It was Norwegians who coined the term friluftsliv—“open air living”—but it’s an Icelandic-British duo who have perfected the creation of garments for this type of lifestyle. Arnar Már Jónsson and Luke Stevens’s clothes are made rugged enough to withstand the elements, but stylish enough to blend seamlessly into the closets of people who can’t even pronounce friluftsliv, let alone stand the idea of trekking into the wilderness. The pair don’t recoil at the idea of their gorpcore pieces finding homes in urban settings, but rather are finding increasingly beautiful ways to further incorporate organic materials into their work, bringing the wonders of the natural world into the wardrobes of subway-riders and Uber-takers everywhere.
Their latest development is a new dyeing technique that was partially funded by a grant from the Icelandic government. The pair are using beitilyng—that’s Icelandic for heather, the flowering plant—to naturally dye their pieces a beige-y shade of gray. They’ve also picked up on iron and black tea dyeing, which results in a stony blue color that’s splashed across new hand-waxed denim pieces. These processes can be grueling. Heather only flowers once a year in Iceland, and once the plant is picked the fabrics are dyed with help from a professional and then shipped to the United Kingdom (Brexit tariffs and delays notwithstanding), where Stevens manages the production and hand waxes each himself. In total, one garment can take as long as 14 days to produce. “We wanted to give these techniques a little exposure, use nature, and really show our process,” says Jónsson, explaining that garments will come with small brochures explaining the extreme craft that has gone into each piece.
As if the materials aren’t impressive enough there’s also the matter of Jónsson and Stevens’s attention to silhouette and purpose. Many of their coats and shells are now reversible, made from ripstop organic Ventile or waterproof technical wools with wadded linings. Colors are intentionally neutral, inspired by the rawness of Scandi furniture designers Borge Mogensen and Gunnar H. Guðmundsson. The side effect is that these garments become seasonless and timeless in addition to being useful. In an age where everything is questioned in fashion, this is surely one major key to success.