24 Hours With… Arnar Mar Jonsson
Based between London and Iceland, Arnar Mar Jonsson is the menswear label blending performance functionality with a natural point of view, taking the surrounding wilds of Iceland as inspiration for their unique aesthetic and environmentally-friendly techniques. The brainchild of designers Arnar and Luke, the two tell us how a meeting in the Royal College of Art’s Art Bar led to starting one of the industry’s most exciting new brands.
“Arnar: I normally wake up around 7am,
or whenever my son wakes up.”
What time do you wake up and where?
Arnar: 7am, or whenever my son wakes up.
Luke: Early. I’m much more productive first thing.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Arnar: Coffee and a couple of Kleinur.
Luke: Coffee, intergalactic FM and emails.
Where are you usually based?
Arnar: We’re based between Reykjavik and London. I’m from Iceland and Luke is from London, and we try to split the work between the two studios. London is where most of the physical work is done and we are still playing with the possibilities of working from Iceland and what it has to offer.
What does your average day look like?
Arnar: I wake up very early with my son and get started with three cups of coffee. Then I walk to the studio which is about 25 minutes walk from our flat. There are normally a lot of things that need to be done when I come in, so I get straight to work. On a normal day I would work until 6-7ish, go home, cook and play with my son and put him to sleep. If I still have energy I’ll have a glass of wine with my girlfriend and fix something in the flat that we’ve been renovating.
Luke: An average day for me will be spent between the studio and the factory. Our design approach is incredibly hands-on and I’ll spend a lot of time working alongside the machinists developing new products. Understanding the manufacturing process is really key to the way we develop and refine ideas - knowing the capabilities of the machinery, how something is produced and how these processes can be played with or turned on their head. This process is really important to get the product to the level we want it to be.
Do you have any rituals?
Arnar: Our life is only rituals. We work in a ritualistic way, categorizing things and sticking with what we are into.
Where is your studio located and how do you get there?
Luke: We have a studio in Hackney, London and an office in the city centre of Reykjavik, both walking distance from our respective homes.
“The walk to the studio in Iceland.”
“Reinventing archetypes in the most natural way.”
How would you describe what you do?
Luke: Poetic functionality.
How has your background influenced who you are today?
Arnar: We met in the Art bar while studying at the Royal College of Art and the label evolved out of conversations we had whilst studying. A lot of the decisions and ideas we discussed there are still the same.
How did you get your start in fashion?
Arnar: By taking things apart and putting them back together. I got my start in fashion from repurposing garments, as Iceland at the time was very limited in what was on offer, so I would always alter or change stuff to be how I wanted it to be. We still try to work in that way by revisiting garment archetypes and refining ideas between seasons.
What was the impetus behind starting your label?
Arnar: Our aim is to add a more human touch to performance based clothing. Coming from Iceland, it’s important that the clothes are both functional and preserve nature.
“Visiting the knit factory in Leicester.”
“A beitilyng dye bath - it’s a type of Icelandic heather used to make fabric dye.”
“Natural dye materials hanging in Simmi’s garage (Simmi is our natural dye expert!)”
What are the most important factors for the brand?
Luke: Responsible design.
How do you get into a creative headspace?
Luke: Our process is very conversational. Although we’re based in different locations we are constantly exchanging ideas via text, images or over the phone.
Whilst working, where do you go and what do you do to take a break?
Luke: Between the studio, factories and Zoom calls… sometimes to the pub.
Who would you most like to see wearing it?
Arnar: Like-minded people. We’re creating a wardrobe for those around us.
“Plant picking in the outdoors…”
What’s on your bookshelf right now?
Luke: Keller Easterling’s Medium Design, Bernard Rudofsky and Victor Papanek.
What do you usually do for dinner?
Arnar: I try to cook every night. I love cooking, it is probably my favourite thing to do. I have some go-to recipes but I love to try new things out, mostly I like to cook Mediterranean dishes.
What time do you go to bed?
Arnar: As early as possible!
Last thing you do before you sleep?
Luke: Switch my phone to airplane mode and read.
What do you dream about?
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