Gudrun & Gudrun's otherworldly new knitwear. By Loryn Hatch
Halfway between Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands float on the imaginary border between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, distanced just enough from the rest of the world to be considered a world entirely unto themselves. It's on this rocky archipelago that the traditions, language, and nature of Scandinavian culture have evolved in alluring ways, and it's here that natives Guðrun Ludvig and Guðrun Rógvadótti brought together fashion-as-we-know-it with the resources and perspective unique to the eighteen mountainous islands they call home.
Named Gudrun & Gudrun, Ludvig and Rógvadótti's label made its debut this fall with a line of inventive, couture-like knitwear that's as city smart as it is homegrown. Designed by Ludvig, the fuzzy sweaters, skirts, vests, and dresses embody the values and practices of a caring and self-sustaining community rich with imagination and history. As Rógvadótti, the business side of the operation, describes, "The Faroe Islands are very far from any fashion mecca. Therefore inspiration comes from everything but fashion, especially the old myths and the limited materials available."
One material in abundance, however, is wool from the the islands' sheep, whose population of 75,000 considerably outnumbers the 48,000 human residents. Brought hundreds of years ago with the Vikings, the Faroese sheep roam the mountain tops, enduring harsh weather with wool that Rógvadótti says, "has evolved to contain a lot of lanolin, which makes the clothes we make water resistant and self-cleaning." She also adds that the sheep "are cuter than any other sheep, and are quite small with faces full of character."
Noticing the character in all creatures great and small, defines the G&G philosophy and its business relations with the outside world. "It's important for us that our production is ethical," explains Rógvadótti. "Being able to look every knitter on the Faroe Islands in her eyes is natural when the society is very small, and it's natural to extend this to our future knitters from Jordan."
Once employed with the EU, Rógvadótti spent time in Jordan where she learned of the superior knitting skills of the country's women. Since then, she says, "it has been a dream to realize this project of making it possible for some women to earn their own money despite the fact they're unable to take normal jobs outside the home." The Jordianian women will be part of the production of the upcoming spring '08 collection that plays off the dressed/undressed myth of Kraka, a clever and bold figure from Norse mythology who Rógvadótti sees as "a mystic—beautiful and very strong," and whose story reflects not only the aesthetic of the label, but also its integrity and independence.
The seemingly innate resourcefulness of the two partners has quickly built their name and set a string of plans in motion, including a show in the hangar of the Faroe Islands airport scheduled to kick-off Copenhagen's fashion week in February—an event Rógvadótti describes as "the wildest project." She adds, "When fashion isn't coming to you, you have to invent it. And there is a saying we have: Need teaches the naked woman how to spin."
Gudrun & Gudrun's otherworldly new knitwear.