Tórshavn, Stremoy - Faroe Islands
Our second day in the Faroe Islands was a packed schedule. First on our list was a visit to the storefront of Guðrún&Guðrún in downtown Tórshavn. Guðrún&Guðrún specializes in hand-made knitwear. It was founded by Guðrún Ludvig and Guðrún Rogvadottir in 2002. Each piece is hand knit using Faroese wool that is blended with carefully selected yarns from Japan, Iceland, Peru, Greenland & the UK. Guðrún&Guðrún rapidly grew after its jumpers were used as the trademark outfit of the protagonist Sarah Laund of the Danish crime thriller "The Killing". This newfound fame increased demand so much that Guðrún&Guðrún had to expand production out of the Faroe Islands to Jordan & Peru. Initially employing Faroese women who would knit the products from their homes. Guðrún&Guðrún started working with women in Jordan and Peru in a women's empowerment project rather than outsourcing to cheaper manufacturing centres like China. Their goal is to provide "well-paid jobs for women in disadvantaged areas or where women may otherwise not be able to be employed." Guðrún&Guðrún now exports to Japan, the USA, Scandanavia, and the UK where they recently had a pop-up that sold out.
During my visit one of the Guðrún Rogvadottir was on vacation so Guðrún Ludvig played my host and shared her story with me. Like most Faroese people, Guðrún left the islands and continued her education in Denmark. Studying handicrafts and design in Jutland for three years, Guðrún then finished in design school in Copenhagen. After finishing design school she secured a position with renowned Danish designer Sabina Poupinel who became her mentor. Working with Sabina for 5 years, Guðrún decided to move back to the Faroe Islands. This was a brave decision because during the early 90s the Faroe Islands was deep in a recession with most people leaving to seek opportunity abroad. The recession had forced the price of Faroe wool so low that farmers would burn it rather than clean and process it to make yarn. Not exactly the ideal conditions to start a new fashion company focused on wool knitwear. But starting their venture during the leanest of times allowed Guðrún&Guðrún to position itself for growth and expansion when the recession was over and the economy rebounded. Now the Faroe Islands is seeing a resurgence. Where in the past the young people would leave for higher education and get jobs abroad, many are now returning back and starting businesses - diversifying an economy which for a long time has been reliant of fishery.
After our shoot in the storefront, I expressed interest in seeing Guðrún&Guðrún workshop. Luckily for me, they had just moved to a new facility which was in a building adjacent to the store. Guðrún was kind enough to take us around and let me poke my nose into the various store rooms. Rooms filled with enough yarn to keep an army of cats occupied. On the top floor was a workspace where a lot of the design work happens. There were also some conceptual pieces hanging. When I asked about those pieces, Guðrún pulled out a book "The Weather Diaries". It showcased the best established and emerging designers from Scandanavia. Guðrún&Guðrún were among the select few asked to participate in the project which culminated in an art exhibit and installation at the 2014 Frankfurt Fashion Biennale. A proud achievement in their companies history.