The Atlas of Beauty (via BuzzFeed)

What a unique project. The Atlas of Beauty is “looking to celebrate the diversity of the world… [because] diversity is the biggest treasure of our planet.” Below is a sample of Mihaela Noroc’s photos from her project. For more look at her website here.

Find the Social Media links below.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Fashion and Pollution

Apr 26th, 2016, 02:01 PM
By Chrystal Vavoulidis
Is sustainable fashion the new trend or is it here to stay? Why fashion brands are choosing sustainable methods and practices

Pollution is not only caused by the oil industry. The garment industry is the second leading cause for pollution according to EcoWatch. When we think of pollution, we envision coal power plants, strip-mined mountaintops and raw sewage piped into our waterways. We don’t often think of the shirts on our backs. But the overall impact the apparel industry has on our planet is quite grim.

So, how sustainable is the fashion industry’s practices?

Here are some facts. Not only does the fashion industry encourage high consumption but it is also one of the most polluting industries in the world. A huge amount of chemicals (about 8.000) are used to turn raw materials into textiles. Many of them are released into lakes and rivers in the country of production, affecting their safe drinking water capacities. Just to put this into perspective there are 7.000 litres/ 1.800 gallons needed to produce a single pair of jeans. Greenpeace has reported that traces of pollutants used in textile producing countries like India were found in the liver of polar bears! Yes, after all our eco-systems are interconnected.

But there is not reason to be alarmed just yet. Some are making a difference. Eco fashion is on the rise and many more brands are choosing to become eco friendly, as much as they can at least.

For instance Les Lunes was created by world traveler and entrepreneur Anna Lecat who has lived in many countries, Paris being one of them, and inspired by Parisian fashion she ventured to create a line of clothes that is elegant and versatile for the everyday man and woman to wear. Her logic and concept behind the brand is that “you don’t perform one function in your day, and your wardrobe shouldn’t either.” Her uniquely inspired clothing line and lingerie, and clothes are made of sustainable material such as bamboo. According to an Ecouterre article Lecat says “Sustainability was a key element of Les Lunes mission. We are at a time in history where our choices have a greater impact on the world than ever before. The fashion industry is fraught with a throw away mentality… and it is preventable, we can make a difference by the choices that we make.” In the above quote Lecat is highlighting that our clothes are disposable anymore. We consume in large amounts like never before and that is having a great impact on the environment we live in by polluting it with harmful chemicals, from the factories, that end up in water bodies around the world affecting not only us human beings but also other species as well. Lecat, with her brand, is trying to kill two birds with one stone by making a clothing line with sustainable material and encouraging the consumer to think of her clothes as versatile, comfortable and elegant, all at the same time.

So, let’s examine her claim about pollution and wearability. Yes, it is true the fashion industry is creating clothes for every season, and everything in between. “Each collection has to showcase ‘new’ and the stakes just keep getting faster, bigger and better!…Then the high carbon footprint of fashion shows- which are too many in a year now-Spring Summer, Fall Winter, Haute Couture, Cruise/ Resort collection and the numerous in betweens! Then the luxury industry as a whole has been much criticized for promoting extravagance and uninhibited consumption- further fueling our demand of fast fashion, and it’s been struggling to stay relevant in the changing scenario of resource consciousness and austerity” says an Urbanmeister article.


Another brand that is being environmentally conscious is People Tree. People Tree Ltd. is a fair trade apparel company founded in 1991 by Safia Minney in Tokyo, Japan that has pretty much check off every single possible way of being sustainable. The are faire trade, they use organic cotton, they use eco friendly dyes, and have won several recognition awards.

So how is Les Lunes  and other brands like People Tree making a difference?

They are not afraid to go against they grain. They have made it their mission to do what they love, fashion, and at the same time respect and be conscious about the earth, by practicing eco friendly ways of production and consumption. It is important that we note that fashion alone is not sustainable but our style and consumer choices can be.

