18 December 2020

Icelandic Seaweed Innovation

Written by Published in Fashion
Icelandic Seaweed Innovation ©Photo by Charlie Strand

Iceland has utilised green energy for decades, harnessing geothermal power for the nations heating source and generating electricity for the national grid. It will come as no surprise that Iceland has been supporting innovation in sustainable industries long before it became relevant, and the fashion industry is no exception.

The most recent addition to Iceland’s sustainable fashion practice is the use of kelp from the Icelandic ocean, a unique and mysterious organic material unlike anything else natural or man-made. While kelp has been harvested in Iceland for some time for use as a food product and for medicinal and cosmetic uses, Emblamar Studio, founded by artist Katrín Thorvaldsdottir, is focusing on developing kelp as a material in fashion, textiles and art production. 


 As an artist based in Reykjavik Katrín has used seaweed extensively for more than 20 years in her own artwork and commissions for theatre and TV creating scenography and building inventive sets. After 6 years as a mask-maker in Spain, Katrín returned to her homeland of Iceland full of ideas and inspiration, and looked for a unique and exciting new way to work. She had been inspired by the ocean and nature in general all her life, and along with her deep admiration for Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson and Rachel Carson, two key environmentalists that shaped her outlook, she was naturally drawn to the potential of kelp. 


She has experimented and tested ways of working with and preserving kelp and found it to be the perfect answer for a sustainable and intriguing material and set about making all manor of artworks from it, from masks and puppets to more abstract forms. After 20 years of working with this material and gaining a strong insight into its’ qualities she set about launching a studio to not only evolve her own art work with kelp but also to team up with others who shared a love of nature and could offer their own vision of innovative uses for it.


This wonderful unique material is so interesting to work with and so abundant, so over time I’ve developed ways to work with it, understanding it’s properties and how it behaves when you preserve it. It was a logical progression to establish the studio and collaborate with like-minded creatives to explore the possibilities it can provide in fashion and textile design. 


Helping shape the vision of the studio is Creative Director Charlie Strand, who began his career in fashion in the late 90’s working for Katherine Hamnett, herself one of the most prominent figures in sustainable fashion. In the early 2000’s Charlie began working as a fashion stylist and a photographer and eventually combined this editorial approach with his love of project management working as a Creative Director on special projects.

“My love for nature and the environment has always been present on a creative level - through my use of natural landscapes in my fashion shoots, but it’s in my work with Katrín and Emblamar Studio that I am most alive, working with a wild organic and completely mysterious force of nature - the Kelp. As well as being mesmerised by its’ otherworldly charm I appreciate the benefits of promoting it as a material and being a part of something sustainable gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. I  have always appreciated the power of collaboration and Emblamar Studio takes that to a whole new level which is refreshing and exciting.”


 The latest project from Emblamar Studio is a collaboration with two fashion designers, Polosophia and Susan Sainsbury, to take classic menswear pieces such as jeans and bomber jackets, and add detailing made from seaweed. The result is a showcase of practical and stylish functions for seaweed that add sophistication to otherwise simple pieces. 


Emblamar wanted to show the seaweed in a way that was eye-catching and exotic but also to demonstrate practical applications for the material.  The results of this project are presented in a unique photoshoot shot on location by the old harbour area in Reykjavik, presented exclusively for Sublime.

The studio is currently working on a number of collaborations with a variety of creatives from different fields, and has an exhibition planned for summer 2021to showcase these projects and other oceanic influenced art. 


Find out more about Emblamar StudioPolosophia and Susan Sainsbury

Photographer - Charlie Strand 
Photography assistance - Ari Olafsson
Retouching - Magnus Andersen
Model - Danival


©Sublime Magazine. All rights reserved.