An Interview with Heiðrún Osk of Dimmblá

Founded in 2014 by Heidrun Osk, Dimmblá is an Icelandic clothing brand using classic, Icelandic design. She believes in creating beautiful clothes that reflect grace, power and integrity.

Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir, CEO, Dimmblá

Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.

My name is Heidrun and I live in Iceland, an island in the North Atlantic Ocean. I feel a deep connection to Icelandic nature.  One of my favorite things is to spend time with my family surrounded be the Icelandic elements. I feel privileged to live so closely to the raw and pure nature.

I previously worked as a manager for orthopaedic company. I have a master’s degree in international business and marketing. I´m creative and I love new challenges so in 2013 I decided to take the leap with my family’s support to start a company and build a brand. Fashion has always fascinated me, however I had very little experience in the fashion field and that was my biggest challenge. I am very fortunate to have great advisors and to work with experienced fashion designer.

What I value the most is a time with my family and I have three beautiful sons who are one, four and six years old. There is never a dull moment.

How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?

I was shocked to discover how wasteful and harming to the environment manufacturing common fabrics and materials can be. I want my company to have a positive impact on the environment and our goal is to reduce waste. We do that by using sustainable fabrics that are produced from crops requiring none to low level of chemicals to grow, use less water and leave less waste during production.

How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?

I use my education in marketing and business to create a marketing strategy for Dimmblá and I use every opportunity to deliver clear facts about the clothing industry and inspire people to make a difference.

Dimmblà’s Northern lights scarf. photo credit Brandslut

What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?

Sustainable and ethical companies have an opportunity to change the status quo and be dedicated to both environmental and ethical practices throughout their production processes. They can also educate others so consumers can start questioning how the clothes we wear everyday are made and how, and what kind of conditions manufacturers provide to their employees.

Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?

I believe everyone who truly wants to make a difference and are betting against fast fashion is a hero because it is a challenge to change something that has been the path for decades.

What is Dimmblá?

Dimmblá is an Icelandic environmental friendly clothing brand that offers luxurious nature-inspired clothing for the confident woman who cares for the planet. Dimmblá is Icelandic for “deep blue.” Iceland has a lot of blue, from its magical waterfalls to gushing hot springs and glacier lagoons. At Dimmblá, the designs reflect the spectacular and unpredictable mystery that is nature.

What are some of its feature products?

Our designs are created with nature in mind, and inspired by Icelandic landscapes, featuring patterns made of photographs by some of Iceland’s top photographers.

The Glacial Collection is a reflection upon the current effects of climate change on our planet. This collection features photographs by accomplished Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson, more widely known as RAX.

Our scarves are made of handwoven banana fabric. Created in only a handful of places in Southeast Asia, banana fabric comes from the banana stem after a harvest and is processed into a pliable fibre. The weavers had their skills past down from generation of family members and we want to help preserve their heritage and culture. Not only does this fabric look and feel gorgeous this process creates a valuable new resource from what was once burned or buried. The fabric and the prints make our scarves distinctive and stand out, so each piece is unique.

What is your customer base – the demographics?

Our design is for the independent, confident and luxurious woman, who dares to be little different and enjoys self-expression with the desire to remain young and trendy and a need for clothing that fits her changing body shape.

How does Dimmblá differ from other fashion companies in its manufacturing and selling of products?

We are not only designing beautiful clothing but also creating a lifestyle for women who care about the planet and want to feel good what they wear. We want to redefine eco-friendly, ethical fashion by creating luxurious, nature-inspired styles while encouraging more conscientious shopping practices. Our luxurious, nature-inspired eco-friendly fashion brand offers high quality, long-lasting, seasonless design in eco-friendly textiles that use fewer resources and less water. We use certified sourcing partner and support initiatives that increase environmental protection and sustainable development so you can feel good about what you wear.

There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?

We should care for the people who make our clothing and value their experience and expertise. It is crucial to choose a supplier that offers their staff a good environmental condition in the working place, good salaries, paid monthly holiday, no double or nights shifts, provides yearly bonuses and medical insurance. If companies exclude working with factories that do not incorporate human rights than we are one step ahead in making a change in the garment industry.

Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What is the importance of the status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?

There should always be equality wherever you are and human rights should always be valued. On October 24th 1975, 90% of Iceland’s women refused to work, cook or look after children. The question was raised by women’s movements why young men were taking home higher wages than women when their job was no less physically strenuous? The effect was incredible! Women from all walks of life, young and old, grannies and schoolgirls participated. The participation was so widespread because women from all the political parties and unions worked together, and made it happen. Iceland’s men were barely coping.

Not surprisingly this day was later referred to by them as “the long Friday”. Changes do not happen in a day but this is a powerful way of reminding society of the role women play in its running, their low pay, and the low value placed on their work inside and outside the home. Companies can have a large effect by refusing to work with manufacturers that exploit their work force and should make a regular observation. If we accept this as a norm than there will be no changes.

The Geo collection features patterns of photos taken in the highlands of Iceland of lava rocks and geothermal fields. With every piece sold in the GEO collection Dimmbla donates to support establishment of a national park in the central highland of Iceland.

Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, and so on. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights?

I think it is all about equality and balance. Where there is inequality there is imbalance. Shared responsibilities of women and men in all aspects of life is key to the welfare and wellbeing of ourselves and thus our children.

Child labour and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?

By speaking out. Our voices are always they strongest force to create change.

How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?

Choose suppliers carefully and build a good relationship. I prefer to work with small factories and I choose to have transparent process where I show photos from the factory when the clothing is being made so my customers can see the working conditions.

What topics most interest you?

Human impacts on the environment.

Did you have a mentor in this work?

I’m privileged to have a few. I seek those who have the knowledge and the will to share it.

Have you mentored others?

Not really. Knowledge is meant to be shared and I hope to share it to those who seek it.

What are the importance of mentors in the fashion world for professional, and personal, development?

It is of great value to have mentors with experience that can advise and give different aspects on the business.

From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion industry by a vast margin of difference at all levels. Why?

I don’t think gender is relevant to the question. I believe people should choose their vocation by their interest or their passion whether they are male or female.

What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?

I want to make a difference and I want my customers purchase to make a difference.

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

We recently went to the magnificent Nýifoss waterfall and Hagavatn glacial lagoon located at the southern edge of Langjökull glacier to photoshoot Dimmblá’s latest collection. At Hagavatn I signed a contract with Icelandic environmental organizations to donate proceeds from our collection and support Establishment of a National Park in the Central Highland of Iceland. I believe a park in this area is one of our biggest step to protect the nature in Iceland“. Icelandic Hydroelectric Power Ltd wants to construct a 20MW power plant in the area. A power plant at Hagavatn would result in the disappearance of Nýifoss waterfall, located in the river that runs out of the lake, and would involve intervention into the epic land formation processes at Langjökull that can teach us a great deal about this subject in a time of rapid climate changes.

Any recommended means of contacting Dimmblá?

You can contact Dimmblá by e-mail dimmbla@dimmbla.is and follow Dimmblá on social media https://www.facebook.com/Dimmbla/  https://www.instagram.com/dimmbla/

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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