Five Sustainable Fashion Companies Leading the Fight

Apr 7th, 2016, 09:43 AM
By Chrystal Vavoulidis
Campaign shot from ethical fashion brand Sudara. Image Credit: Sudara.
These companies are on a mission to save the world — and your wardrobe.

Sustainable fashion is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of environmental and social sustainability. Many fashion designers are making the conscientious decision to make products that are not only beautiful and appealing to consumers, but also friendly to the earth. Here are five companies that are making a change by promoting fair trade, opportunity and of course, eco-friendly products.


Image Credit: Factory 45.

Kallio is a consciously-created children’s clothing brand based in Brooklyn, New York that “makes old clothes young again.” Founded by Karina Kallio, a fashion industry veteran with an entrepreneurial flair, the brand re-purposes men’s dress shirts into stylish, modern classics for kids. Setting themselves apart, this brand upcycles, a process that uses existing materials and repurposes them. The process requires a considerable amount of creativity and vision, as well as a foundation of thriftiness and environmental consciousness. The end result is an item that is one-of-a-kind, handmade, and sustainable.


Founders of The Little Market, Lauren Conrad (left) and Hanna Skvarla (second to right) in Guatemala with local artisans. Image Credit: Lauren Conrad. 

The Little Market was founded by business partners and former Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) classmates, Lauren Conrad and Hanna Skvarla. At FIDM the duo quickly connected over their shared love of design, wanderlust and desire to empower women. They created The Little Market, which is an online marketplace where customers can purchase beautiful products that are handmade by artisans around the world, from South America to India. The site provides artisans a platform to showcase their work and the techniques that go into crafting each product.


Image Credit: Huffington Post.

Sari Bari was founded in the red light district of Kolkata, India, by Sarah Lance to help former sex trafficking victims find a safe place to work. The word “sari” is a traditional Indian garment, and “bari” in Bengali means “home.” The company employs over 80 former sex trafficking victims who make t-shirts, scarves, baby blankets and bags for a living. Women at Sari Bari start out in a six-month stipended training program where they learn how to sew, read, write and budget their earnings. In addition to fair wages, they also receive healthcare and retirement benefits, paid holidays, and education for dependent children.


Image Credit: Sudara.

Sudara, formely known as The International Princess Project, has been transforming the lives of former sex traffic victims since 2005. Founder Shannon Keith started her company as a six-women sewing project and has turned it into a 150-employee business providing opportunities for women who would otherwise be stuck in the sex trade. Punjammies, colorful pajama sets, are one of their most popular products. “We are passionate about India, where some of the highest estimates of slavery and sex-trafficking anywhere in the world are reported,” reads Sudara’s website. “And while it may seem overwhelming, we are hopeful because we are seeing how safe, sustainable jobs are making a way for women to make their way out of the trade — and stay out.


Chevron Macbook Sleeve

Image Credit: TRMTAB.

TRMTAB takes leather scraps from factories around the world to create leather goods for tech devices. Its founders named the brand after a trimtab, which is a small surface at the end of a rudder that can completely change the direction of a ship: “An individual can be a trimtab by making small changes that lead to a big impact.” Instead of letting the waste from leather factories to end up in landfills, TRMTAB salvages the scraps and creates accessories for phones, tablets, and laptops.

Mind the Gender Gap

May 5th, 2016, 05:55 PM

Mind the Gender Gap

By Chrystal Vavoulidis
The first female master tailor opens shop on London’s famed Savile Row

Recently Kathryn Sargent, a master tailor, opened shop in Savile Row. If Saville Row is known for anything it is its many shops of master tailors. Historically it has been known principally for its traditional bespoke tailoring for men, and traditionally the tailors have been men. She is the first female to open shop in the prestigious street and she “feels wonderful to be on Savile Row… [she feels] a real sense of achievement.”

Kathryn Sargent “spent 15 years at Gieves & Hawkes, rising through the ranks to head cutter before opening her first store in Brook Street in 2012” reports the Guardian  article. Even though it took her many years of dedication and hard work to get to her current position, Sargent reached a position of high achievement and she hopes to be an inspiration to other women with her shop that caters to both males and females in one of the most famous streets in London.

