DESIGNER INTERVIEW: Katla – Volcano Icelandic Design
I’m always happy to see initiatives which support body diversity- especially in the fashion industry. It’s a sad but very true fact that thousands, if not millions, struggle with body image issues, and these burdens are only heightened by the ways in which our television screens, magazines, and advertisements depict beauty.
Many designers have been hoping on the diversity trend, promoting healthy bodies in all shapes and sizes, with several others banning the use of Photoshop to digitally alter their models. This celebration of the natural human body is a practice in the acceptance and love of ourselves, and of one another. I can only hope that this movement continues to grow and gain further support.
Volcano Designs, based in Iceland, was founded with these ideals. Katla Hreiðarsdóttir, creator and designer of Volcano Designs, carries this foundation throughout the conception of her collections. With Volcano’s unique, flattering garments and uplifting mission, it’s no wonder that they have experience such a huge success. I had the chance to catch up with Katla to hear more about her inspirations, the Icelandic fashion industry, and why it is that she loves doing what she does.
Venturing into the fashion design industry can be quite challenging. What motivated you to take a leap of faith and turn your passion into a living?
I was studying interior design in Barcelona and worked in this field in 2007. Then, the summer of 2008 came and Iceland, as well as many other countries, went into a recession, so for the summer vacation I couldn’t get a job that would suit my studies. I had an old dream of becoming a fashion designer (back in my college years), and I thought “well I could borrow my mother’s sewing machine, and my grandmother’s overlock for one summer and try or work as a store clerk or something, so why the hell not”?! So I gave it a try, and that was exactly what it was supposed to be; a fun experiment, just for the heck of it really! We fit the market quite well, so I went back to Barcelona to finish my last semester of interior design and ended my stay in Barce with very full bags of fabric!
It just happened… 😉
What is the fashion industry like in Iceland? Do you think that your location made it easier, or more difficult to enter the industry?
Well in the beginning, Volcano was just supposed to be for the Icelandic market, I didn’t think of it going any further. The market in Iceland is quite out there. The designers are strong and many make quite a good living for themselves and the fashion is very “now”. But manufacturing in Iceland only opens us to the Icelandic market. So, venturing into the foreign market is very difficult for us. Living on an island means the step to the foreign market is huge! It has been all about baby business steps until now. We can manage the online shop, and we have started expanding slowly to Greenland. We have unfortunately had to say no to many other stores for the time being until we start producing our whole, or part of our collection, abroad.
What are some of the struggles that you have faced being a fashion designer?
Well couple of times a year I get an “idea block” as I like to call it, and I feel so sorry for the people around me then- especially my colleagues and my girlfriend! I am a total pain in the butt at these times; everything is horrible and I am horrible and the food and the atmosphere and life is horrible. As soon as the block goes away I am just as annoying. EVERYTHING is fabulous and I am so happy and hyper! But they know me quite well by now, poor guys, they know how to act :).
What is most rewarding about your job?
Happy customers! Without a doubt! I love when customers tell me that my garments have made them feel more confident. It is also very rewarding when clients compliment my hard-working staff. It is a fabulous thing to experience and it makes me so proud! Oh and of course when I’m bursting with ideas…that is super fun!! Well, for me at least 😉
Where do you draw inspiration from when designing your pieces?
That’s a huge question! Well, many times I design pieces that I “need”! Many of my best designs are born under pressure when I’m missing something from my wardrobe. Like when I am going out that same evening and I have “NOTHING” to wear!
I’m also a TV and a movie freak, and I draw inspiration from shows and movies, nature,online blogs, Pinterest, etc. I am aware of fashion trends and need to stay on top of that, and I mix them with my own style. I also get ideas from fabrics: after I see samples the ideas normally come in full force.
Your website mentions that Volcano garments create a feeling of “safety and confidence”. What do you mean by safety?
I believe that when women feel secure and safe they feel more confident, sexy and beautiful!
Wearing something that gives you the feeling of “safety” comes from comfort, well- fitting clothes, forgiving patterns and figure hugging items, quality fabrics and confident yet not too “out-there” pieces.
Volcano clearly sets forth an image of body positivity aimed at women. Do you believe that fashion plays an important role in how women view and accept their bodies?
Yes! I believe that every woman should be able to dress in comfortable and forgiving clothing. Everybody should be able to find pieces that fit well and scream confidence: whether by showing cleavage and long legs or by supporting the tummy area and putting emphasis on a beautiful neckline, for example .
Does your brand cater to women of all shapes and sizes?
We try to provide options for all shapes and sizes: in my designs I mainly try to put focus on parts that make the woman feel sexy, good and confident. I mainly design pieces that emphasize the female figure: lovely necklines, different patterns, shapes and details. I love asymmetrical lines because they are forgiving and feminine. I like V-necklines, overlaps, quarter sleeves, high and supportive waists, draping and layering, askew details and “face framing” collars. Something for everybody 😉
I try to design for the every woman. That includes skinny to curvier ladies and all in between and outside that box. This is a tall order, but we focus on the every woman. I am considered a size Large in other stores, but my size is a Small in my own store, mainly because I have the liberty to control that, but also because I don’t see myself as a Large. I am healthy, young woman and I am curvy. I get to be a Small in my store and I am proud of it! (Plus we don’t produce a size Large. We’ve got XM: Extra Medium 😉
How do you test your fashion designs to ensure that they are flattering and forgiving?
Being a curvy woman myself, I am my own tester. My staff is a great as well as my clientèle. And I am getting to know them quite well and learning what they want. I do test their limits sometimes with “out-there” fabrics and some bold pieces (for example, rose printed quilt pants and a matching sweater!). They always seem to embrace new styles! I also try to listen to requests, from clients, staff and honest friends and family members. I consider my job to be a fun mix of all sorts of influences and trial and error is part of it.
Do you have any tips for young designers, on the edge of breaking into the fashion design industry?
Just go for it and try! What is the worst thing that could happen? Take secure steps, don’t try to eat the world all at once, find your own voice (I am still finding mine). Be open to suggestions but be confident with your own beliefs because if you don’t buy into yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to!
And finally, what is your favourite TÉLIO fabric at the moment?
At the moment I am really feeling the quilt fabrics. The tree fabric dress (made with TÉLIO’S Brazil Knit Print, style 34707) has also been selling like hotcakes. I have been using this print for many of my items.
I am also seeing some really interesting fabrics for spring: Dahlia Embroidery, Silk Tulle and Birkin Shine.
Lastly I am LOVING Casino Royal and recently had a serious “MUST HAVE THIS JUST MINUTES BEFORE CHRISTMAS” kind of a moment. My seamstresses aren’t exactly in love with me at the moment, but they will forgive me as soon as the dresses are made. They will be so beautiful!!!
Like what you see? Make sure to check out the rest of Volcano’s collection!