As the final preparations were being made for this year’s London Fashion Week from February 17-21, which was being staged in a new venue at The Store Studios located at 180 Strand, I managed to get a glimpse close up of fashionistas last weekend in Covent Garden at an ‘off-schedule’ catwalk show organised by Fashion’s Finest, an online fashion hub and magazine.
During one of the shows held at the stylish Grand Connaught Rooms - with each floor named after a city (Edinburgh) or county (Cornwall) - my eye was caught by creations from Sigrun Bjork Olafsdottir (www.sigrun.co.uk), a designer originally hailing from Reykjavik and who currently resides in north London.
Five of her outfits, which are inspired by themes of Nordic mythology, were displayed in front of a packed audience along with a throng of photographers and media. And, in keeping with the Viking theme, music was chosen from Icelandic band Sigur Rós, known for their ethereal sound and bowed guitar, to accompany models as they made their way down the runway.
Prior to Olafsdottir’s runway slot design creations, Hangjun Jo (http://hangjunjo.tumblr.com/), a South Korean who specialises in womenswear and a graduate from The Glasgow School of Art with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design presented his creations, which were inspired by women’s sportswear of the 1920’s such as tennis wear Cubist art from the era.
The Korean’s collection was followed up by Chico De Barrio (www.chicodebarrio.com), whose street wear to hi fashion for men and women are made by a Spanish artisanal association using organic materials such as cotton, bamboo and several recycled compounds. De Barrios’ designs weave traditional Andalusian culture, cutting edge design and a choice of organic material. And, Marina Willms (www.marinawillms.com).
Marina Willms, a 28-year old German fashion designer and stylist based in Düsseldorf who spent six months at Central Saint Martins (part of the University of the Arts London), made up the mix of countries represented. Willms experiments with a variety of printing techniques and fabrics to create interesting and colourful patterns, produces her garments in what are described the spirit of “Spread love and stay colourful!”
Previous to the Fashion’s Finest show this February, where Reykjavik-born Sigrun exhibited for the first time as a solo designer, last September she was invited to display her costumes at the ‘Mythological Arts Festival’ - around a UNESCO world heritage site in Jelling, Denmark. And, during last year’s Paris and London fashion weeks she exhibited along with another designer, providing accessories.
London-based Sigrun, who openly admits takes inspiration from the work of British fashion designer and couturier Alexander McQueen, speaking on the sidelines of Fashion’s Finest said: “The Mythological Arts Festival in Jelling was the first year that the organisers had done something like that with fashion and Nordic outfits of Goddesses.”
She was in fact the only designer there - effectively headlining - while her sister Alda, a singer who has had several Top 10 hits in the UK pop charts and around the world, performed at the show.
As regards the themes explored in her designs she explained: “It’s Nordic mythology to an extent and it’s Goddesses. However, it’s not just about these Goddesses, but also delves into their characters and what they represent.”
She added: “All of these characters are personifications out of nature. For example, if we look at the Goddesses of Winter…what she represents is winter itself, which can be extremely harsh and unforgiving but also extremely mild, smooth and beautiful. So it has all those traits - both good and evil.”
The colours in her collection are representative of emotions. Black, for instance, equates to lava and as she explained “colourfication of a deeper meaning.” Take the red dress of Freya, Goddess of love and beauty in Norse mythology. This outfit could be worn to a cocktail party and the skirt is able to be detachable.
In terms of the materials and fabrics Sigrun uses, she revealed that she does utilise animal material, fish leathers, recycled leathers and even volcanic ash from the infamous Eyjafjallajokull, which erupted in May 2010 and resulted in thousands of flights all over Europe being grounded. It was the highest level of air travel disruption since World War II.
That said, she stressed:” “I do not use anything sourced from fur farms, but do use vintage fur. Additionally I use items I get from taxidermists, which are road kills more or less. And, as far as we know these creatures died of natural causes.”
Next up for the Icelander is a fashion shoot this month at the York Viking festival - Jorkvik - where a big photo shoot is planned with James Alexander Lyon, an award winning Milton Keynes-based photographer, in aid of charity for an owl sanctuary, Athena’s Owl Sanctuary. Following that she is one of fifteen designers who have been selected for an Alexander McQueen Tribute Show in London’s Mayfair on 25 March 2017.
Going forward after raising brand awareness of her designs Sigrun indicated that next she hopes to release ready-to-wear designs that can be worn by people out in the street. “All of my work up to this point has very much been about building brand awareness and preparation for the ready-to-wear range,” she added. Skál!
Photo by James Alexander Lyon