See original image


Even though it is a wonderful success story, a story that can be inspirational to anyone, it is 2016 and the story is a bit striking to me, there really is something else that needs to be analyzed at a deeper level. The greater issue that arises from this story is that even though sowing has been traditionally women’s work at the domestic level, considered unskilled and unpaid work, when done at the professional level, taken out of the home, then it is done and dominated by men but also it then becomes a trade, a skilled and paid position. This is not the only industry with such characteristics. The fashion design industry and the cooking industry are also guilty of lacking male and female equality and diversity in its positions. 

For instance, an article in the Telegraph stated that “of the 167 Michelin stared restaurants in Britain in 2014, just ten have female head chefs. Around half of them have children.” In the article Prue Leith, a famous chef herself, speculates why such disparity may exist. In the professional cooking world, becoming a chef, especially a Michelin star Chef is grueling. It takes many hours in the day and night inside a restaurant kitchen, being creative, innovative, and managing the staff as best as possible to achieve the highest of standards in cooking a meal(s) worth a Michelin star. Her explanation for the lack of women in the cooking industry was that women shy away because eventually there will be a time that they have to raise kids and focus on their family rather than their work. 

Another article in NYmag interviewed women chefs and asked them why they think there is a lack of women in the cooking industry. Their answers focused on the types of food a woman versus a man might cook, they said “[women’s cooking] is more from the heart and more from the soul. [Whereas men] look at this whole molecular-gastronomy thing.” So women, they say, cook to nourish with their food and men see it more as a science, as an experiment. 

So when taking the example of the Chef industry and analyzing it to figure out why may there be a lack of female tailors do we ask if women are talented? If women are innovative? If women are creative? Or will they ever break the glass ceiling?

I think that lack of diversity in certain industries, mostly dominated by males as mentioned above, is due to the fact that society has framed the female in a certain context. Society still sees the woman as a nurturing creature that is most likely to be raising a family and making it her priority, whereas men are still dominating the public sphere with work and ideas, innovations and creations. Men are still seen as the entrepreneurial creature, if they were not then the above article would not be considered a news piece.

Paris Street Style: Tourist Edition

Apr 29th, 2016, 03:18 PM

Paris Street Style: Tourist Edition

By Chrystal Vavoulidis

Summer is approaching and Paris seems to be busier that ever with tourists everywhere you go. Walking or jogging through the Champ de Mars these days is almost impossible because the place is filled with people from all over the world taking selfies, finding that perfect angle for their picture of the Eiffel Tower. According to a Business Insider article Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. It certainly has a lot of places to go and see. Paris and in general France is rich with culture, good food, and of course it is not called the capital of fashion for no reason. You just never know who you may bump into.


Meet Georgia Georgiou. She is a Cypriot actress, model and in 2012 she represented Cyprus in the Miss World beauty pageant. She was spotted waking the streets of Paris, she was here on vacation, and here is what she wore.

Jacket: Zara, Pants: Zara, Shoes: Reebok, Backpack: MCM, Sunglasses: Rayban

Place seen: Champs Elysees

Describe your style in a few words: Mainstream

What do you like about Paris? The quaint narrow streets of Montmartre and Disneyland.

Where did you shop in Paris? From MCM at the Louvre, and from Zara and H&M at Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Who is your favorite designer? Chanel



I also spotted young, hip, and innovative Greek designer Alexandros Kalogiannidis of Liberta D’Arte just outside the Louvre. He was here on vacation for a second time because he simply loves Paris. Here is what he wore.

Jacket: Zara, Backpack: MCM, Pants: H&M, Shirt: longline Liberta D’Arte, Shoes: Adidas Super Star,Sunglasses: Dior, Coffee: Starbucks (of course).

Place seen: The Louvre

Describe your style in a few words: Rock’n’Roll

What do you like about Paris? I really like the grandiose Eiffel Tower and the picturesque streets of Le Marais. At Le Marais I get inspired as an artist, I get ideas for new creations and designs for my clothes. One thing I will point out is that I haven’t been able to enjoy a real meal here, they are minimal, when compared to the Greek portions at least. However, the people here are really nice. Always ready to help out and very polite!

