There is no city I would rather have a layover in than Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Sure, I love spending longer than a day in the picturesque island country. You need at least three days to do the fjords, the volcanoes, the glaciers. It takes that long for the locals to get comfortable enough around you to regale you with their personal stories about Bjork and the elves that live under their house.
But if you’ve already done the lagoon, or have an aversion to group bathing, you could also happily shop for about five hours, something I highly recommend.
Trust us. “Oh, I just got this at a little shop in Reykjavik,” is a truly excellent #travelbrag.
Most Americans don’t realize that Reykjavik has an incredibly vibrant fashion scene of traditional and up-and-coming designers that, due to tariffs and large shipping fees, you probably won’t find off of the island. In March, the island celebrated the annual Reykjavik Fashion Festival. Unlike New York, Paris, Milan, and London, Iceland’s high-end fashion in incredibly accessible. If you see it on the runway, you can probably buy it down the street at one of the designer shops in the central district.
One of my favorite shops in the world is Ella at 5 Ingolfsstraeti, a store dedicated to the “Slow Fashion,” movement. That is fancy talk for saying that clothes should be made from high quality materials by serious artisans.
(Photo: Jo Piazza)
Shopping in Ella is an experience in female empowerment. When Elinros Lindal and Katrin Maria Karadottir started Ella, out of a suburban garage, a few years ago they were angry that other fashion brands, in Iceland and the rest of the world, kept telling women they weren’t good enough.
“It was telling them that they weren’t thin enough or young enough and we just kept thinking, ‘hey, women can lead countries. You aren’t going to tell them what to do or what to be,” Lindal told me the last time I visited her store.
Ella makes clothes for real women. The pieces are beautiful and sexy, while still being comfortable and versatile. You can wear them on a date or in a boardroom.
Here are a couple of the things Ella has coming up:
Iceland isn’t nearly as cold as most people think. In fact, a March in Iceland is typically a much warmer month than over here in the Northeastern part of the United States. Still, those Viking descendants know how to do outerwear, particularly at 66°NORTH at 11 Miðhrauni. Named for the latitude of the island, this is North Face before they sold out and went corporate, with well-designed, performance wear at reasonable prices.
When it comes to wool no one beats Farmer’s Market. Their flagship store is at Hólmaslóð 2 in the Fishpacking District.
(Photo: Farmer’s Market)
For clothes with a little more edge check out the brand Ziska, which is carried in boutiques all over town. The head designer, Harpa Einarsdóttir is much more of a multimedia artist than a designer. Known for her mystical art and illustrations, her pieces come alive on the body like few clothes can.
Rey, available at p3 Miðstræti 12, has provided me with several pieces that have quickly become wardrobe staples. The clothes are fun, yet comfortable and never cease to cause someone to ask: Where’d you get that?