IT MAY NOT HAVE the cachet of Italian design or French couture—yet—but the fashion coming from countries such as Iceland, Sweden, and Finland is as fun as Japanese street style, as edgy as the best New York collections, as meaningful as traditional folk costumes, and as committed to sustainable practices as your average Seattleite. Call it the odd man out of the global style scene—or maybe just the godfather to ours, which helps explain why Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum is hosting the first stateside Nordic Fashion Biennale.

From September 30 through November 13, the cultural center will be all but given over to neo-minimalists with a new wave flair: Henrik Vibskov of Denmark and Mundi, the Reykjavik-based artist whose graphic design background informs wacky his-and-her knitwear and textural suits, among them. In rooms adjacent to the museum’s collection of Old World textiles, visitors will encounter conceptual draping techniques and progressive ideas about what a pair of pants needs to do. That juxtaposition is by design; New York–based curator Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir—a visual and performance artist known for collaborating with the musician Björk and for using human hair in her work—dubbed the exhibit “Looking Back to Find Our Future.”

But the show isn’t just about viewing. An opening-weekend symposium gathers eco aesthetes and fashion industry leaders—Diane von Furstenberg creative head Yvan Mispelaere is expected—for two days of discourse on fast trends, slow fashion, and Northern style.

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