Tell me a little bit about your clothing line. I created the brand in 2010, as a means of creative expression. Ever since I was little I always would physically alter the shape and design of my clothes, making them unique to represent my character and personality.

Where did you shop in Paris? I went shopping at the Galeries Laffayette, the Apple store in the Louvre and Printemps.

Who is your favorite designer? Me, Myself & I of course (he said in a jokingly manner referring to his brand Liberta D’Arte).

Travel Trends and Behaviors


In this blog post I am going to argue that our traveling behaviors are changing because of our everyday use and exposure to the technology of smartphones. Smartphones have become a great part of our personalities and everyday lives that it has transformed many of our habits and one of them is the was we travel anymore.

According to L. Hjorth and S. Pink article, “New visualities and the digital wayfarer: Reconceptualising camera phone photography and locative media,” people are using their smartphones in their everyday life to communicate at many levels. They conducted a study to “examine how second generation locative media and emerging camera phone practices are becoming entangled to create new visualities and socialities of place and place making.”

In their first section “A glance into the world of emplaced visuality” focuses on sample populations in Australia, Korea and Japan. These populations were selected because there is high every day mobile phone usage from almost everyone in the above countries, the authors remark “in 2013, Australia mobile internet subscriptions have now reached 22.1 million: basically one subscription for every person in the country.”

One of the study participants begins by saying that “we are no longer wandering around the world alone – that our shared experiences have made a kind of virtual fabric …. I want to see a thicker and richer document of life produced as a result of locative media…”

The participant, Barbara, admits to using the geo location on Instagram on a more frequent basis that not using it. She admits to liking that she can decide whether or not to share her geo location. In her case the geotag is a method of communicating place and when she found it irrelevant to share the place she had the option and freedom to switch that feature off. Location-based services (LBS) are a common feature in apps. Many people use them to check in museums, cafes, restaurants etc. The freedom of choosing when to do so is an extension of how we feel.

Another participant, in Seoul’s Schichon area, likes to check into her favorite coffee shop by clicking the app to notify others that she is there and at the same time she can talk to her friends while she is sitting there alone, far from being bored, talking to her friends through her mobile phone and the app taking and photos at the same time while sharing them with her network of friends. This participant was not feeling alone in the coffee shop because she was able to talk to her friends in real time and if any of those friends needed or wanted to meet with her they could see where she was through he app.

Another participant was meeting a friend in another part of town and was comminuting with her son by public transportation. When her friend texted her to see when she was arriving she and her son simply sent a selfie through Instagram to communicate that they were still on their way. Typing words to send an electronic message is not the only medium any more. With all the apps that exist out there one can send voice mails, pictures, gifs and emoticons.

The study’s results show that mobile apps in smartphones facilitate our life in many aspects and communication is just one of them as the study above has demonstrated.


In Novemeber of 2015, USA Today published an article on “An ‘App’ropriate Way to Travel.” The article lists the possible apps the author has used during his travels and the app functions range from where to find food like home cooked meals, where to find specific lodging to how to meet and talk to locals to learn about the location and even how to go on a date. I wonder ‘How many people used to think about going on dates’ when being a tourist as tourism was associated and practiced as a sight seeing, picture taking activity to escape reality in the past. Obviously, the apps and the mobile phone have expanded our horizons in what we think we may need during our vacations.  All the apps available to travelers or that are made with the travel consumer in mind have managed to circle, tick off and to include every possible aspect of a traveler’s life and needs during his/her travels and even before they decide to travel for instance there are many search engines to do research and images available for the tourist/ traveler to learn more about the destination with out relying on books, guides and someone’s else’s expertise or opinion, even though many travelers still do or might get influenced from a close friends or relative’s opinion though word of mouth or social media.

