The weather was calm, a fell-wind blew by night, a sea breeze by day. One evening Egil sailed out to sea, but the fishermen were then rowing in to land, those, to wit, who had been set as spies on Egil’s movements. They had this to tell, that Egil had put out and sailed to sea, and was gone.
One of Iceland’s most famous sagas chronicles the life of Egil Skallagrimsson, a Viking farmer and poet, and his journey from the country’s western coast to England and Europe. Over a thousand years later, Hedi Jonsdottir has charted a similar course. The Reykjavik native studied in Vienna and lived in Barcelona, before moving to London and starting her own handbag label, Daughter of Jon.
Many of Hedi’s designs feature fish leather, a waste product from fish factories, used long ago by Icelandic fishermen to make shoes. The tradition had been all but forgotten until recently—I saw some strips of the stuff in a shop in Reykjavik a few years ago and was wowed by the bright colours, striking patterns, and its soft, supple feel.
The collection is influenced by the places Hedi has lived. “I blend bits from all these places in my designs,” she says. “The raw elements of Iceland, the flair of Vienna, the playfulness and colour of Barcelona’s street life.” And the manufacturing doesn’t stray far from these places either, with one-third of the range made in London and the rest in Spain. “It’s important for me to know where the products are made,” Hedi explained in a recent interview. “That it’s made in Europe, I know the factory, and that the materials I use are sustainable.”
Her favourite material may sound a little (ahem) fishy, but it’s gaining popularity as an alternative to cow leather, with brands like Prada, Dior and Ferragamo giving it a try. And despite their exotic materials and premium price tags, Daughter of Jon bags are being stocked by mainstream retailers like Topshop and Asos.
Much like Egil before her, Hedi’s adventurous nature is taking her search for materials beyond the sea. “I’d like to start using more vegan leather, which I think will be the focus of the next collection. So I’m looking at using the waste product from pineapples.” I never did make it through all of Egil’s Saga, but my guess is that a penchant for the prickly fruit is where the two brave Icelanders’ similarities end.
Photo credit (header): George Barker