Veteran Linda Árnadóttir weighs in on the industry
With DesignMarch and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival on the calendar, spring is for sure an exciting time for Iceland’s fashion designers and enthusiasts. Helping to start the fashion department at The Iceland Academy of Arts twelve years ago, Linda Árnadóttir—who is also the creative director for Scintilla and a long time collaborator of Martine Sitbon—has been undoubtedly influential in growing the scene. She tells us a little bit about it…
Why is fashion important?
Fashion defines time and periods, and time periods are defined by world events that influence fashion. When we look at photos of our ancestors, the era in which they were taken is often unmistakable. If we all wore the same type of clothing it would be difficult for us to show our character and social status; time would stand still and we wouldn’t feel progress.
What impact has the fashion department had on fashion as a profession?
A lot has changed in the last ten years. When I graduated, people considered fashion a hobby, not a profession. Icelanders have over time realised the importance of fashion. As The Academy produces more qualified professionals and the public becomes more informed, the discourse has changed. People see fashion as a growing trade. It provides a large number of jobs and foreign income; in France, fashion is the biggest export. Investors are becoming increasingly aware of the financial benefits of investing in fashion. Our creative fields are developing and if we continue on this path, they will bring us more cash in the bank than fishing and the aluminium smelters.
The Academy has bred an ever-expanding group of creative people and their influence is very visible in Reykjavík. There is a marked change in the fashion professions and people making a living from fashion—fashion photographers, stylists and journalists. Although not all of our graduates become fashion designers, a proportion of them work in related fields. Reykjavík has a group of world-famous trendsetters such as Björk and Sigur Rós.
Does the fashion department have a specific vision?
We follow the European tradition of avant-garde design, which is taught at the best fashion schools in Britain. Not everybody understands this, so we constantly have to defend and explain our vision.
What are the biggest challenges that fashion designers face in Iceland?
Young designers have to start by designing small lines, and due to Iceland’s geographical location, the production process can be slow. Factories prioritize their bigger clients, which means the smaller designer gets their product late and therefore delivers late to the shops. This in turn makes a shop less inclined to buy from them again.
However, I see the economic depression as an opportunity to begin more production in Iceland, such as a clothing factory. Now is the chance, while the króna is weak and the market is showing a need for that type of service.
After getting past the first stage, designers must develop a strong trademark and identity, as design ideas get stolen all the time in this age of fast information. KronKron has done a good job doing that; nobody makes shoes like they do so it’s easy to spot an imitation. Nobody wants to wear a replica—it’s lame.
What is the meaning/purpose of DesignMarch and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival?
Events like these can present opportunities, but they need to be done professionally and with ambition. Quality participants must be selected. If you’re getting the fashion media, you have to understand that they have high standards. Events that are planned and executed poorly by amateurs can be harmful to the image of Icelandic design. I hope that these events will be outstanding this year. It was nice to see former Academy of the Arts students surpass other labels at the past two events.