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Faroe Away

Designers from the Faroe Islands are stitching up a storm with adventurous designs whilst maintaining sustainable ethics.

Trying to make interesting fashion whilst sticking to the guidelines for sustainability is an arduous task. But the girls in the Faroe Islands are doing just that, with crayon coloured knits by Jóhanna av Steinum and doubled-up symmetrical leather pieces from Barbara í Gongini. Elsewhere, Guðrun & Guðrun and the Sirri label use only home-farmed Faroese wool from sheep that live in the surrounding mountains feeding off unfertilised grass. Focusing on sustainability and traditional ethics, much of Guðrun & Guðrun's collection is also handmade by Faroese and Jordanian women in the North Atlantic.

Showing in the UK for the first time, the Digitaria showroom in Soho will be showcasing designs by Faroese designers such as Barbara í Gongini, Guðrun & Guðrun, Elisa Heinesen, Malan av Lofti, SoulMade, Sirri, and Jóhanna av Steinum. Dazed spoke to a few of the designers to understand the design processes...

Dazed Digital: What are the difficulties faced being a designer today?
Barbara í Gongini: I think buyers are very conscious these days and less willing to buy whole collections. They pick out things like accessories, and of course it is also price-dependent. But I think they are looking for more adventurous clothing too.

DD: Do you think it's a common opinion that ethical fashion is often boring and very basic?
Barbara í Gongini: In general yes, but there is a point to that... The textiles are still behind, the time it takes to organise Fair Trade suppliers, it's all very restrictive.

DD: So is it a burden to use ethical / sustainable production?
Barbara í Gongini: Sometimes, yes but it's worth it- For example what we did was worked with some industrial plastic then poured salt onto it so that it would become bio-degradeable, but we also have transportation issues, such as importing materials from Asia. The fabrics produced in Japan are a lot nicer and flying them in costs us more and adds to the pollution, so it is not all sustainable, it's very difficult to make sure every aspect is environmentally friendly.

DD: What inspired your collection?
Barbara í Gongini: It was about conceptual squares and shapes, see if you put this bag together and or open it out, it is the same on both sides and can be worn however you wish. it plays with symmetrical shapes and ideals.

DD: You have some very interesting shoe designs, how were they made?
Barbara í Gongini: Well we actually just took some old shoes, cut them up and painted them to reconstruct them!

Dazed Digital: What type of wool are you using for your knitted collection?
Jóhanna av Steinum: It's a wool blend from the Falklands and also a mixture of Faroese wool, which was used entirely on its own for the Sirri label which I also design for.

DD: Why did you decide to use this type of wool?
Jóhanna av Steinum: The wool mix is a lot softer, but Sirri prides itself on producing the wool from scratch from their own farms and knitting it all together. It's a very resourceful way of producing materials.

DD: What do you expect next? 
Jóhanna av Steinum: Well I only graduated from Central St Martins two years ago and here I am- so everything's all happened pretty fast, who knows!