"The well-to-do ladies are still going to shop for exclusive Christmas, birthday, or Valentine's Day presents. It's just that those who used to buy Alexander McQueen are now buying Thelma," Ms. Yeoman says, referring to the big-money British designer, Mr. McQueen, who commands up to $300 for a belt or a scarf and up to $1,200 for a necklace. The local one-of-a-kind accessories cost less than $150 each.
Some craftspeople have arts and design training, while others have non artistic day jobs and just happened to have paid attention when their grandmothers taught them how to knit those ubiquitous rose-patterned wool sweaters.
Boas Hallgrimsson is one of the latter. In his free time, the young schoolteacher runs a design community in a loft in the capital's hip 101 District. He sets up small shows for independent bands; his wife, Inga, does illustrations. They are joined by Jette Jonkers, a clothing designer; Myrra, a photographer; and Aron, a painter. All are regular citizens still fortunate enough to be employed: by day, they do their Clark Kent jobs, but after 5 p.m., they slip into their studios and become artistic Supermen.
Not far from the loft is more evidence of Icelanders' creative response to the crisis: the design shop Verslunin Herdubreid. Construction activity here has dropped 80 percent following the onset of the economic collapse in October. Architects Johann Sigurdsson and Elin Gunnlaugsdottir saw no sense in maintaining their architectural practice. So, they moved the white elephant to the basement and opened the Verslunin Herdubreid design shop in their firm's storefront.
The architects then contacted a few friends and artistic collectives, who filled the space with clothes, crocheted accessories, indie books, volcano-shaped chocolates, and wire teddy bears. Three weeks later, Verslunin Herdubreid opened.