During my years studying Fashion Business in Milan, I frequently attended the seasonal fashion shows. A few of them were held at some special locations or at the fashion house’s luxurious headquarters. But most of them took place at the Fiera, a gigantic convention center at the outskirts of the city.
I remember showing up bright and early, trailing through the doors along with an endless parade of journalists, photographers, buyers and others involved in the industry, sometimes towered over by sunglass-wearing supermodels.
All had quite a somber look on their faces, I recall. After all, this was just another day at the office.
After a quick stop at the makeshift espresso stand, we headed inside to watch the 15-minute show. Then, it was off to the next hall for the next show. And so the day passed inside this windowless, bland warehouse.The breaks were few and far between.
It was the Reykjavík Fashion Festival, held during the last weekend of March that made me reminisce about this.
While the Italian fashion industry is an old signora, the Icelandic one has only just reached its adolescence. While the former is respectable and set in its ways, the latter is wild, fresh and fun.
The name of the event speaks volumes. It is a festival, celebrating fashion, music and creativity. A breath of fresh air. And this year’s setting, the stunning Harpa, made for an unforgettable weekend.
Much unlike the quick espresso shot, guests who arrive on Friday night, all glammed up wearing their party clothes and great big smiles, are treated to a fabulous cocktail.
What they have in store are shows by 11 carefully selected designers, all of whom are making their mark on the international fashion scene and conducting a proper business. They are also invited to attend informative panel discussions and lectures. Oh, and lots of parties.
Iceland’s fashion wunderkind Mundi kicks off the festival at Harpa’s parking garage, creating a raw and murky setting around his well-crafted knitwear-based collection for men and women, presented in front of a giant screen projecting a short film taken on top of a glacier.
Afterwards, the party moves upstairs to the Silfurberg auditorium. Equipped with a bar and a stunning view over Reykjavík’s city center, guests happily mingle for a long while in the spacious foyer before being ushered into the hall.
Everybody knows that they are in for a treat as GusGus’s frontman Daníel Ágúst, wearing a black see-through chiffon shirt, dances onto the runway strewn with white giant mushrooms, singing an updated version of the 80s classic “Xanadu”.
As the models enter one by one, the scene looks more and more like Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Studio 54, complete with jazz-ballet split jumps, roller skates and glitter galore.
The designer Hildur Yeoman, who is also an accomplished illustrator, is known for her love of color. If perhaps the wearability of the garments displayed is sometimes questionable, she makes up for it by showing the audience a great time. After all, a show is all about conveying an image.
Now it is time for a break at the trendy Kex Hostel before returning for the final shows of the evening. As I had made other plans a long time ago, I cannot attend (but from what I’ve heard, they were quite good, especially the Africa-themed Kron by Kronkron show and the Kormákur & Skjöldur show, with its impeccably tailored menswear).
Saturday night and the invitees return to Harpa, dressed even more fabulously. Again I take my front row seat, this time next to members of the French press, who are in a jovial mood.
“Come with us afterwards, we’ll have a great time tonight,” they offer, obviously very pleased with the program laid out for them by RFF’s organizers.
Actually, I won’t be able to join them. I only have time for the three first shows, Milla Snorrason, Birna and Ella.
The brainchild of Borghildur Gunnarsdóttir, Milla Snorrason consists of quirky and pretty pieces inspired by the city of Reykjavík and its architecture. Fresh out of design school in Paris, this is Borghildur's debut collection.
From Birna, we get fierce queens of the urban jungle, sporting body-conscious golden spandex jeans, knits in jewel tones and enormous fur hats.
Ella is my personal favorite of the three with its elegant, feminine tailored pieces in classic black, ivory and a hint of turquoise and earth tones which all make for classic wardrobe staples.
As the umpteenth cocktail break reaches its culmination, I slip out of Harpa as it glitters in the dark, somewhat like Cinderella from the ball, pledging to return next year.
Having attended RFF all the three years of its existence, this one outshone the rest in my opinion. It was well organized and professional in every way.
And even though the cocktail breaks were a bit many and close between, I hope the festival’s organizers don’t ever lose this festive spirit, ensuring a memorable visit for its ever-increasing number of international guests.
After all, isn’t that what fashion is supposed to be all about?
Ásta Andrésdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org