The article “The Role of Smartphones in Mediating the Tourist Experience” by D. Wang, S. Park and D. Fesenmaier support that with the “wide information services that can be accessed anytime and from anywhere, the smartphone has the potential to significantly influence the touristic experience.” Not only do our smartphones have the ability to support thousands of applications they also have the ability to connect us to the internet, information services, social networking, navigation etc. The article states “smartphones can mediate both behavioral and psychological dimensions of the touristic experience by facilitating information search, information processing, and information sharing, by enabling a traveler to learn about travel opportunities and to get to know better a destination, and by sharing photos and other ‘social’ activities at any time during the trip.” So as smartphones are becoming a necessary part of our lives (as tourists) and play such an important role in our decision making the study was based on travel app ratings and reviews. They isolated reviews that had no valuable information and only rated the apps and their functions as “amazing” or “it sucks.” The study finds and names five scenarios the tourist experience may be influenced by smartphones. The fist one is called Good value system and it is when something unpredictable happens. For instance, it is hard to predict the weather, accidents or flight delays. When there are apps in place to give more information to the traveler, and access to knowledge and information then the traveler/tourist feels he gets “good value” because he/she can make adjustments to their trip. The second scenario, Visiting more places and having rich experiences, talks to the facts that he traveler/ tourist is able to dig deeper into research. The example given was “the traveler extended his or her road trip because the ‘Roadside America’ app lead to places I might never have experiences or heard.” In this case the traveler go to be pleasantly surprised by digital features that included “a little extra info” to enrich their experience that maybe a traditional map may not have included. The third scenario is called, A delightful trip and higher satisfaction, another way of keeping the tourist entertained while traveling. The example given was the “Air Traffic Control” app that allows flyers to listen to the conversation between the crew and the aviation control staff “and eases boredom.” The forth scenario is called Sharing happiness, showing off, and peace of mind. In this case some case of interaction exists such as meeting new people, sharing pictures, and feeling “that they are ahead of the game” as in the example of the “mouse wait” app, an app that tells you which Disney ride has the shorted wait. Lastly the fifth scenario is Inspiration for travel that talks about the aesthetic consumption part of the touristic experience. In this case the “American treasures” app was use to inspire the traveler to learn more about places he may have not thought of going. The article concludes that “these results clearly demonstrate that smartphones are an extremely powerful channel to communicate.”

The future of travel

It will be exciting to see what the future of travel will look like. The digital era has changed the way we think and see travel and the way we behave and plan our trips. It has changed many aspects. So what is in the future? published an article that virtual reality (VR) is being tested in the tourism industry. It is still at the experimental stage and it is used to attract tourists to a destination. One such campaign is being piloted for destination: Las Vegas.  Some claim that potentially the VR aspect may lower tourism and travel traffic in the future as people will choose to sit on their comfy sofas and enjoy places from their home. Some people including myself, think that that may never happen as people have been nomads and travelers, explorer for years. Technology is making life easier when traveling but that will not keep the tourist or the traveler home. A way in which VR may develop or be used in the future, besides for promotion, may be to allow immobile people to experience new places. Melbourne, Australia, has invented the remote control tourist, a tourist for hire that is being told what to do and see by others from remote locations. Will people stop traveling and using VR? I don’t think so, they may be used as alternative travel but it won’t replace travel, not anytime soon at least.

Travel: Past and Present

“The travel industry is likely to be particularly affected [by technology] because it is largely information-driven.”


A Brief History of travel

The history of travel begins somewhere “in the late 16th century [when] it became fashionable for young aristocrats and wealthy upper class men to travel to important European cities as a crowning touch to their education in the arts and literature, designed to enlighten Europe’s young elite. This was knows as the Grand Tour. London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome were visited by these grand tourists to expose themselves to the great masterpieces” according to an article on Matador Network.

However, “’The majority of researchers believe that tourism is an 18th century invention,’ explains Hasso Spode, who heads a historical archive on tourism at the Free University of Berlin.” according to a Deutsche Welle article. In the past tourism and traveling was only able to be done by the wealthy.  “Tourism was initially limited to a very few people. Around one percent of the population could travel in 1800,” said Hasso Spode. The first to package a tourist package was “the inventive Englishman Thomas Cook” who took advantage of the creation of the railroads and came up with the idea of not only selling the train tickets but also included booked hotels in the price and later he added the tour guide. The Deutsche Welle article notes that he was not the first one to do so but he was certainly the most successful. 

