Iceland’s largest design festival, DesignMarch, is about to return for its 14th year running—in May. Although the pandemic forced it to bend to the numerous restrictions over the past two years, it did not break, and excitement is at an all time high for the event’s return. Few could be looking forward to it more, however, than Head of PR and Communication Álfrún Pálsdóttir: “For the past two years, we’ve been on this Covid-19 roller coaster, but DesignMarch 2022 is going to happen full blast. We are really excited to just tell people to go out, explore, talk, hug and to have a nice time. It will be a celebration of imagination,” she says.
Unlike most design events, many of the contributors to DesignMarch are in attendance at their own exhibits, something that Álfrún believes is key to the festival’s success. “Our aim is to start conversations and to be inspiring, she explains. “It’s not just about designing objects, but also about design thinking.”
Sustainability has arguably been the leading topic in recent times, and it played an important role in the past editions of DesignMarch. “A few years ago, everybody was talking about sustainability.” Álfrún clarifies: “That was the main focus. But now it’s kind of a given.”
The spotlight has shifted onto actual design processes and innovative methods. Álfrún adds, “Designers are trying to come up with new solutions to the big problems the world is facing now, such as overpopulation and shortcomings of the healthcare system. I think this DesignMarch will reflect that.”
Because going through the hundreds of exhibits can be a little overwhelming, we’ve gone ahead and picked out some of the highlights of what’s on offer this year.
Remote working 2.0
“Consequences” is a game created by product designers Ari Jónsson and Þórður Jörundsson. The game has predetermined rules that govern the design of the furniture, but each player does not get to see what the other person is creating. Half the furniture cannot stand on its own and is useless until it is exhibited with its counterpart. “Consequences” is an experiment which puts us alongside the designers, holding our breath as two pieces become one.
Bye Covid-19, hello Coat-19
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to the world’s plastic pollution. With piles of single-use masks that need to be changed every few hours and are rarely disposed of properly, the scale of the problem is almost absurd. Artists Tobia Zambotti and Aleksi Saastamoinen want to draw attention to pandemic-related pollution with a puffer jacket made with about 1500 disinfected disposable masks collected from the streets of Reykjavík.
This exhibition showcases research on mineral wool, an ongoing project by Studio Flétta and Kristín Sigurðardóttir. They invite us to observe their exploration into the possibilities available when it comes to recycling and reshaping mineral wool, as well as its waste materials, which would otherwise be sent to landfill. Mineral wool is one of the few building materials produced in Iceland. The substance it’s made from hardens during the manufacturing process, turning into a stone which resembles obsidian.
Farmers Market will introduce new garments made from Icelandic wool fur, in line with the key values of the brand: use of natural fabrics, craftsmanship and respect for the environment. The product line was developed in collaboration with Ístex, a wool processing company owned by Icelandic farmers. The wool used for the faux fur is uncoloured, leftover wool that cannot be used for knitting yarn. Another exciting use of waste materials, could this finally be a worthy challenger to real fur? We hope so.
Hot tubs for birds: yay or nay?
Iceland is home to thousands of bird species. But while humans can enjoy the variety of swimming pools and hot tubs the country has to offer, birds, unfortunately, cannot. Would they want to though? With a project titled ‘Bibi & blabla’, Studio Allsber intends to translate some of the products humans use in their daily lives to the bird world, and, hence, strengthen our relationship with the flying creatures.
Nostalgic retro flair from a slow fashion brand
A clothing garment that stands the test of time is what the Icelandic slow fashion brand AS WE GROW truly believes in. The brand’s clothes are passed on from generation to generation, bearing sentimental value and linking people together. Made responsibly with sustainably-sourced materials, AS WE GROW encourages people to buy fewer items, but of better quality. Check out the brand’s spring-summer collection at DesignMarch, along with the opening of their brand-new showroom.
Local students bring on a fashion show
It’s not an easy time for the fashion industry—the pandemic has taught us to appreciate pyjamas and sweatpants, and overall the trend is to consume less, especially when it comes to fast fashion. Come to the Iceland University of Arts Graduate Fashion Show to find out what fashion students have to offer the industry in these fast-changing times.
66°North supports innovation
66°North is extremely present in this year’s DesignMarch festival, collaborating with different designers on projects all relating to waste in the textile industry. Valdís Steinarsdóttir will be exhibiting her research on a technique which would eliminate cloth scraps, by using a natural liquid material that holds the desired shape when poured into a mould. She has also been working alongside designer Arnar Ingi to explore how the life cycle of a product can be extended by straying away from its original role. ERM (sleeve in English) is the result of this investigation, a chair made out of a single metal rod, covered with the sleeves of discarded puffer jackets. Additionally, Studio Flétta will be showcasing their experimentations with textile offcuts from 66°North in an effort to upcycle waste materials.
A new initiative by the Architect Association of Iceland is sure to get your heart beating faster. They will hold four runs through Reykjavik, where they will guide you through the complexities of the city. You will be able to see the city through the architects’ eyes, and understand the reasoning behind layout and build choices. There are runs for every level and ability, so no excuses! There will be a warm up 15 minutes before the run, so make sure to be there ahead of time and avoid cramps, you wouldn’t want to fall behind and miss this fun event.
The future of hunting
Apparently, mushroom leather is a thing now. Intrigued? A local brand Góð Bráð has designed hunting garments (vests, gloves, bags, and more) made from recycled materials and mushroom leather. The project promotes respect for nature and sustainable hunting—by choosing mushrooms over animals.
Designers and ambassadors unite
Design Diplomacy is a unique series of events hosted by DesignMarch together with local diplomats. The ambassadors of Norway, Denmark, Finland and the USA will open their doors to designers, as well as the public, for insightful talks and a special card game. On the programme: design-centred conversations, musings on the future of knitwear, explorations of ceramic artists, ways how architecture could solve global problems and more.
DesignMarch will take place on May 4-8 in multiple locations in the capital area. Full programme: designmarch.is
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!