Tanja Levý is an Icelandic fashion and textile designer who has garnered attention for her tropical designs. She studied at the Reykjavík School of Visual Arts and in 2012 graduated from the Iceland Academy of the Arts with a BA in fashion design. She has interned for design label Eley Kishimoto and taken part in various design projects and exhibitions. Her most recent clothing line, Sýnódísk Trópík, has now been released and is for sale on her website.
When did you start designing?
I started designing clothes for myself in secondary school and later participated in a school fashion show. I particularly remember one piece I designed for the show. It was a low-necked spandex jumpsuit for men inspired by Jon Bon Jovi in the 80s. I wanted a model with chest hair to wear it so the hairs would show. I was seventeen at the time so of course not many of the boys had chest hair and therefore nobody wanted to wear the suit. I ended up asking my friend who was used to modeling to wear it. He didn’t have chest hair either, though, so the plan didn’t really work out.
What inspires you?
I am extremely curious so I like to use the design process to learn about something that sparks my interest. When I was a teenager I saw a psychologist who diagnosed me with a “washing machine brain,” in other words, a brain that never stops. I started using this “washing machine brain” of mine for a creative purpose and therefore have found an outlet for my obsessions to create unlikely connections, which become the concepts of my works.
I really like working with opposites and have used that for my last two clothing lines. “Eitur í flösku” was inspired by finding the beauty in ugliness and “Sýnódísk Trópík” was inspired by finding happiness despite suffering from winter depression, which I feel strongly.
Tell us about Sýnódísk Trópík.
Sýnódísk Trópík is a unisex clothing line and my own way of tackling winter depression. I focused on the print-making and was inspired by the mix of colours and patterns when birds fly in the sky. The clothing line is dedicated to people who daydream about sun and warmth in the short winter days and run out lightly dressed as soon as the days get brighter and the snow has melted.
How is it being an artist in Iceland?
There are pros and cons. Materials are very expensive, which make products expensive. I have always admired the Icelandic music scene and musicians’ motivation, how open they are to supporting each other and collaborating. I’ve always dreamt of working in this kind of environment as a designer and I feel like that dream might be coming true. I’ve surrounded myself with good people and I feel a lot of support, which I am very thankful for.