Wild inspiration in Borgarfjörður




A group of designers, architects and gallery owners left the office during four days to go horse riding in the Icelandic wilderness.


 By Camilla Alfthan  Photos Steinunn



The dramatic landscapes were always an inspiration to Iceland’s creative tribe. From the erupting vulcans and the rich palette of the fauna to the northern light that during the winters casts its emeraud reflections over the skies.

As the visual impact is always so great Steinunn Sigurdar often stopped during the ride  to take images with her i-phone.


“The trip is organized by my friend and my husband and of course the farmer who owns all the horses. The farmer lives next to our summer house in the area of Borgarfjörður where there are many valleys and rivers. We wake up in the middle of nature and then we go riding all day long to places we’ve never been before, crossing new obstacles every day,” tells the designer who founded her own fashion house fourteen years ago.


Her husband Pàll Hjaltason is an architect whose works include many buildings in Reykjavik. Hjaltason was also a member of the Best Party, which recently left the City Hall after four years in power. But most importantly, he grew up riding and training horses at his family’s summer house.


“The farmer that we ride with breeds horses and owns tens of them. During the summers he takes travellers on horseback into the peninsula of Snæfellssnes.

Our group is a group of friends who have children that are aged from eight and up. Some are really good riders and some are not but that is OK; we are all in this for the experience, going places we have never gone before,” tells Steinunn who lodged with her friends in the farmer’s house where they had dinner and breakfast every morning and night.


“This year was our fourth trip and we went for four days. It is wonderful and a great way to be with friends and their families.

We go up mountains, we go over rivers; we go where ever the farmer leads us. It’s magnificent!

There’s a river that we crossed eleven times. At first, it was a little bit intimidating but once you overcome your fears the feeling of freedom is tremendous,” she smiles.


“Some are really good horseback riders, and some are not but that is OK; we are all in this for the experience, going places we have never gone before.”


As a designer, the Icelandic nature was always a part of her creative dna. Even at Parson’s in New York, where Steinunn studied fashion in the 1980s, she drew upon her native heritage. Aged nine she learned how to knit which means that textures and gauges have become as important as the silhouettes and the lines that shape her designs.

In her own design


After working six years with Calvin Klein, who also mentored her at school, Steinunn became a part of Gucci’s design team in the 1990s with Tom Ford at the helm.

“Those were the crazy days when we were working around the clock sending out new designs all the time. I was so thin that I could literally  fit in a Gucci bag,” she smiles.


Iceland  is where Steinunn left her heart and that is also why she later quit her job as the chief designer of the Italian lingerie house, La Perla to start her own brand at the turn of the millennium.

The dna of STEiNUNN is true to the designers Icelandic roots, based on sophisticated knitwear which is often as delicate as the finest silks. Clients include Iceland’s First Lady and the younger generations where some may know Steinunn from her lectures at Iceland’s Academy of Arts.


“There’s a creative energy in Iceland which reminds me of New York in the 1980s which I don’t find elsewhere, ” she tells.

“Reykjavik has become a melting pot with artists, designers and musicians. The fact that we are isolated in the North Atlantic Sea has sparked people’s creativity along with the long winters and the contrasts of nature.  This is a place where everyone is always working on something.”


Borgarfjördur is the birthplace of the Icelandic Saga as the home of the country’s most famous viking, Egill Skallagrimsson.

Oddsstaðir is located in Lundarreykjardal, Borgarfirði, West Iceland.  During the summer months, Sigurður Oddur Ragnarsson and his wife Guðbjörg Ólafsdóttir organize riding tours where guests are invited to stay at their house.

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Ruby red

A postcard from Steinunn with her own stamp on it: