Exploring Iceland with Levi’s Design Directors Nick Rendic and Nicolle Arbour

Exploring Iceland with Levi’s Design Directors Nick Rendic and Nicolle Arbour

Levi’s Global Design Directors Nick Rendic and Nicolle Arbour turned to the rough, wind-whipped landscape of Iceland as their muse to create their AW17 collection for the brand’s Made & Crafted line. We joined the design duo in Iceland.

Could you tell us a bit about the Made & Crafted line in

Nicolle: We like to speak about Made &
Crafted as the premium modern expression of Levi’s. We take what
everybody knows and loves about the Levi’s brand and celebrate it
in an updated way with a heightened level of craftsmanship.

What made you choose Iceland as a source of inspiration for
AW17, especially as it contrasts so heavily with the SS17
collection inspired by Levi’s classic laid-back, sunny California

Nicolle: We were initially really excited by
the idea of Hygge. We love
the idea of closeness and of coming together, especially when it’s
so cold outside, and how clothing is such an integral part of that.
We decided that Iceland was the most extreme place to experience
that. We came in January
and it was pitch-black all the time, it was snowing, it was
sleeting sideways. This influenced not only the visual side of the
line but also helped us take Levi’s denim and make it cosy and
little more luxurious, like the mountain coat and the shearling

Nick: The thing that’s nice about Hygge is that
it does relate back to our brand, which is very democratic and
casual. Our brand is all about connectivity and bringing people
together. That’s why it was a nice, symbiotic relationship.

What are your favourite spots in Iceland (activities, food,
bars, shopping)?

Nicolle: It’s probably so cliché and obvious
but the Blue Lagoon is
insane! I’m a huge spa
lover, so I love that that’s a part of life here and
that it’s attached to the land. My favourite restaurant
is Kol
. We went last time and we had the best time from the
cocktails to the food… the environment was the Hygge vibe to

Nick: The geyser is really awe-inspiring, it
makes you feel tiny. The first time we were standing there Nicolle
jumped and was like, “Waaa!” It was way more energetic and lively
than you would expect. And we also went to this waterfall,
Gullfoss. It’s enormous and it really is one of those things that
makes you put your life into perspective a little bit. It’s also so
untouched. In the US or in Europe, you go to these places and there
are massive barricades and you kind of know where you can go and
can’t go, whereas here, you think, “Hmm, there’s just a little
string, can I go over there? Is that ok?”

What are your craziest stories from the last time you were in

Nicolle: We would just find random paths to
drive down and we ended up at this one place on the coastline. We
found this old shipwreck, it was stunning. It was this rusty, giant
ship on the land that had clearly washed up ashore. We didn’t know
where we were going and we didn’t have a tour guide, so we were
just going off of the beaten path the entire time.

Nick: Sometimes we wouldn’t pass any cars all
day, you know, no one’s around. And we’d drive down these little
side paths in the snow and suddenly think, “Wait, what if we get

Nicolle: I also felt so prepared when we got to
the airport and I thought, “Let’s do this.” The taxi was just
across the street, so we walk out and a storm just comes out of
nowhere. There was this giant gust of wind and it started pouring
rain sideways. It was the funniest thing because Nick just ran and
hid behind the van. The wind was so strong it started pushing my
suitcase across with me. Our two drivers had to come and catch me –
it was so humbling.

Nick: The driver and I get to the car and we’re
like, “Where’d Nicolle go?” Another one was when we went and saw
the horses at the stable. We kept seeing these horses out in the
fields and it’s freezing outside. And we’re just thinking, “How are
they alive, what are they doing? We’ve got to go and see these
guys.” So we pull in, and the stable is just wide open, the horses
are hanging around, and nobody came out and said anything to

How has this collection’s connection to the outdoors shaped
your approach to design? Did you work with any technical materials
while creating it?

Nicolle: We’ve both done thermore padded liner
jackets, so that definitely does have modern technological
functions, it’s lightweight, it’s packable, but it’s extremely
warm. But this collection was a really fun way to look at using
natural shearling, or the most beautiful Italian wool, sherpa, to
make things warm. So just looking at it from a functional
perspective, not necessarily through technology, through natural
yarns and natural cashmere sweaters. Ways that feel a little bit
luxurious but also really casual.

Nick: We’ve also used wool-infused denims to
add natural performance. Just because something is performance
doesn’t mean that it has to be synthetic. And we’re finding out as
we do research for the collections, lots of times, the universe
already kind of gave you a lot of what you need. You know, wool is
antimicrobial, water-repellant and completely natural. And the
shearling is the same thing, like, that is one of the warmest
things you can possibly put next to your body.

Nicolle: For all of our skinnies in the women’s
collection, we use this beautiful Kaihara Japanese denim that
they’ve really developed over the past few years. It’s incredible
how quickly they’ve figured out how to make high-stretch,
comfortable fabric that recovers that looks like a vintage Levi’s
jean. So there’s that kind of technology that is woven into the
line as well.

What’s your favourite piece from the new collection?

Nick: They’re all like my babies. I think I’d
probably have to say our tack jean is my favourite. It’s such a
great-fitting pair of jeans. And if I had to pick a second one it
would have to be our cotton cashmere T-shirts – I never want to
take them off, they’re so good.

Nicolle: I love the women’s trucker. What we’ve
done with the fit of that one just makes me happy. And the level of
detail is not too feminine, but it feels like there’s a little bit
of femininity in there. And then for bottoms, I really love our
barrel trouser. It’s something that we started last year, taking a
giant 501 and shaping it and this time adding a little pleat. It’s
really flattering on and I think it’s just a really fun take on a
vintage jean.

What’s in your SUITCASE for a trip to Iceland?

Nick: That’s funny. I pack in a very funny way,
so whatever bag I have, I just fill it up. For Iceland, of course,
you need to have good footwear, so I have two pairs of boots. You
always have to have warm layers, so there’s tons of layers; I have
my liner, I also always have the trucker jacket, always have to
have beanies, always have my cotton cashmere T-shirts which are the
base layer. That’s kind of it.

Nicolle: Oh man, I overpack. I try so hard, you
would think with travelling so frequently I’d be better at it. I
have my favourite easy boots, my Converse high-tops, my trucker, my
liner. I mean, for this trip, I packed this collection. It was the
best opportunity to get to try it out. So I wore pieces from this
collection every day!

The line is available for purchase from mid-July

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as the land of fire and ice,
is a potent source of inspiration for writers,
photographers, filmmakers and fashion designers. And we’re not just
talking about the outerwear variety. Levi’s Global Design Directors Nick Rendic and
Nicolle Arbour turned to the rough, wind-whipped landscape of
Iceland as their muse to create their AW17 collection for the
brand’s Made & Crafted line.

In the depths of winter with only four hours of sunlight a day,
the pair embarked on a wild, self-directed
road trip
around the country, exploring rugged coastlines,
waterfalls and geysers, meeting a few Icelandic ponies along the
way. The line has clearly taken cues from everything ranging from
the warm reds of volcanic rock to lichen-covered cliffs and Viking
flower embroidery, with shearling linings and cosy cashmere to take
you through chillier days. We joined the design duo in Iceland to
ask them all about elevating the classic denim line that has been a
mainstay in our wardrobes for decades.