There was really only one person we could send to Reykjavik for Iceland’s third annual fashion festival—our fearless and oft fashion-challenged contributor Jo Piazza who is no longer allowed in most fashion weeks south of the Arctic Circle and has a predilection for pickled fish. After she spent just a few hours at the two-day festival of eleven emerging Icelandic designers the country welcomed dear Jo with open arms, soft Icelandic wool and tales of magic. According to Jo, here’s what you need to go into the Reykjavik Fashion Festival like an insider.
1. The clothes in Iceland are magical. This is because Iceland is populated with elves. Elves are so prominent here that reports state just over 50% of the human (non-elvic) population believes in them. I can report that 75% of my taxi drivers nodded with certainty when I asked whether they believe in the little folk. According to elvic lore (and my cab drivers) these magical beings help humans in a variety of ways from providing inspiration to rescuing them from a potentially fatal looming accident.
Thorey Eba Einarsdottir, the managing director of the Reykjavik Fashion Festival denies that elves give her designers an edge when it comes to being edgy. “No, no elves. It is the nature of Iceland that make them unique,” Einarsdottir told me. “It is the vast nature of the ocean touching your toes when you are in the city.” And the faeries.
2. Bjork is not here. My mom Tracey would be really disappointed by this because Bjork is definitely the one Icelandic person she has heard of. She would be really disappointed if I didn't lie to her and tell her that Bjork and I are now best friends. The truth is that Bjork is now so Americanized you have a better shot of seeing the singer on Spring Street than Skólavödustígur. Surprisingly, despite her anti-elf stance, Einarsdottir is bullish on Bjork’s influence on Icelandic fashion.
“Bjork presents the individuality of Icelanders. She isn’t afraid of dressing how she wants. But not all Iceland fashion is the swan dress. That’s not something you can wear very often,” Einarsdottir said.
3. Everyone in Reykjavik knows your name (even though you can't pronounce theirs). Iceland is a little like Kentucky in this way. The entire island is about the size of Kentucky and contains approximately 300,000 people with only 70,000 (about the same number as people who live in Scranton) in the capital city of Reykjavik. The cobbler who fixes your heel in the city center on Friday morning or your taxi driver who believes in elves will likely be one of the models walking the runway later that night. His name for future reference is always Siggy.
4. No one in Icelandic fashion is jaded and that is simply awesome. Leading up to a show each and every person involved is like a little kid on the eve of Lýðveldisdagurinn (national Iceland Day). Unlike shows in New York, Milan, Paris and London here the designers, the models and even the reporters are genuinely still excited about having a real live fashion exposition in Reykjavik and that shows in the presentation of the clothes and the lilt of laughter at the parties before and after the shows. Because they’re less commercial and more focused on the creative they’re curious and a hell of a lot of fun.
5. Speaking of awesome, many of the designers sound like something straight outta Game of Thrones. Right after the Kron by Kron Kron show I expected Daenerys Targaryen to lead Khal Drogo's followers into battle in Dragonstone.