A member of parliament has proposed that a law be passed stipulating that Icelandic sweaters – lopapeysur – may only be knit in Iceland.
Earlier this year, controversy arose when it was discovered that some lopapeysur were being knit with Icelandic wool but in garment shops in China, only to be sent back to Iceland for sale to tourists. That the Icelandic sweater is being manufactured overseas raised the ire of a group of handknitters, who believe the practice undermines job opportunities that could be had in Iceland. They also said they considered it insulting to foreign guests to offer what is being implied is an Icelandic product when it was in fact made abroad.
The labour union Framsýn took the matter a step further, requesting a list of Icelandic companies that are having sweaters made overseas and then imported into the country, and want to know what the work conditions are of those making sweaters in China and Taiwan.
Morgunblaðið now reports that Progressive MP Ásmundur Einar Daðason has one-upped them all, proposing that a law be passed specifying that lopapeysur can only be knit in Iceland. This naturally raises the question of what qualifies as a lopapeysur – could a sweater using the same design and knit with Icelandic wool be sold in Iceland, so long as it does not specifically call itself a lopapeysa?
Cultural issues were the focus of a statement to the press sent by the Iceland Design Centre, among them regarding “design piracy”. They raised questions about the role of cultural tradition and protecting a design, such as whether or not the design being considered a part of Icelandic culture makes the design accessible to anyone, who owns cultural traditions, and what even defines a cultural tradition.
In regards to cultural traditions, it should be pointed out that the sweater didn’t actually appear until the 1950s, and may have been inspired by Swedish, South American, or Turkish designs.