Travel remained the province of the upper classes until well into the 20th century. For laborers, vacationing was impossible, due to financial constraints. However, “the Industrial Revolution brought leisure travel to Europe. The new middle class now had the time to travel thanks to industrialized production with efficient and faster machinery. The new middle class, comprised of factory owners and managers, now had the time to travel thanks to industrialized production with efficient and faster machinery. They had more money and more time to relax and take part in recreational activities. For the first time ever, traveling was done for the sole pleasure of it.”

In the 1970s, huge passenger planes began transporting people of various income groups well beyond their home countries. Affordable air travel soon contributed to international mass tourism, pretty much as we know it today. The way we travel has not doubt changed since the middle ages. we have technology to our advantage. However, our habits have changed too. Travel has been associated over the years with pilgrimage, with wealth, with need (through migration), relaxation time and leisure time.

The Modern Age

The way we travel has not doubt changed since the middle ages. We have technology to our advantage. However, our habits have changed too. Travel has been associated over the years with pilgrimage, with wealth, with need (through migration), relaxation time and leisure time. But more recently one more thing has been added to the list and that is the connectivity and the “virtual” part of the travel experience. According to Michelangelo Magasic’s article “Travel Blogging” the travel blog has become the norm in today’s travel. He wanted to examine how travel blogging is affecting the travel culture today and he sets on an auto-ethnographic research approach. He started his own blog, while traveling, and came to the conclusion that a travel bloggers experience is deeply controlled by the blog and therefore it is hard to venture off the beaten path. Yes, the travel blogger means well by wanting to communicate and inform loved ones or their audience of their travels and adventures but it is not so much the blogging that takes away from the travel experience as much as is the connectivity part. He realizes that when he starts to plan his posts he finds himself focusing on finding wifi and an internet connection more often than he finds himself just enjoying his vacation.

He also mentions that since the blogger is a story teller he has the ability to narrate the story in real time but also interact with his loved ones and audience. Social media and blogging platforms make that act of blogging into a game that ends up being rewarding. He Magasic mentions how wordpress made him think of blogging as “essential” since there was and opportunity to “move up” in likes, shares, and comments and win “trophies.”

Peter White and Naomi Rosh White in their article “Virtually there traveling with new media,” noticed that the need for travelers to stay connected to their loved ones is not only a hobby, but essential and with the use of technology that need is facilitated. They examine three mediums used by the travelers to keep in touch with their families back home. Since the research was done in the beginning of the millennium one of the mediums of communication was the telephone, the other two were the email, and texting. They found that the most preferred method of keeping in touch was texting. the telephone was too costly and the email has a non personal touch a very distant and cold feel to most people that it is not preferred as a means of deep meaningful communication. Texting, on the other hand, can happen in real time.

Again, a trend arises from their research. Like the findings from the research above this research paper by White and White tells me that  the new travelers have incorporated technology into all the facets of their lives and travel as well. The act of traveling has become a part of the virtual world in the sense that we can share it in real time. Magasic mentions that the need the blogger has to share his findings is not simple. Ample time is spent editing and curating content. It is deliberate. We are choosing to share our experience as travelers but we are also making them look as we want them to. It is very interesting that we sometimes do not need to travel to far aways places to see what a place looks like. The internet and the “virtual world” are available at the touch of a button. 

The travel experience has changed significantly over the Millenia. From being a privilege of the upper classes it has become available for the masses. Availability and affordability of travel is not the only way our travel habits have changed. Technology plays a big role in our perception of what travel is or should be. By looking at blogs and communicating with travelers through mobile devices we seek similar experiences and comforts. We manage to be there, at a certain place in time without actually and physically being there. Social media, the web and easy access to technology have altered our travel experience significantly and have made traveling more democratized.

