From Iceland — Social Distance Celebrations, New Inspirations, And Self-Sufficiency: Marko Svart On Svartbysvart's First Birthday

Social Distance Celebrations, New Inspirations, And Self-Sufficiency: Marko Svart On Svartbysvart’s First Birthday

Social Distance Celebrations, New Inspirations, And Self-Sufficiency: Marko Svart On Svartbysvart’s First Birthday

Published May 8, 2020

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Momo Hayashi, Kelechi Anna Hafstað & Marko Svart

Last time the Grapevine checked up on designer Marko Svart and his partner, Momo Hayashi, the two had just opened up their sustainable boutique Svartbysvart at Týsgata 1. Now, one year later, the eco-conscious designer is here with a new collection inspired by the vast forests of Finland and a big birthday. In honour of this new release and milestone, the store will celebrate its first birthday with an outdoor social distance-friendly celebration this Sunday at 17:00, which they will also livestream online for those who can’t make it.

For more info, we sat down (digitally) with Marko Svart to talk about his first year of business, owning a store in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just what we can expect from Year Two of Svartbysvart.

First off, happy 1st birthday! Last time we talked, you had only been open for one month and were still settling in. Without asking too broad of a question—how has the past year been?

I’m not trying to rely on clichés but wow it has gone by fast, and we are STILL settling in. It has been so gratifying to meet so many new people, see appreciation for my products and push my resourcefulness and work ethic to the ultimate test! I love being busy, and can barely stand to have a “day off,” so opening the shop has been great. I am just trying to stay motivated and creative.

Svartbysvart. Photo by Marko Svart.

Obviously this has been a difficult time for retail stores and small businesses in general. How have you been doing in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic? How have you been surviving?

Well, needless to say, it has indeed been difficult, as for everyone else. “Fortunately” from an individual point of view, it is comforting that we are all in this together, and that nobody is alone in their struggle. We are all relying on our mutual understanding and support for each other, and that is nice to see in a crisis like this.

I am trying to use this “down-time” to my advantage. I am constantly creating and doing this which I would have otherwise postponed. Updating the online shop, sketching, taking new product pictures etc. I am trying to be healthy and use this time to find new ideas inside myself.  It is also a good time to do all the boring stuff like bookkeeping and tax papers, right?

What would you say we, the public, can do to better support small businesses and sustainable brands like yours during this pandemic? What can the government do?

I am very independent and self-sufficient. If the government can help, I trust in them that they will, but I would never rely on that solely, and I can’t really say much about what they should do for me, or other similar businesses.

I do however depend on the public, the people. That is ultimately what every business and every creator needs to survive. It’s about the simple things; buying from small, local shops and especially in these times, supporting creators online and on social media. For me, someone sharing my work on Facebook or recommending my products to their friends means the world. I am very grateful for every single follower I have on social media. It is such an easy, but meaningful way to show support.

If you feel like supporting us, here is our Instagram and Facebook.

What are your plans for year two of Svartbysvart? Any big reveals?

We have so many new things planned! As I often say, 90% of my work takes place only inside my head and 10% is what you see in the shop. I think it is just a matter of getting that huge percentage out and available, though easier said than done. Also, since I am personally working in such a broad range of art mediums and expressions, I would love to see the shop and label expanding into more fields, and finding new collaborations with other artists. There will be plenty of new collections and items coming up, always pushing the sustainability and genuity of my brand.

Without revealing too much, I am also working on a rather huge project for this summer, which had to be postponed because of the pandemic. But more on that later…

Svartbysvart. Photo by Kelechi Anna Hafstað.

I’ve never been to a social distancing/livestreamed outdoor party! What can I expect there?

Last week when the weather was nice, we met some friends on the beach and we all sat two metres apart from each other. It was really nice, and felt like “those good old days,” even though we had to speak a bit louder than usual. I am expecting something similar on Sunday. I mean, we can meet and have fun together, just without the unnecessary cuddling and cheek-kissing. Some nice drinks, good music, and meaningful (loud) conversations is all we need. It is going to be great!

Lastly, do you have any fun recommendations for things people can get up to while social distancing?

Yes! Cooking, cooking, cooking. I always think people underestimate the joy and sense of fulfilment that one gets from making a thorough home cooked meal. I have so much passion when it comes to cooking. It is such a creative and rewarding activity to pass the time with. Now is a perfect opportunity to try challenging recipes, make curry from scratch, invent intricate oven dishes etc etc etc. I promise, putting your heart into your dinner gives you that immense joy which we all need right now.

Svartbysvart. Photo by Kelechi Anna Hafstað.

Marko Svart’s boutique Svartbysvart’s first birthday party and collection reveal will be on Sunday, May 10th at 17:00 at Týsgata 1.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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