With qualified people that have attained success its possible for one to assume that they must be stern, driven, and well, not so friendly to the none-initiated. Not so for the sisters shadow, these two sisters form the outskirts of civilization that is Mosfellsbær (look it up if you don’t believe me) have an effortless aura that puts you at ease as soon as you walk into their five meter high and vast studio space. Initially reluctant to get up from their work, even on a Sunday, we manage to sit them down on a sofa and ask them a few questions about their inspiring label.
Pray tell us, who are you and what do you do?
Edda: She’s Sólveig. Sólveig: And she is Edda and she is a fashion designer and I’m an architect and why are we speaking for each other? (they start laughing in a very easy manner of siblings that know every inch of each others personality). Sorry we’re being idiots, can you cut this out of the interview?
No, we want you in your natural state and habitat. But we are very nearly still drunk from last night! Like I said; In you natural state. Alright, no worries.
How long has the company been running now?
Just over a year, we started up in June 2010, we had our anniversary not long ago, but we were so busy that we missed it. What, you did nothing? Not yet anyway, we will probably open a workspace/birthday celebration soon. You’re invited officially, and you have it documented on that recorder there.
What was the catalyst for starting up Shadow Creatures?
Edda: We had always talked about doing something together, and when Sólveig moved back home in December 2009, the ball started rolling from there. Sólveig: I can´t recall us sitting down an deciding on doing something together, it just happened that way, wouldn’t you say? Edda: It’s true, all of a sudden we just had the company up and running, magic force of life!
Sólveig, you had been studying in Denmark and Edda had you been working in fashion before you two got together?
I had been working on silk printing my own graphic design and pattern-making while in University, which I finished in 2008 but I have been working at this since 2006 roughly. I was a part of the whole hoody madness that swept the nation in 2006/7.
In the Naked Ape?
Yes, I sold sweaters. Sólveig: You made a killing! Edda: True but it was a lot of work to do alongside studying. It must have been nice to have a little extra income? Haha yes, but in my memory I’m not really rich but more overloaded with work and poor on time.
Sólveig, you finished your studies and came home probably not expecting a lot of work to be had?
I moved home because I got a job. I was applying for jobs all over the Nordic countries, one of which was back home and that gave us the chance to start this. The architectural industry is not what you might call interesting today.
With your different skill sets, is there a clear division of who does what?
Edda: In many ways there is, Sólveig is much more technically adaptive than me, with computers and such, whereas I’m more involved with sketching, prototyping and sewing, what I’d call the fun stuff but Sólveig is also left with the finances. Sólveig: Not so much anymore, but that is only natural, we both have our strong points, some of which we brought from our studies and some by birth, that we bring into it from our studies, that helps us quite a bit as we have a broad spectrum of skills.
Does that mean you do everything yourselves?
Sólveig: Most things, we got a graphic designer to do our logo, and everything that needs printing we have done at Letterpress but other than that we do everything ourselves, and yes not the bookkeeping, that is a luxury that we afforded ourselves, we wouldn’t be here if I’d have continued doing that.
Edda: You cant master everything, but while we are building up the company we try to do advertisements and such. But clearly you’d want a professional to do these things for you. Most of the photography we have done for ourselves. Edda: hehe, we sent Sólveig on a photography course and got our cousin Aldís to model for us.
But isn’t that only natural for a startup, you put the reigns fully in their hands?
No no we like to be involved, I don’t think we could just hand a project over to someone and just wait to have it returned to us.
Yes, there were nine of us that started it, but it’s just really a great platform, not only do we all get input from each other, and moral support, dividing the workload. The main factor has to be we share the rent, running a store on your own is something that a small label in Iceland can hardly do, some have tried and have gone bust in quite a short space of time. The customers seem to like it too, having such direct contact with the designer.
I had intended to ask this question a bit later but you sort of brought me onto it, what is the state of the industry now?
The growth is quite rapid. Still? Well… that’s a good question. It did jump post collapse, now we find that the impetus is driven from abroad, for instance a group of people from here just started up a company in Denmark and we find that people are starting up companies and coming to us rather than trying to go at it alone.
What about your own exploits into other markets?
We have been to three showrooms already, two in New York, and then one in Paris. It must be a bit surreal though, going to these places and standing there selling your wares for professional buyers? For one it’s really difficult and tiring, and with the first one we went to we realized quite quickly that this wasn’t our market, we had nothing in common with the other labels there and that the buyers weren’t looking for us. Now on the other hand we have picked showrooms that designers we like have gone to, and we feel more at home in. This we are doing in cooperation with Íslandsstofa (Promote Iceland), through a grant and that is an immeasurable help.
You just won the Coca Cola light prize at the Reykjavík Runway fashion competition.
We feel we got the best prize! Cause we got a cup, we’ve never won anything. What does this prize entail, is there any follow up? Well, Ingibjörg the owner of Reykjavík Runway she is essentially opening up her own PR business where she takes designers under her wing and guides them in going abroad, for instance she will be going for us to New York.
You produce everything abroad?
Yes we did try and have a part of our last collection done here at home but it proved much too costly and we wouldn’t have been able to charge anything close to a regular price for our wares. Edda: The price here was a real shock to us.
Where do you have your clothing produced?
At the moment it’s all produced in India and we are really happy with the service we are getting there, they specialize in organic materials and are a fair-trade company. That is really important to us to have our products certified and eco friendly. Sólveig: Hopefully we will be going over there in February, to meet the people that we have been emailing for more than a year now. You feel you know these people and you’ve never met them, I even dreamt them the other day.
As you say it’s been just more than a year that you have been working with them, without as you say having met them face to face, that must require a high level of trust. Has it all been plain sailing?
Edda: There has been no trouble with this company. Sólveig: The only thing that is worth mentioning is that they might not realize just how expensive it is to ship the product to Iceland. We want them to send us it all in one go, whereas they have in the past sent it in batches when they are ready. You’re sort of going ohh! can we afford it at this time?
I assume the shipping must be almost half of your total expenses?
Sólveig: Sometimes, it’s more than that, we had a shipment come in the other day where the cost of shipping, vat, etc. was 130% more than the actual production cost. Edda: That was a huge shock, I felt like I had beds of pearls of sweat on my forehead as I handed over the card. Sólveig: Its just ridiculous when you think about it.
Are there no tax rebates for Icelandic startups that you could apply for?
Edda: No, well RANNÍS has a rebate in the form of a grant but other than that there is no support being given to Icelandic production companies, which I personally think is stupid. Sólveig: It’s not been made easier at least.
Long term plans?
We have put the mark high, to do the best we can. It would be nice to be able to do this full time, to be fully dedicated to it. Major success would be a nice bonus but not the main aim.
Having just seen your new collection, I’d really like to know where you get your inspirations?
Edda: They are more often than not a spurge of creativity, through visual cues, in pictures or forms and patterns of course, but then you have to add a certain mood and colour. That is the core of it and then it just evolves from that. It’s just a case of bringing out what is in our mind at each time, thankfully we are on the same wave length. Sólveig: Yeah, she will say something and I will finish what she started saying, and so we work ourselves into a frenzy when we’re brainstorming. The collection is heavy on geometric lines. Yes, the female body is naturally soft and curvy and the strictness of the geometric forms of the collection contrast and compliment that at the same time.
Famous last words?
Don’t do drugs, stay in school and study architecture but don’t work at it.
With that odd but useful sentiment, we leave the Creatures to their devices but we will keep a close eye on the work they’ll do in the future, great things to be expected.
Interview: Guðni Rúnar
Photographs: Nanna Dís