The popular Icelandic design shop, Kraum, was opened in 2007, a collaborative effort of some 30 designers to produce a communal designer store. The shop initially bought and sold work from up to 60 to 70 designers and has grown to sell the works of over 100. In 2008, Kraum was awarded by the Icelandic retailer council, “Tourist Shop of the Year”.
The main focus of the store is to make a vibrant crafts community by facilitating new and local designers from Iceland. This is done through a close partnership with the craft and design centre that occupies and exhibits next door, in the oldest house in Reykjavík. The owners’ collective knowledge as designers places them in good stead for opening such an enterprise. One radical change of the traditional designer boutique was to buy direct from the maker rather than working on commission. This subsequently assists crafts-folk in evolving new work, creating diversity and support for a variety of designs and designers within the shop.
Who shops there and what do they sell?
Initially one presumes the shop is specifically marketed to tourists, but upon closer scrutiny it turns out the mainstays are mature Icelandic women interested in distinctive, one-off designs. Explains one of the sales assistants: “I see three generations of women shopping together here, from the mothers and daughters to the grandmothers and grand-daughters. All of them seem to be able to find something for themselves. ” Commenting further, she demonstrated that the varied price range reflects different age groups. “Younger customers tend to buy jewellery by Helga Ósk Einarsdóttir. She draws inspiration from traditional Icelandic patterns, and sells some of the cheaper products – they go for around 2.000 ISK”. When asked about the most expensive product on offer, she points to the tailored lamb coats by Sunneva, worth around 300.000 ISK. “That’s our most expensive item, I believe.”
Browsing through the shop it becomes apparent that an underlying theme in the variety of designs is the distinct utilization of native Icelandic resources. For instance, shoemaker Maria K Magnúsdóttir makes unconventional ankle boots from horse manes and fish skins that look uncannily similar to crocodile. Fanney Antonsdóttir and Dögg Guðmunsdóttir skin a whole cod and place its fragile remains as a lampshade. Farmer/designer Guðrún Steingrímsdóttir produces obscure brooches from the whale teeth. Overall, it seems the designers are willing to challenge ideas of beauty and functionality.