Three Ways Iceland is Branding Itself Through Fashion

Who knew fashion could be a tourist attraction?

Last weekend I was in Iceland for a few days on a study trip in search of, what my Professor called, “Brand Iceland.” Simply put we were there trying to explore the ways in which Iceland promotes itself as a tourist destination, how it brands itself, with what means it communicates the brand and why has it been so successful in doing so. My personal observation was that some of Iceland’s branding, among everything else, is happening through the promotion or the creation of Icelandic or Scandinavian Fashion. During my strolls through the narrow streets of Reykjavik and window shopping through the main touristy shopping street called Laugavegur, I noticed three possible ways Iceland may be using its heritage, culture and history to create a different sense of fashion to promote the “Iceland Brand” and invite the tourists to be part of it.

Geysir Clothing

Keflavik Airport Ad

Keflavik Airport Ad

According to their website “Geysir designs and develops clothing from its studio in downtown Reykjavík, Iceland. Inspired by Nordic city life and the country’s history of craft and knitwear, Geysir creates pieces uniquely balanced between tradition and modernity. Geysir’s ambition is to design everyday clothing with character; pieces that tell a story through every thread. With locally sourced textiles and yarns, mixed with quality materials from around the world, each item can be perfectly woven into any wardrobe. The collection is sold in Geysir stores only around Iceland.”

Let me note that the Geysir store has three stores in the world and they are all located within Iceland. The brand is exclusively Icelandic and sticks to the “traditional” values of making Icelandic clothes in a sustainable and local way of production. The brand uses traditional Icelandic patterns, checkered and stripped, in colorful combinations. Beanie hats sport the puff and the sweaters are made with think sheep wool.

Mink: Viking Portrait

Roadside Poster of the Mink Viking Portrait photography studio

Roadside Poster of the Mink Viking Portrait photography studio

We stumbled upon this studio, as a class, on a Saturday morning, while walking through the city on our way to the tourist center. Laugavegur Street had almost no people roaming around since it was Easter weekend. The studio of course was closed in order for its employees to observe the holiday and while wondering what the store was about I took it upon myself to do some research on my own and share my thoughts.

Mink, it turns out, is a photography studio that allows “you [to] come in and [dress up as] a bad ass Viking, and get a portrait Photo of yourself!” according to their Facebook page. The Viking costumes of course are not for sale, only the portraits (of 6 photos) are for the price of 14.900 Kr (about 100 Euro).

I have traveled a lot the last four years and never happened to encounter such an experience being offered in another country. The costumes look “original” and as close to the fashion of that era as possible, with fur collars and metal helmets, weapons and leathered goods (shoes, purses) and metallic hand and neck accessories. It truly looks like a uniquely out of this world experience.

I am thinking: what a great opportunity to travel back in time, and feel like an Icelandic Viking for a few minutes.

The Icelandic Sweater or “lopapeysa”

Store display window in Laugavegur street

Store display window in Laugavegur street

These sweaters are not only a tourist attraction and commodity. They are actually worn by the Icelanders as well. During our excursions a brave student asked our tour guide if his “lopapeysa” was made by hand or store bought. He kindly and sweetly answered that indeed his mother had made the sweater a few years back because his old one was “falling apart.” These sweaters however, to my surprise only date back to the 1950s, according to an article in the Huffington Post. The author of the article says “rumor has it that Auður Laxness, the wife of Nobel prize-winner, Halldór Laxness, brought a version of the sweater back from Greenland and replicated it in the late 1940s. Designs for the sweater were inspired by old Icelandic patterns, but also from imported embroidery manuals.” So it is a hybrid (Greenlandish with an Icelandic twist) sold as a local original traditional product. What is the most amazing quality to this sweater is not only its popularity but also its practicality. The sweater is made of Icelandic sheep’s wool. A very thick type of wool that has special qualities. The sweater is woven in such way that the inside fibers provide warmth to the person wearing it and the outside fibers keep the sweater from getting wet.

