I wasn't able to attend Hönnunarmars / DesignMarch this year so I was elated to see the charming Arctic Sun Hat in Brooklyn last month. I found it on display at BÚĐIN, a Nordic themed cafe. I'd heard that this humble hat designed by knitwear design collective Vík Prjónsdóttir had taken Reykjavik Grapevine's Product of the Year title, and it was a treat to see it in person. Their work is all over Iceland (and on sale at BÚĐIN), loved by tourists and locals alike. Their atelier is a lean one, comprised of three main product designers, all women (meet them here), which is why their name is roughly translated as "knitting daughters of the inlet (in this case, capital city Reykjavik)."
Their palette is fresh and bright but not eye-searing. There is always a grounding neutral nearby. It seems borrowed from the cityscape of corrugated steel homes with colorful roofs. They've traditionally worked exclusively with Icelandic wool using Icelandic knitting mills to produce their collectible products, but the Arctic Sun hat marks a departure from that model. The hats are made with 100% Yorkshire lambswool, the decidedly soft first shearing of a sheep's life. The knitting was outsourced as well, which left me wondering how Iceland factored into this piece.
As I read more, I found that the simplicity of the design was deceptive. Basic ribbing and color blocking actually holds a story about the extremities of Icelandic light throughout the year. Colors represent months, the first batch of four inspired by May, June, July and August. I find the August color way (shown above) particularly interesting. At 66˚ above the equator, Iceland enjoys "endless sun" in the summer. It never gets entirely dark, but the sun dips low on the horizon around 3 a.m. The complex gradations seen at that dusky time are distilled down to three shades here, but the feeling of that strange bright night comes through clearly. The Arctic Sun Hat is a welcome reminder that simplicity can speak volumes.