With no mannequins, no large sign, and a location in the middle of an old industrial harbour, you’d be forgiven for not spotting the Guerrilla Store on the dock Slippurinn. The concept of the Guerrilla Stores was developed by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, founder of the fashion label Comme des Garçons. With the opening of the boutique at Mýrargata 2-8, Icelanders got the chance to buy her products for the first time, but not for long. The store closes at the end of September, even though business has been booming for the last year.
“The philosophy of the Guerrilla Stores is that each shop can’t be open longer than 12 months at the same location,” Sonja, who is standing by the counter as I walk in, tells me. “The location also has to be somewhat special. It can’t be in the shopping centre of a town or in a shopping mall, for example, and, therefore, Mýrargata was a perfect spot, close to the centre but not in the main streets.”
Together with three of her friends, Birna, Anna, and Gurry, she opened the Guerrilla Store on 24 September 2005, and they are now using the last few weeks to make the most of the place and sell the collections to all the regulars who will soon have to say their goodbyes.
“The centre of Reykjavík is more than just Laugavegur and we chose Mýrargata because we wanted to raise awareness of the area around Slippurinn. The build-up in the neighbourhood is just amazing, but we also wanted the location to be connected to the country. Here you have the harbour, the sea, the ships and a lot of interesting things to see and enjoy only minutes away from the big shopping streets. Therefore, we thought the area would be perfect for a Guerrilla Store. This is all part of the concept. Being located in a fresh and different environment, quite hidden and unusual,” Sonja says.
Nothing inside was changed before the store moved in and little has been done to give an impression of a fashion shop. “The product itself is supposed to be the main attraction, not the decorations inside the store. Designer clothes shouldn’t be exotic. People are supposed to scrounge and look around and feel good while doing it,” Sonja tells me. The atmosphere of this historical area with its raw interior, degraded, concrete floor and plain walls has a certain integrity. The owners added some personal touches, mainly through self-styled graffiti, and they offer a large chill-out lounge with old sofas and books to read for customers who want to relax after browsing through all the clothes.
When the Guerrilla Store opened almost a year ago, Reykjavík joined cities like Berlin, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Warsaw, Athens and Cologne, all selling extremely unconventional designs from the Japanese high-fashion label Comme des Garçons. The design could be called anti-fashion as the garments are sewn together in a non-conventional way, like reversed or missing a sleeve. Among their more unique touches: the Parachutes line with dresses, shirts and even pants resembling parachutes, unusual handbags, socks, shirts, wallets and everything between. Even a unisex perfume line Guerrilla 1 and 2 with the fragrance of a garage, church and rhubarb, if those kinds of smells tickle your olfaction, can be found inside.
As the business may only remain open for a year, the Comme des Garçons Guerrilla Store will soon be closing its doors but not without a farewell celebration. Various events are being planned at the shop as well as in the area around before everything closes. Stop by to see when they’ll have their grill party, flea market and concerts, as well as some Culture Night events. As the foursome aren’t planning to open another store in a different area in Reykjavík, the next couple of weeks will probably be the last time to buy Comme des Garçons products in Iceland.
The Guerrilla Store,
Mýrargata 2-8, 101 Reykjavík