Thelma Björnsdottir: “My time at IFA Paris was very precious and rewarding!”
The super creative Icelandic fashion designer Thelma Björnsdóttir graduated from IFA Paris in 2015 and that same year she won the 3rd edition of Pulp Fashion Week. 2018 sounds more promising than ever for her.
Michel Temman: Could you tell us more about yourself in a few words? And about your native country, Iceland? What was your childhood and adolescence like and how did you become interested in fashion design?
Thelma Björnsdottir: I grew up in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. It is a very small country: the entire population is the size of a small French town. Icelandic people are passionate and friendly. We are adventurous and curious by nature, but we also really cherish comfort and our family and friends are very important to us.
Design by Thelma Björnsdottir
I grew up in one of the suburbs of Reykjavík and I had a very carefree childhood. That is one of the beauties of Iceland, children have a lot of freedom to play and explore since the country is considered very safe. From a very early age, I was drawn to creativity and I started drawing clothes maybe from the age of 7, mostly princess dresses and fantasy costumes. I was very passionate about theatre while growing up and still am, and I always planned on studying drama. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started experimenting with sewing. My mother is very talented at sewing and she guided me through my first dress. So, after college I decided to study what is called Clothing Technology, which is the foundation for tailor-making. There I studied pattern making, drawing, art history and so much more. It was very educational but it also gave me a clear view that my passion was truly in the creative process and design. After those studies I made the decision to go into fashion design. My choice to go to Paris was strongly related to a gut feeling I had during my first trip there when I was 18. I had the overwhelming feeling that I was supposed to live there, something that I had never felt in any of my trips abroad. My time in Paris was really wonderful, scary, educational and I matured in so many ways.
M.T.: Today you’re a rising fashion designer. Your creations are seen as extremely fluid. You won the prize “Young Creator” of the third edition of Pulp Fashion Week in 2015. Did this prize change a lots of things for you and if yes, how?
Thelma Björnsdottir: Winning the “Young Creator” award was a very fun and educational experience for me. It gave me the chance to participate in Pulp Fashion Week, both the salon and several fashion shows over a period of two days. It was hard work but so rewarding. I met a lot of people catering to the industry for plus size fashion and the positive feedback I got from people, both visitors and fellow professionals was a really big motivation for me to continue on with my brand work. It showed me that there is an open space in the market for my vision and creation.
M.T.: What about your most recent works? What are your main sources of inspirations? You’re known to work with lots of natural elements and to be inspired a lot by nature…
Thelma Björnsdottir: There is something so captivating about the intricacies of our nature that I am always drawn to that for inspiration. Just the other day I was walking and I stumbled upon a small wooden shed. The wood was really weathered to the point where the texture of the wood was like a rainbow of different hues of brown, red and black. I really got inspired and I have a feeling I will explore that more for future works for me. Other things that give me inspiration are architecture and all kinds of works of art, like paintings and sculptures. My favourite sculptor is Ásmundur Sveinsson. There is a museum dedicated to him in Reykjavík. The building used to be his house and workspace. Not only is its architecture quite unique, it is also surrounded by his sculptures. My favourite sculptures are probably War and Flight (1943) and Mother Earth (1936).
Sculpture by Ásmundur Sveinsson
M.T.: And may I know which your favourite fashion designers are? I already know that you like Alexander McQueen, right?
Thelma Björnsdottir: Yes, to me McQueen was absolutely magical. His play with shapes, details and fantasy always made his runways the most interesting. His collection from the Spring 2010 Plato’s Atlantis is my all time favourite runway show, the prints are indescribable and the silhouettes are so creative and inspiring. Other creators that inspire me are Iris Van Herpen, Balmain, Viktor and Rolf, Hussein Chalayan, Dior, Christopher Kane and Yohji Yamamoto. All for different reasons but the common denominators are the freedom of creativity and exploration.
M.T.: May I ask how your studies at IFA Paris were valuable? What did you study at IFA Paris that was totally new?
Design by Thelma Björnsdottir
Thelma Björnsdottir: My time at IFA Paris was precious and very rewarding. During my Bachelor studies we were taught to make our own prints and that was one of the criterias for our final collections. That experience was very eye opening to me. I have continued my experimentation with making my own prints and it is something I intend to use for my own brand in the future. I also cherish how open the school was to me making a plus size collection during my Master studies. They did everything they could to facilitate my needs during my process and in collaboration with myself and my contact, Pulp Fashion Week’s – now called The French Diversity Fashion Week – founder Blanche Kazi, we managed to find models for my fittings and the fashion show. I always thought the school’s involvement with the students was very personal and thoughtful. I had a big variety of different classes and it was nice not to get stuck in one mould. It was interesting to get an insight into different areas of fashion such as fashion journalism, trend research and marketing. Seeing something from many angles really helps you to gain a better understanding of it. I graduated from the Master of Arts in Contemporary Fashion Design in 2015 after receiving a half scholarship to do the program.
I finished my Bachelor degree at IFA Paris as well, so I have very strong connection to it. Since my graduation I have been working towards launching my own brand, Thelma Bjorns, which is intended to be a body positive brand, meaning that it will have a wide size range and always strive to send out a positive message to women about their bodies and how it relates to fashion. We will be focusing on giving women stylish and chic, urban clothing with interesting details. My plan is to begin selling online this year.
M.T.: What are your new and next projects for this year and possibly 2019?
Thelma Björnsdottir: My focus today and for the year 2018 is to finally launch my website (link below) and start selling my designs. I have been getting my designs ready for production as well as figuring out my brand strategy and image. This year I will need to raise some funding to get the production done and I plan on doing it though crowdsourcing. I think it is such a beautiful concept that the masses can help small companies with big dreams get one step closer to realizing them and I want to connect with my future customers. If all goes well with the launch of my webstore, my coming years will be filled with inspiration boards, fabric selections, silhouette creations and all the great stuff that designers have the privilege of doing every single day. I just want to be inspired by what I do and hope that people will feel inspired wearing my designs. I encourage everyone who is interested to follow up on my brand launch and to subscribe to my newsletter on my website or follow me on my Facebook page!