Up-&-Coming Creatives no. 05
The designer behind Kyrja hails from Iceland and her name is Sif Baldursdóttir. Sif graduated from Istituto Marangoni in Milan in 2010, during her last year at Instituto Marangoni she interned for renowned label Vivetta. Shortly after graduation Sif moved to London and during her time there she interned for lingerie label Loulou Loves You as well as menswear brand Agi & Sam. She founded Kyrja in 2012 and her first collection was AW14. Since then the brand has won the prestigious “Looking forward to in 2014…” award at the Reykjavík Grapevine Design Awards and earned recognition in it’s native Iceland for it’s high quality design and minimal sophistication, using exclusive and mainly natural fabrics such as silk, mohair and bamboo. During her time in London after graduation she interned for lingerie label Loulou Loves You as well as menswear brand Agi & Sam.
Tell us briefly about your brand. Who is the Kyrja woman and also, why did you decide to found your own brand?
Kyrja was founded in late 2012 after my return home from London, although I didn’t start working on it full-time until march 2013 when I finally found a studio. Kyrja is more about a certain aesthetic and mood then a certain woman, I like to envision my garments on any type of woman. In Iceland, fashion is an industry in it’s infancy with very few jobs within the sector, so it comes quite naturally to start your own brand as in my case.
You use a lot of natural materials such as silk, mohair and bamboo. Are organic or natural materials important to you? Also, does ethical sourcing of those materials play an important role with your brand?
Yes, natural fabrics have always been important to me, I personally very much dislike the feeling of plastic fibers “pretending” to be natural fibers, but of course with technical fabrics it’s another story. Organic materials interest me a lot and in the future I would love to use them exclusively, but when you’re a small brand, fabric sourcing can be extremely difficult and time consuming. Fabric suppliers often have very high minimum orders (250-400 meters per fabric per colour is very common) so finding exactly what you want can be very challenging and sometimes just plain impossible.
In the Icelandic fashion industry, which is a lot of the time overpowered by print and colors, where do you seek inspiration for your minimalistic aesthetics and design?
My inspiration comes from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It can spring from a vague feeling I have that I can translate into something tangible or a shape I see in the foam of my coffee, either way I have always thought it very important to let things unfold freely in order to avoid my work feeling contrived. In the end the reason is quite simple, I don’t feel the need to complicate things and that means that aesthetically I tend to lean heavily towards minimalism, with emphasis on comfort and wearability.
Your collections or often very androgynous but some pieces or highly more feminine than others. Do you like to appeal to both femininity and masculinity? Or do you think one is more appealing than the other?
I think in the end everything that I design just stems from my own perception of beauty and what I consider feminine. For example I do not think that to be feminine you have to constantly show off curves or skin, and this hyper sexualized culture that we live right now just depresses me, where young girls as young as 12 years old are turned into objects for the sexual gratification of older men.
Having interned at Italian brand Vivetta and seeing it become a highly successful brand. What would you say the biggest differences are establishing yourself within the Icelandic market, and then the International market?
Establishing yourself within the international market requires either very strong network connections within the business or a lot of funds to spend on PR and marketing. Vivetta was very lucky because she had important industry people believe in her (rightly so) from the very beginning and that helped her get the foot in the door.
The fact that Iceland only has around 329.000 inhabitants means that the market for high end clothing is very small, but at the same time it is much easier to establish yourself organically within that same market because of it’s size. However that means that it simply cannot generate enough income for you to expand your company further.
In the last few years we’ve seen a big increase in new emerging brands in Iceland which I think is very exciting, I feel however that it is important for the government to be more supportive financially. Starting your own brand is a very expensive venture and it is only understandable that you might need help to fund it, and unfortunately there are not many grants for fashion designers around right now.
Although with people (and hopefully politicians too) realizing more and more how important good design is, I hope this will mean that more funding will be put into the industry in the nearest future so that Icelandic fashion design can truly blossom.
You are currently stocked in Iceland and online. Do you have any plans on expanding your brand and possibly stocking it in other countries in Europe, or elsewhere?
Of course! Wholesale is really the only way for clothing companies to generate income in order to grow bigger, and to get that whole venture going I have started going to trade shows in Paris during fashion week, and hopefully Copenhagen fashion week as well in August next year with the SS17 collection.