Twenty-seven-year-old Ingibjörg Finnbogadóttir, or Imba as she is known in the design world, has been working on a host of independent projects as a patternmaker and stylist in New York City for just over a year. Yet with a range of work styling music videos, short-films, and fashion spreads, she is already making a name for herself as an independent designer in the Big Apple. Imba, just having returned from a styling gig at Women’s Wear Daily in New York the day before, sat flipping through the latest issue of Elle at Barinn early one Monday morning.
“I’ve only done small collections under the name ‘unknown,’ and ‘pretty shitty.’ I don’t have a line per se, you know like a ‘Spring’, ‘Fall’ kind of thing. I’m really just playing around still. I’ve done some music videos, sold some things to my friends and then just whoever asks me for stuff. I’ve just been jumping around like crazy.”
Imba’s designs have been featured prominently in stores around Reykjavík such as The Naked Ape on Skólavörðustígur and now in Gallery Crush. Her designs could easily be described as belonging to a distinct class of fashion quite prominent in Reykjavík recently, one that relies heavily on bold contrast and bright colours. Yet Imba says that she sees inspiration for her work, from Iceland or otherwise, to be an elusive topic.
“It’s something that I don’t really think about all that much. I really just do whatever occurs to me. I do mainly what I want to wear. I’d say it’s really everything and nothing that gives me inspiration. If there is some connection to Iceland, then I’d say it’s maybe something very colourful or sort of ‘happy’ about my work, but mostly I’d just say that I’m my own inspiration.”
On the Nature of Fashion in Reykjavík
“I wouldn’t say that anyone is doing anything particularly ‘Icelandic’. I would rather say that there are some particular characters that are putting themselves out there, in a way. And us designers are as different as there are many of us.
“I think it’s like, you’re Icelandic, but you can be in Europe or you can be in the U.S. or you can be in Iceland and have these ideas, but you can just as well have the same ideas whichever country you’re in. And now I think it’s become sort of diverse and I can’t look at the scene and say just ‘yeah! this is Icelandic.’ I think it’s just that each individual designer is expressing himself and how he wants to see things.”
When asked about her interest in other designers, in Iceland or elsewhere, Imba says that there aren’t any that she follows religiously, as – never having been formally trained – she is less traditional about fashion. “My mom taught me to sew when I was little; I just needed to take part in the house chores. Well it wasn’t exactly like that, but almost. I learned with a tailor when I was fourteen or fifteen, and started making clothes and selling my own stuff around that age. Then I’ve just always been really hand-crazy, and just feel really good if I’m working a lot with my hands.”
Making Ends Meet
“I’m getting a work permit for the U.S., that’s why I’m here in Iceland now. And when I get back I’m considering going to an agency so I don’t have to worry about always getting myself stylist jobs. But with design production and patternmaking jobs, there I get big projects that maybe take up some three weeks, but the pay is worth three months of work. I’ll take maybe three big projects like that per year, but I definitely have to watch myself and play my cards right. I need to be sure to juggle projects to make sure I don’t end up in huge trouble at the end of the month because it’s expensive to live in New York. So at least for now things have been coming together nicely, and hopefully it will continue to do so… Just forever.”
For the near future, most of Imba’s projects are stylist-gigs. In September, she says, she is styling two fashions stories, making costumes for a short film, as well as working on several music videos. “Before I came here I was designing for this hip-hop artist Fat Joe, basically making clothes for the dancers in his new video. I’m very interested in and want to be around hip-hop and R&B music. I’m pretty good in that area. I’ve been working a lot with spandex, making suits and pants and stuff, and that fits really well into that genre. Where everything has to be really tight and sort of whoo hoo!
“If I don’t have some stylist project or some production job then I just sit down and start designing something or sewing something or playing around. Maybe I’ll do a line for next summer, maybe not. Maybe just something for Christmas or just for next month.”
More Cutthroat Than New York
As for returning to Iceland, Imba says she doesn’t see herself coming back to work in the capital anytime soon.
“I think it’s much more fun out in the States than here in Iceland. I just love New York. I have a lot of friends and good and creative people and everyone is just doing fun things. I think the environment there is much more relaxed, even though there is a mega lot happening in a small area. Here there is sort of a harder or more negative morale. And even though I haven’t really been paying attention to it here, I still feel it.
“In a few years I see myself in downtown New York and maybe, who knows, with a regular collection. It has occurred to me that perhaps I should just make a line. Stop playing around. Even though it would be still be playing, you know.
“I just see myself like crazy in New York. Hopefully just surviving, feeling good and having fun. As long as you’re having fun then you want to be doing what you’re doing, and if it’s not fun then I’ll just jump on an airplane and go somewhere else.”