By  on August 21, 2007

Icelandic designer Steinunn Sigurd is making her U.S. debut this afternoon at Takashimaya in New York, and it's a homecoming, too.

Sigurd graduated from Parsons School of Design in 1986 and was at Calvin Klein for six years. Then she was off to Europe to work at Gucci for five years. She had a two-year run at La Perla before starting her ready-to-wear business in 2000, using only her first name on the label.

A few weeks ago, Sigurd moved her two-year-old Reykjavik store to a larger, 860-square-foot space on the capital city's main shopping street, Laugavegur. Thrilled with the "humongous" difference the shift has made in sales and with the strength of her wholesale business in Europe and Scandinavia, Sigurd has set her sights on the U.S. for expansion.

"My store in Iceland is moving fast and this seemed like the natural way to go, since I got my start in the business in New York," she said.

Mary Ellen Mark, whom Sigurd met two years ago when the photographer wandered into her store by chance after photographing the designer's son Alexander during an assignment at his school, is helping her get more exposure. That bit of serendipity resulted in a friendship and Mark used an old Polaroid camera to shoot a series of photos of the designer's collection, including one that appears on the Takashimaya invitation.

"What was nice about that shoot was seeing her absolute professionalism,'' Sigurd said. "It was mind-blowing to see that."

This month, the designer opened Copenhagen Fashion Week and also received the Ginen 2007 Best Nordic Fashion Designer Award. From Sept. 11 to 13, her work will be displayed at Eve Studio in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, which is where Takashimaya's Liz Conover and Olivia Sohn first saw her collection in May in a group exhibition during New York Design Week. Sigurd told them how she often examines the surface and textures of architecture for design ideas, especially in relation to prints. She also shared her admiration for the American Folk Art Museum, a 30,000-square-foot creation with 63 lightly textured tombasil panels designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

"It was a pleasure to meet people who understood fashion seen from a different perspective," Sigurd said.That chat led to today's in-store appearance at Takashimaya. A $450 mohair bouclé coat, which the designer said reflects her homeland's texture, a $150 oversize sweater with an Icelandic pattern and a $340 tailored wool dress with the same pattern should be popular with shoppers, she said. Her collection will also be sold at Boston's Still boutique. First-year projected wholesale volume for the U.S. is $400,000, she said.

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