JÃ?R by Guðmundur Jörundsson

The Icelandic Fashion scene is a small one—there are only eight designers showing at the fifth annual Reykjavik Fashion Festival this weekend—but it is not without its wunderkinds. Twenty-six-year-old Guðmundur Jörundsson is a good example. Although Jörundsson’s label JÖR is less than two years old, and will debut its third-ever collection on Saturday, nothing about it feels nascent. The label’s aesthetic is confident and definitive; a tenebrous take on menswear tailoring that extends across both genders and finds its anchor in fitted, sleek black jackets that fall somewhere between a tuxedo and a trenchcoat. Walk around the JÖR boutique or atelier in downtown Reykjavik, and you will see a well-organized business with 20 employees.

AGE: 26

HOMETOWN:  Reykjavik, Iceland

FAMILY BACKGROUND: My father is a philosopher, but my brother is in a band called Retro Stefson—a famous Icelandic band—and my sister is running a gallery, so we’re all in the [creative] scene. My dad, of course, had rules and opinions of how to behave, but it was a very free-minded and open upbringing. I was never pushed into doing anything, so all my interests just came from me.

WHEN I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD…: I wanted to be Santa Claus, or something like that. Was I into fashion as a child or teenager? No, not at all. I don’t really know how it happened. I was a college dropout, and I got into the Art Academy and started working.  

ENTERING THE FASHION WORLD: I decided I wanted to be a designer probably eight years ago. I graduated in 2011 from the Icelandic University of Arts and started designing for another menswear company called Kormákur & Skjöldur. I started working for them along with going to school, so I was right into it when I graduated. They had a store [Herrafataverzlun Kormákur & Skjöldur], and I started their brand with them and showed at the Fashion Festival here about three years ago for them. Then, 18 months ago, we started JÖR. Our first collection was only menswear, then the second collection a year ago we launched the womenswear.

My origin is basically tailoring and classic menswear. I was looking a lot at McQueen, and that was very inspiring. Kormákur & Skjöldur used to be a vintage shop to begin with, and I was there in the first years around all these second-hand Savile Row suits.

THE JÖR AESTHETIC: The menswear and womenswear are one collection. It’s very menswear-inspired, of course, the womenswear, so it works very well together. We’re mostly looking at and working with menswear details.  It’s hard to know the difference between the mens and womens; you could say the [Jör] man is a little softer and the woman is kind of tough. That’s my look—it blends together; it’s kind of unisex. Do I think fashion is moving more towards unisex? Yeah, I think so. But then it will probably change again. But I always liked power-dressing for a woman, and tailored stuff, rather than the soft stuff.

STARTING A COLLECTION: Usually, I do research and create a world. I don’t get design block; it’s more a research block. For me, research is the most vital part of the process. When the research is good, the collection will be good.

BEHIND THE NEW FALL/WINTER 2014 COLLECTION: The first of it was looking at Royal stuff and costumes, but not making it too costume-y, and giving it this goth-heroine look. Then it was very detail-focused and structured tailoring. We used loads of different methods—it’s a pretty complicated collection—screen-printing, bleaching, a lot of fabrics. [For inspiration], I watched my favorite episodes of Brideshead Revisited (1981) a lot. It was kind of weird that I went this way. I was obsessed with costume stuff when I was starting to think about fashion, and I didn’t really think I would go back to it because I was kind of tired of it. All of a sudden, I wanted to go there and mix it with interesting stuff—that’s why we have the bleaching part, the goth-heroine look to it.

FAVORITE FALL/WINTER 2014 PIECE: I was just trying on these golden pants. They must be my favorite piece at this moment. I have a gold fetish. I was definitely listening to Prince when I made those gold trousers.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT: I’m really interested in Sigga Maija; it’s her debut collection [at RFF on Saturday] and she’s very, very talented. And Magnea, we sell her collection in our store. Sigga was here when you visited; she works a lot with us, and we graduated together. It’s a small scene, and the only way to go for a small scene is to help each other out. The Iceland music scene, which is probably one of the best music scenes in the world, I think the reason why it’s so good is because everyone is helping each other out.

ADVICE TO NEW DESIGNERS: Do not micro-manage. I try to outsource everything, that’s the only way. This company is running now—20 people are working. That’s probably the best advice I can give. 

THE FUTURE: I’ll stay in the fashion industry. I love it, but I also like starting a brand—building something up. That’s my drive. It’s hard, but you’re always doing something different. Now, all of a sudden, this company is big. Millions of people are working here. Originally it was just me and the co-founder—he’s a lawyer, so he’s the business guy. Then slowly we added people, were building up the studio. Now it feels like it is working perfectly, the functioning of it.