In conclusion, “Brand Iceland” has managed to create an identity through the fashion culture, heritage and history of the country. From a luxury brand that is Geysir, to the Viking experience, to the sweater that reminds us of our grandmas knit wear, Iceland has used  many ways to market itself as a unique travel destination and “brand” and fashion is just one of them.

Tourism Studies

Hazel Tucker and John Akama, in their chapter “Tourism as Post-colonialism,” point out an interesting view on the tourism trend, which aligns with my theory that tourist and traveler, although characterized and defined by someone who travels, have taken different meanings in recent years. In their chapter they explain how tourism these days can be viewed as a form of post colonialism — neocolonialism, and towards the end of their chapter they will encourage tourists to take on the role as a critique rather than a form of neocolonialism reinforcing the “otherness,”  and the image of the “exotic other.”
To begin with, in their argument the authors explain that the narrative of the colonizer and the colonized is what has been attracting tourism in the “Third World” from the West. The West keeps buying into the images the travel industry projects to them, the image of the underdeveloped and “different” other. That is one of the first problems the authors bring up because it perpetuates the narrative of the “other,” of the “exotic” and reinforce the power dynamics between the West and the Periphery which are also shown through capital investment which will bring me to the authors second point. Most developing countries lack the financial resources and capital investment in order to develop an industry such as the tourism industry. That is when the governments of the developing countries start to encourage foreign investment and capital flow from abroad and therefore it becomes an indirect way of dependency on the “First World” which can be interpreted as a new form of colonialism, an economic colonialism.
In the text the authors bring up a case study on Kenya. “Kenya…embraced tourism’s an export tool for development and consequently illustrates the neocolonial structure of the tourism industry in such countries.” The country inherited a colonial economy that was characterized by the inequitable distribution of resources, the economic structure was controlled by expatriates who had relatively high standards of living whereas the indigenous population was poor, living in high levels of poverty. Their tourism sector started to develop when the government realized that its  “Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah and giraffe) and the safaris”  could be sold as a commodity. “The Kenyan tourism image is constructed to revolve around wildlife and the Maasai image and thus the tourist the tourist image of [Africa] has not changed since colonial times.” It seems to me that a tourist is seeking an exotic other a differentness from their everyday life, even if that “differentness” is a sort of staged authenticity. “The myth of the unchanged is used to represent destinations as timeless places that are firmly fixed in the past. Relating to countries embedded in the discourse of Orientalism such as Egypt, India, Thailand and Turkey, the tourist is invited to journey ‘backward’ in time.”
So, how should tourism work as critical post colonialism? The authors say that the tourism industry “feeds off the essentialism and myths as outlined above.” But “tourists should begin to act as a medium for offering those counter-narratives” perhaps by becoming more educated on travel and making the effort to learn about the place they will visit. The authors do not give a specific answer but mention that it is certainly a topic that needs to be considered in tourism studies.


Can technology be an agent of change in the tourism industry and to what extent can it be used to inform the tourist, the traveler and the local?
In the “Tourism Studies”, in the chapter Information Technology: Shaping the Past, Present, and the Future of Tourism, by Urlike Gretzel and Daniel R. Fesenmaier, seems to have a positive outlook on technology being a changing agent of the tourism industry. The Chapter presented a lot of evidence that the internet and emerging technologies have had profound impacts on the tourism industry. The following briefly summarizes some expectations for the future role of IT in travel and tourism. Some of the main points brought up (in relation to potentially informing the tourist when they travel) are:

  • “Travel will continue to be one of the most popular online interests to consumers, it will increase in magnitude as travel becomes an effective means to communicate the available offerings.
  • The internet is increasing the number of electronic connections between customers and then tourism industry
  • Changes in the demographic of the internet will allow more people to to participate and feel more comfortable using the available information online to travel and
  • The large amounts of bloggers, podcasts, pictures and social media networking sites are expected to play an ever more important role in supporting travel as a construction of memories and extended experiences in travel.”

As travel becomes widely available to a wide range of demographics and the use of technology becomes more accessible in various and multiple parts of the world I believe that the tourist will become more informed and educated and according to popular though a traveler.