Faroe Islands knitwear label Gudrun & Gudrun arrives in Redchurch Street with a spare but evocative pop-up, bringing its compelling handmade eco-luxe into Shoreditch. For those of you who need an introduction, five words: Sarah Lund from The Killing. The detective series’ redoubtable heroine solved cases in a selection of Gudrun & Gudrun jumpers, most notably in a modern take on the traditional Faroese fisherman’s star-motif. In doing so, Lund and her knitwear introduced a pioneering eco-luxe label to the world.
Guðrun & Guðrun was founded in 2002 by Gudrun Rogvadottir and designer Gudrun Ludvig. Faroe Islands born and bred, they returned from overseas to find their homeland sorely changed.
‘There was a financial crisis,’ says Ludvig. ‘And they were burning the wool on the mountains because everything we imported was more interesting. It broke my heart. There’s a strong knitting tradition in the Faroe Islands and, if no one takes care of that, we will lose it.’
Ludvig and Rogvadottir decided to create something that used traditional fibres but could be sold overseas. ‘We started from scratch, isolating it from the fashion meccas. Then we took part in an exhibition at Copenhagen Fashion Week. I saw all the trendy labels and I said, let’s go home.’
But the exhibition was a turning point for the brand. ‘It was the most important thing that happened to us,’ admits Ludvig. ‘People came to the stand and loved what we did. They could see the techniques, the combinations of yarns to find a balance in dryness and softness. We were on the front page of the newspaper, mentioned in an avant garde way.’
In retrospect, perhaps it was not so surprising. The movement away from mass-produced and faceless fashion to the traditional and the unique is slow but certain and, The Killing aside, Gudrun & Gudrun are part of that. The clothes – slightly bulky but with intricate ‘lace’ effects and familiar motifs – are handmade with 100% untreated, undyed wool. Designs are inspired by home and abroad – the streets of foreign cities, to where the Gudruns travel to promote the label, a Faroese sunrise, the history of the islands themselves.
‘I work with the old people,’ says Ludvig of her Faroese knitters. ‘They tell me stories from the old days about how important the wool was. Each village had their own patterns. When their husbands came back after a year on the ships, before the women could see the faces on the boats, they could see the patterns and knew who was from their village.’
The brand also runs women’s projects in Jordan and Peru: ‘I’ve always believed in women helping women and, in these communities, if you earn your own money, you are more free,’ says Ludwig. ‘The women’s project in Jordan, they say “we really need your work” so we feel a responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I want to be so big but I’d like to spread the word about our label: that it’s handcrafted but in a new way.’
The wild beauty of the Islands are worked into every stitch. ‘I love being on Faroe Islands because of the silence. I travel to Tokyo or New York – which is a huge contrast after living in a country with only 50,000 people. I love the clash between those worlds. I see so many things and, after a week, I go home and put everything in a box and start to create. And nobody disturbs me.’
Till December, 30a Redchurch Street. The store offers menswear, womenswear, kidswear and accessories from AW15 collection. Prices range from £225 to £437 for knitwear.