From the Spaksmannsspjari collection. All Photos courtesy of Reykjavik Fashion Festival.

Reykjavik, Iceland, is nothing like Detroit, Michigan, but yet the spotlight on young artists that are bringing fresh attention to areas effected by very different economic crisis’ offer inspiring stories in design, fashion, architecture, business, and music as new thinking proliferates.

Detroit’s in the midst of a renaissance as young street artists, musicians, and designers, are moving in and DIYing homes, abandoned churches, and lofts into cool art spaces, collectives, design and music labs that are producing an unprecedented fresh scene. Even brands such as Palladium boots have tapped into this energy with their latest “Detroit Lives” viral video featuring Johnny Knoxville walking through the urban detritus and rediscovering the city with a fresh pair of eyes (and of course new boots).

Mundi Vondi

As we write this, our hearts are heavy with what’s happened in Japan and our friends and colleagues that are reeling from the devastation of something far less predictable than a banking system or car industry malfunction, but a natural disaster of epic proportions. It will be months and probably years before we can determine the effects of all of the various disasters from what’s happened there.
But it’s at such crossroads that hearing an inspirational story of recovery helps, even in the smallest of ways.

Iceland is a small country, and it is one such story. The country’s population at 320,000 is actually much smaller than Detroit and a tiny fraction of Sendai, the northern city in Japan most affected by the tsunami.

However in its isolation and similarly strong connection with nature, Iceland percolates new artists in a disproportionately high rate compared with actual population size. The country continues to produce some of the most prolific new music (beyond Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Gus Gus, including BloodGroup and Sykur) and designers and labels (Andersen & Lauth and Nikita) that bring a sense of other-worldliness and freshness to the fashion scene. They are so affected by nature and light, being 64 degrees north on the Arctic Circle, that the changing colors of the sky, sea, even aurora borealis, combined with such a tightly knit community of people, is a place that breeds new ideas.

Hanna Felting

Perhaps the fact that they are somewhat isolated but only to a certain degree in a globally connected world that this ever changing nature of a country which literally straddles the Eurasian tectonic plate and North American plate captures the spirit of creativity incarnate: They are free, in a sense, to create their own way. As one designer once told me during a story assignment, “We have bubbly feet. We are not tied down from a long history of fashion which gives us the freedom to walk higher and in different directions.”

Vera Thordardottir–known for also capturing the attention of Lady Gaga.

From March 31-April 3 during the Reykjavik Fashion Festival, Iceland will again have its time in the global spotlight but this time based on its creativity coming from Iceland’s top designers. Taking place at the Reykjavik Art Museum and other inspirational locations such as refurbished warehouses around the capital city, there will be various runway shows, music, and other activities such as pop-up shops and showrooms that will highlight 22 of Iceland’s most promising designers.

Among those selected include internationally acclaimed Andersen & Lauth, plus Farmer’s Market, Arora, Thelma, E-Label, Mundi, Royal Extreme, Spaksmannsspjarir, and Vera Thordardottir -whose designs have been worn by Lady Gaga and featured in Chanel’s “Little Black Dress” 85th Anniversary.

Internationally acclaimed Andersen and Lauth.

Finally, the viral video that’s taking tourism by storm created by Iceland has achieved huge praise by a number of agencies as one of the most inspiring videos ever towards attracting people to visit a location. While known for things like the Blue Lagoon hot springs, the video also showcases massive waterfalls, Icelandic horses, adventure trips, urban culture, fashion, traditional dance, and of course amazing scenery. But the people that look like they’re dancing their way across the country border on hilarious and downright engaging. As the agency Access put it, “This video will certainly put all other tourism campaigns to shame.”

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.