From Iceland — Next Stop: SHOP!

Next Stop: SHOP!

Never underestimate the power of tiny Iceland to capture the world’s attention with financial crashes, volcanic eruptions, and a tourist campaign that went a little too far (here’s hoping no one ever actually renames Iceland “Jump For Joy Land”). Lately, Iceland has been garnering attention for something else too: its blossoming fashion scene.
Recognising this in 2010, Gréta Hlö›versdóttir co-founded Reykjavík Concierge, a company specialising in getting tourists acquainted with all facets of Iceland’s burgeoning design scene, from the traditional wool sweaters to the latest fashions and designers.
Reykjavík Concierge offers a wide range of design and culture tour options, from trips for those who only have a few hours to shop before catching their flight back home to day-long “VIP” trips where guests are chauffeured around town and exposed to a wide range of uniquely Icelandic shops and boutiques. The idea is to give visitors a more holistic Icelandic experience, Gréta says.
“The tours augment peoples’ visits. People are so used to going to the Blue Lagoon, doing the same things, so you have to kind of change their mind-set and show them there’s more than that,” Gréta says. “Especially when people come for the second or third time, it’s nice to see something new.”
As an added feature to the customised VIP tours and pre-arranged group shopping tours, the service also offers visitors the opportunity to see designer workshops and studios. Gréta says they have a relationship with nearly every designer or clothing company in Iceland. Tours are thus highly customisable and guests are free to pick and choose whom they’d like to visit.
Each visit also includes something extra, such as a tasting of Icelandic chocolate or herb tea, she says. Most recently, the service has started offering tours of designers’ workshops on the Reykjanes peninsula, which is geared toward guests on their way to the airport.
Gréta attributes the growing design scene to the formation of Iceland’s Academy of the Arts in 1998, which houses a design and architecture department. The institution is young, but Gréta says it produces a number of designers who are garnering attention on a worldwide scale.
“Now the school is internationally recognised; they’re doing things that are comparable to other places in the world,” she says. “I think it’s important to try to promote the designers, because it’s a small country and no designer can live in Iceland alone.”
With each guest, visit and tour, Icelandic design creeps a little further from its confines on a tiny nation in the Atlantic.
Group shopping tours
A three to four hour tour for a group of four or more that introduces guests to Icelandic design. It includes a free chocolate, food or tea tasting.
Price: from 9,900 ISK per person
Stopover tours
A three to four hour tour where guests visit the Reykjanes Peninsula. Groups of four or more can visit the home or workshops of designers in the area.
Price: from 9,900 ISK per person
VIP tours
A highly customisable tour that caters to the guest budget, taste and interests. The tour includes transportation, Tax Free refund guidance, a local tasting and chances to meet designers.
Price: from 12,900 ISK per hour
To put the Reykjavík Concierge services to the test, I set up a “mock” tour as if I were buying gifts for family and friends back home in Seattle. Typically, this sort of VIP tour starts at 12,900 ISK per hour, and would involve a chauffeured car ride around the city, an English-speaking guide and several hours to shop, eat and see the city. In my case, it involved an afternoon of brainstorming and emailing. Nevertheless, I received a variety of recommendations for everyone I listed. 
Description: My mom would most appreciate something from a cute home décor or design store, such as a nice vase, tablecloth, area rug or decorative candleholder. She loves autumn colours, so anything amber, orange, yellow or reddish is good!
Budget: 20.000 ISK (approx. $155)
Recommendation: “We would recommend a visit to the small boutique Kirsuberjatré› (located at Vesturgata 4), which offers ceramics and home decor in natural and vibrant colours.”
Description: My friend Hilary is turning 23. Her style is pretty relaxed. She is a big fan of leather boots and Fossil handbags and accessories, and I’d like to get her a leather wallet or a purse from an Icelandic designer. She is a big fan of casual dresses too.
Budget: 13.000 ISK (approx. $100)
Recommendation: “Visit the Icelandic designer Andrea at her boutique and workshop (the shop, Atelier & Boutique, is located at Strandgata 19 in Hafnarfjör›ur). You can find all sorts of beautiful and casual dresses similar to these and accessories for a reasonable price.” 
Description: My brother is 19 and likes to wear comfortable jackets and sweatshirts. It rains a lot in Seattle in the winter (like here!) and I want to get him a waterproof jacket. As for other clothing, he likes things that are functional and not too flashy.
Budget: 17.000 ISK (approx. $130)
Recommendation: “We would definitely take him to visit Cintamani (located at Bankastraeti 7) or Farmer’s Market where he can find comfortable and casual clothing in good quality material for this price range.” (Farmer’s Market is located at Hólmasló› 2 in the harbour area.)
Description: Because I can’t leave Iceland without a little something for myself, I wanted to find some earrings or other jewellery from an Icelandic designer.
Budget: 12.000 ISK (approx. $90)
Recommendation: “For the earrings we would take you to Helga at Gullkúnst (located at Laugavegur 13) or Gu›björg at Aurum (located at Bankastræti 4) or Ingi at Sign (located at Fornubú›um 12, 220 Hafnarfjör›ur) because they have a wide range of jewellery inspired by Icelandic nature at all prices.”

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