s talent, on the palate but on launch night, they will be represented in silks, chiffons, leather and maybe lace. In other words, in an evocative clothing collection inspired by the tastes, textures and colours of the new cocktails. Told you they don’t do things by halves…
This time, head of research and development Paul Aguilar and bar manager Maros Dzurus, the bright, some might say bonkers minds behind the project, have enlisted the talent of Norwegian designer Eline Dragesund. The outcome of the highly-anticipated alliance will be revealed in a one-of-a-kind fashion show on September 28th. Oh yes, we’re talking catwalk, we’re talking models, we’re talking fabulous, which calls for a pretty darned special location, right? The impressive Sky Room at Munch Museum in Oslo, with its jaw-dropping views over the city, is bound to do the trick. As the international guests attending the event will no doubt find out.
On show 13 unique and absolutely garments; to drink, 13 incredible cocktails – all inspired by Norwegian ingredients and flavours.
We spoke to Paul, Maros and Eline a few months ahead of the launch to talk about why cocktails and couture make the perfect combo.
Paul, Maros, not being funny but you don’t look like fashion types. What led you to turn to the world of couture to express the creativity in your drinks?
Paul: We love collaborating, we love pushing boundaries and we absolutely love working with fellow artistes and learning from other people. For us, there are so many similarities with fashion and mixology, with both forms of creativity drawing on innovation, expression and individuality. We actually wanted to do a fashion project two years ago but something like this takes such a long time to do. We’ve never put so many resources into one project.
Harder than the NFTs?
Maros: It’s definitely the biggest project we’ve done in our eight years and it’s our most ambitious yet. We’re proud of everything we’ve done up to this point but this one is very special – it’s taken a lot of planning.
What was the hardest part of the collaboration?
Paul: Finding the right person to work with, someone willing to take it on. We always has 13 cocktails on our menus, so we were looking for a designer who could create a collection of 13 pieces, but more than that, we needed to find someone who could capture our style of drinks.
Paul: We started pitching the idea to various designers but they found the project too ambitious. We also went to a major designer who quoted an astronomical budget – in short, it took a long time to find the right person. We eventually found Eline through Jens Carlos who will be supervising the catwalk show. We met, explained the project and she said yes pretty much straight away.
Eline, what attracted you to the project?
The difficulty of the whole thing. It’s definitely the most challenging assignment I’ve ever taken on but I love that. As a designer, when I usually start a project, I take inspiration from the visuals but with this, I could be inspired by the taste, textures, associations, vibe, or think about the type of person who might choose this particular drink. What would they look like? What would they wear? There were so many ways into the project and that really excited me.
I’ve actually used all of those elements in the designs but I’ve had to balance it out a bit because there are so many ingredients involved – which was probably the most difficult part of the whole thing. When you work in fashion, it can be a little boring sometimes but this project really excited me.
You say that you’ve used a number of ways to approach the individual designs, what was your starting point?
Paul and Maros sent me the menu and ingredients at first, then we had a menu tasting which was videoed for me to refer back to. I was pregnant at the time, which meant I couldn’t actually taste the cocktails, not fully, I just swirled them around my mouth to get a feeling of them before spitting them out. My partner helped me a lot as he got to taste them properly and then described them to me in more detail. I think he liked the research! But Paul and Maros were great as they provided full descriptions, colours, flavour profiles, details of garnishes etc, so I had a lot to work with.
What was the brief?
Maros: Basically, we were looking for simplicity, designs to reflect our cocktails. We wanted someone with the same approach to Norwegian culture and Norwegian identity in their designs as we have in our cocktails.
Paul: The project was quite well-organised. By the time we met Eline, we already had the menu done and everything was pretty much ready to start production, so we were able to give her our ideas, and a PDF with descriptions of the cocktail and all of the ingredients. So it was a case of ‘this is what’s inside, this is kind of what we’d like to see reflected, but really, like all of the artistes we work with, how she chose to interpret the whole thing was completely up to her. The collection is Himkok through Eline’s eyes.
Eline, how does this project compare to others that you’ve worked on?
Everything was very transparent and really well-organised. Which was important as I was about six months pregnant at the start of the project, so timelines had to work for everyone. We all had access to budgets so we could see where the money was going, we all had solid time frames to work to and it all felt very safe, very structured.
Paul/Maros, can you give us an idea of one of the cocktails and Eline, can you describe how you interpret them in clothes?
Paul: One of the drinks is called Sea Buckthorn which features Himkok’s Sea Buckthorn Distillate, Cointreau and orange water kefir, St. Halvard [a Norwegian liqueur), strawberry and rhubarb wine and apple and grape acidities. It’s garnished with a piece of Kvikk Lunsj [Norwegian chocolate]. What we wanted to mimic with this one is a Norwegian drink called Solo – it’s like Fanta and very embroidered into Norwegian culture. Our cocktail is a Highball as we wanted to recreate those soda memories that Norwegians have from childhood. I mean, I still drink it – lots of people do, it’s one of those drinks you have, particularly during Easter holidays. It’s very fresh, very orange, very vibrant.
Eline, what did the cocktail conjure up for you as a fashion designer?
A couple of things. One was a typical ski scenario, because Norwegians go skiing in the winter and they always take a Solo with them. The other look was more like a goddess look, with bursts of sunshine and yellow. You’ll have to wait to see how it turned out!
How do you describe the collection so far?
Eline: As a merge of vibes, tastes and characters. I start by having a vision of something and then I have to find the right fabrics to stay true to that vision because I don’t want to lose the idea. But sometimes the vision and reality can be different and along the way, the design merges into something else. The fabrics guide me to the right expression. Every texture has its own language.
Paul: What we’ve seen so far, our minds are completely blown – it’s something else.
So the Fashion Meets Mixology collection will be launched on September 28th, what next?
Well, after the catwalk show at Sky Room, the cocktails will be available at Himkok. We’ll hold on to the clothes for a while and decide what we do with them going forward. As for future collaborations, we’ve done the impossible, put it like that. Basically, we’d like to be ambassadors for Norwegian culture, and the creative and gifted people from Norway. We’d love it if people come to us with an idea for a collaboration. Who knows what could happen then?