As last month’s DesignMarch put the freshest ideas in Icelandic design on display, artists Tanja Levý and Loji Höskuldsson presented a project inspired by a field that may seem at odds with the world of art and design. In their playful new clothing collection Upp með sokkana (“Pull up your socks”), Tanja and Loji—who both have backgrounds in design and sports—combined seemingly disparate domains, designing outfits for a hypothetical Icelandic national team of sports and arts.
The inspiration for the collaboration came while Tanja and Loji were watching the opening ceremony of the most recent Olympic Games. “During the last Olympics, we were watching the national teams walk into the stadium wearing fancy clothes, and the Icelandic team walked out in tracksuits,” Loji recalls. “We’d read an article about the designers working on the national team outfits for each country,” adds Tanja. “There wasn’t anything special for Iceland, so we wanted to take on the project.”
The other athletes’ outfits spoke to the spirit of their respective nations. Tanja and Loji wanted to design a collection of sportswear that similarly spoke to the Icelandic ethos. “We don’t want to work with the flag or nationalism,” explains Tanja. “We were inspired by mundane elements of Icelandic life. The jackets have the arrows that you see on the wind forecast. And they’re made of reflective material, so you’ll be safe when running during the dark winter days.”
For their line of swimwear, the designers took inspiration from brauðterta, a “sandwich cake” made of bread, shrimp, mayonnaise, vegetables, and ham. “I don’t like the taste, but it looks like an art piece,” says Tanja.
Normcore & health goth
As it stands, the collection is mostly comprised of generic sportswear—tracksuits, sweatpants, headbands and the like. However, the duo are eager to design costumes that fit the needs of specific sports: basketball, handball, football, perhaps even a judo kit. “I’d love to design shorts for Gunnar Nelson,” Loji jokes.
The pair do have one celebrity collaborator. Athlete Ólafur Stefánsson reached out to Tanja and Loji after they cited him as a muse in an interview. A member of the handball team that took the silver in the 2008 Olympics, Ólafur is beloved not only for his athletic prowess, but also for his philosophical, creative outlook on life—an engaged, interdisciplinary attitude that Tanja and Loji think encapsulates their own endeavour. Ólafur met with the duo and provided useful, theoretical insight into the project. “He added us on Facebook,” says Loji. “That was one of the best moments in my life. We gave him a jacket with his name on it.”
In addition to portraying the national spirit in their collection, Tanja and Loji hope to break down the perceived barrier between arts and athletics. With recent trends such as normcore and health goth enshrining the pedestrian character of sportswear, the designers are excited to see this division shrink. “Lately, you’re seeing art students in sports shoes; not in Converse shoes anymore,” Loji says. As they see it, the collection need not be for athletes alone. Rather, anytime Icelanders represent the nation abroad, they could wear this uniform—perhaps singer Svala Björgvinsdóttir, this year’s Eurovision contestant, or artist Egill Sæbjörnsson, who is representing Iceland at the Venice Biennale. “We’re all on the same team, right?” Tanja smiles.
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