Gudrun Ludvig and Gudrun Rógvadóttir are the pals who share the same name gone design duo, behind the brand Gudrun & Gudrun.
Made from 100% natural wool that remains untreated and undyed, Gudrun & Gudrun produce handmade knitwear that carries both style and a conscience.
The two women hail from a sparsely populated group of tiny islands in the North Atlanic, between Iceland and Norway – the Faroe Islands – often forgotten on world maps. It is due to this that producing garments that owe something to their unique, isolated culture is important.
Their Autumn/Winter 12 collection ranges from cosy Nordic jumpers and cardigans to heavily textured, loose hole knit dresses, all in a soft palette of subdued, earthy hues. There is a subtle punch of girl power knitted into the collection, with it being crucial to two women’s’ design ethic that their garments are all handmade by Faroese and Jordanian women, as a means of generating the workers an independent and flexible source of income.
Oh – and you might also recognise Gudrun & Gudrun’s jumpers as seen on the Danish version of TV series The Killing. Seen throughout the series worn as a wardrobe staple of detective Sarah Lund, played by actress Sofie Gråbøl, the knitwear became a cult phenomenon. No big deal.
Anna Westerman caught up with Gudrun Rógvadóttir to talk threads and eco concern…
FLUX: What did you initially want to create with Gudrun & Gudrun?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: It all started with big fires all over the Faroe Islands in the time of shearing. As Faroese, we have always learned that we have to respect the scarce and natural resources we have, so my heart was bleeding seeing wool being burned as there was no market for it. I thought that something had to be done about this. I contacted Guðrun Ludvig – a Faroese designer returned to the islands after study and work abroad. This was in 2000. We created the first collection and sold first lamb-skin jackets to the Faroese market – and then joined the first fashion fair in Copenhagen in 2002. Guðrun Ludvig had been working with some hand knits so for filling up the booth we brought some of the hand-knitted pieces with us. This made the path for the company.
FLUX: How have your individual backgrounds shaped you into the designers you are today and design route you have chosen with the brand?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: We are both Faroese and that’s at the heart of it. Gudrun Ludvig is the designer while I have a completely different back-ground. I have a master in Political Science and I worked with EU programmes in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Before it was considered “cool” to do so, we knew that sustainability, CSR and the very best quality was essential for us. The goal from day one was only to be sold in the very best speciality stores and department stores all over the world.
FLUX: Where do you typically draw your inspiration and influences from when it comes to design?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: We have a saying “need teaches the naked woman how to spin”. There is very little fashion on the Faroe Islands so the inspiration comes from daily life, the light on the islands, the colours given by nature to the Faroese wool and thereby yarn… The designer is able to capture small details of a bigger picture. Those small moments are stored in her brain and come out as amazing designs.
FLUX: You work solely with untreated, natural wool. How important is this means of championing eco friendly fashion to you as a designer? Do you think designers in particular should be more attentive to lowering their carbon footprint in the current climate?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: We didn’t actually start our company because we found this our mission, this is just the way we want to work and those are the materials we would like to wear. Nature is king and we can only be humble to what we can get from it, so why make things more complicated when going back to basics gives you the most wonderful materials? More and more companies do try to lower their foot-prints but we would wish that as much effort was spent on trying to lower damage when producing rather that spending the energy on telling about a limited edition that is sustainable. Sustainability should be the base of a company’s ethics, not just a marketing trick.
FLUX: I’ve read your knitwear is said touch on the empowerment of women. How important is this issue to you on a personal level and how do you think the message conveys through your clothing and voice as designers?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: I knew people in Jordan from my time in consultancy and I knew that it was difficult for the women to have normal jobs outside their homes as the have a big role in the family still. We started our own very simple project where knitters could earn money from day one and receive training in how to do a micro business. Holding work shops with those women and shearing thoughts and daily life is very giving for us – and we do know the face of every single knitter.
FLUX: Your garments are all spun and knit by hand by Faroese and Jordanian women. Do you think it is important to have this added touch and dimension to your brand in today’s market rather than just offering mass consumer, and often easily disposable, fashion?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: We are humble to the consumer and we do believe that the consumer of today requires more that just clothes to keep her warm. Good design, Sustainability, natural materials, decent working conditions etc will be a must for high end clothing. Our collections are time-less and the clothes can be used for years. One of the most popular models – the snowflake sweater – is now seen a lot with a patch on the elbows as they have been used for years. We LOVE to see that.
FLUX: How do you want to change people’s perceptions of handmade knitwear?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: We want to prove that knit is not only cosy and heavy but can also be light and feminine. The timelessness of the pieces is important too. Very often the sweaters will become a part of you, like a piece of furniture you love or a perfume you always come back to using.
FLUX: And finally, plans for the future?
Gudrun Rógvadóttir: In 5 years we hope to have own retail shops in some of the big cities. We have many more women empowerment projects around the world producing for us and we have grown into a much bigger company that can make our country and kids proud of us – and leaving more resources to start even more projects for women that not as us are born in parts of the world where all opportunities are open. This was my original mission for studying international politics.
Browse Gudrun & Gudrun for yourself at www.gudrungudrun.com
Words by Anna Westerman