Sophisticated, textural, awe-inspiring. These are the adjectives that came to mind when I first saw the clothing designed by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir.
As I found out more about her, and her inspiration for her designs, I became even more intrigued.
I found the Steinunn shop by the harbor in Reykjavik, in an odd, long, low building with a slanted front and turquoise doors. (You can see the mountains beyond – always a backdrop in Reykjavik.)
Inside, the look of the store is dramatic, mannequins silhouetted against stark white walls and angled ceilings.
As I looked closer, I was amazed by the exquisite details of the clothing. There were loops and gathers, bows out of knit and tulle, rosettes and knots and fringe, and many, many ruffles.
Assistant, Laufey Jónsdóttir, modeled her outfit for me in the doorway of the store: a stunning felt skirt with pleated detail, and ruffled knit scarf.
The clothing was so remarkable, that I wanted to find out more about the designer.
I discovered that as a child, Steinunn had learned to knit and sew from her mother and grandmother, who made all of her clothes until she was a teenager. She was constantly creating, and helped choose the fabrics and patterns for her homemade clothing.
Steinunn studied abroad, and went on to work in Milan, Paris, New York, and London, with some of the world’s leading designers: Tom Ford for Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and La Perla. She then returned to Iceland and, in 2000, launched STEiNUNN.
I found out that the inspiration for her textural clothing comes largely from Iceland’s extraordinary landscape…rain falling on black volcanic sands; a fractured glacier with shards of ice on its surface, the rippled surface of a rocky terrain.
Having returned to Iceland after working abroad for many years, Steinunn is particularly inspired by her Icelandic heritage. She explores the museums, looking at historical folk costumes and needlework, and finds inspiration in handcrafted objects.
My fascination in the clothing didn’t stop me from exploring beyond the showroom. I was drawn to her workspace by the sight of a Poul Henningsen pendant light, and a stunning wall of black and white photographs and illustrations. (The illustrations were done by Laufey, who is pictured above.)
A wall of bookshelves separated the showroom from the workroom, and when I saw them, I was astounded.
Shelf after shelf of STYLE MOMENTS.
Used as inspiration for her designs, there were jars full of ribbon and fabric swatches, stacks of reference books, spools of twine, objects from nature…all in color-coordinated, perfectly styled, orderly shelves.
A designer’s nirvana.
Seeing and learning about another designer’s inspiration for her work reminds me of how I am constantly inspired – by color combinations in nature, the patina of an antique, the shape of a stone, the architecture of a building.
Steinunn’s quote about creating puts into words the gratification of design:
“Starting to create is like allowing oneself to make an enjoyable mental journey to the moon and back. Steering the lunar module demands technique and experience – and it brings together all you have learned before, allowing insight and joy to flourish. To my mind, that is the most satisfying stage.”