Where London and New York fashion is a little ‘me me’, co-operation is more the Icelandic way.
Reykjavik buzzes with creative style. But where London and New York fashion is a little ‘me me’, co-operation is more the Icelandic way.
“I started my own label because I didn’t want to apply for a job,” says Eygló Margrét Lárusdóttir. “I’ve always wanted to work for myself, design for myself, do my accounting myself. There’s something exciting about having complete control. It’s something I have to do. I will die if I can’t do this!”
Eygló is a fashion designer, and she sells womenswear and swimwear under her own, eponymous label. She is also a co-owner, with seven others, of a shop in Reykjavik called Kiosk, which is a collective collaboration of exclusively Icelandic designers. “It’s really good to be able to meet the clients,” says Eygló, in the slant-lit studio she shares with two colleagues on the top floor of a building just along from the shop in Reykjavik 101. “It’s great to be working independently, but with help from my friends and partners in Kiosk.”
Studying fashion at the Reykjavik’s Art Academy, working independently was always the way forward for Eygló. “There are some government-run programmes that can help small start-ups here,” she says. “But I haven’t really tried to find investors or anything. I’ve started very slowly and have always had a part- time job to help fund what I do.”
In fact, it’s only after four years of Kiosk’s launch that Eygló has been able to quit that part-time job. Now she’s focusing more fully on her creative vision, and getting her head around production. “I work with a lot of prints and I’ve done an Icelandic camou age,” she says. “I produce all my stuff in Estonia with fabrics from Germany and the UK. It was much better to be producing clothes in Europe, so that I can meet the people who are making the clothes. It is a ordable outsourcing, but it’s good to know that the factories are still paying their staff fairly.”
At Kiosk, Eygló has found the perfect balance between independence and collaboration. “I like to experiment, so I don’t want to have somebody’s nose in my design while I’m doing that,” she says. “But working with partners in the shop totally makes sense, and doesn’t have to involve compromise. It’s important to meet the people who buy your clothes, good that we share our contacts and help each other out in unexpected ways. We lend a hand in everything from basic creative stuff to practical work too. There’s a network around you that’s very valuable.”
But even with an established brand like Eygló, and coveted shop like Kiosk, the worry of the ever-forward march of the tourism boom remains a concern. “I am paranoid the whole time that our studio or the shop or both will be sold and turned into a hotel,” she says. “There are 700 new bedrooms being built this year alone – and if we are not careful in five years it will be like Benidorm here, and there will be no reason for tourists to visit.”
“It’s in our hands how we deal with the tourism boom,” she adds, shrugging a little as we gaze out at the quickly fading winter light. “But as long as we don’t have Starbucks and McDonald’s, Reykjavik will be the perfect place to be.”