Reykjavík Trading Co.
Reykjavík Trading Co. is a collaboration between Anthony Bacigalupo, Ýr Káradóttir and Lísa Kjartansdóttir. They are interested in creating original products of outstanding beauty, quality, and craftsmanship. Since their founding, the team at Reykjavík Trading Co. have sold their pieces to like-minded individuals across the globe, not to mention becoming somewhat of a Instagram sensation in the process. Wolf's Reykjavík correspondent, Kevin Quigley, has the story.
‘I always wanted to be out in the country’ says Anthony Bacigalupo, gazing out over Faxaflói Bay to the snow-covered slopes of Mount Esja and beyond. We are sitting in the modish surroundings of the Kex hostel bar in Reykjavík, talking about the origins of the eponymous Reykjavík Trading Co., which he founded with Ýr Káradóttir and Lísa Kjartansdóttir. What began as a side-project has now become a fully-fledged business: their products are now being sold in stores from L.A. to London, Denmark to Japan and, of course, Reykjavík.
It all began in 2010 when Anthony left his life in California behind and settled in Iceland. He reminisces about those early days, and the frequent trips he made back to the States.
‘I was like a shipping container every time I returned’, he says with a chuckle. His downtown Reykjavík apartment soon became a repository for all sorts of objects trouvés, all manner of Americana.
It didn’t take long before the idea of a collaboration took root. With his background in design & photography, Ýr’s fashion know-how and Lísa’s expertise in interior architecture - as well as their access to materials not usually found in Icelandic design - they quickly realised that they possessed the skills and resources to do something unique.
‘It’s something that people appreciate. They see a product, they know who made it - they saw it being made.’
They started out with oak serving boards and curated blown glass aeriums with plants not ever seen in Iceland. Instagram & Facebook became their method of marketing, mixing pictures of the creative process with images of their home life. ‘It’s something that people appreciate’, Anthony suggests. ‘They see one of our goods, they know who made it, & then they see it in personal environments which they can connect with.’
A factor in their early and continued success is their fusion of ‘campy Americana’ with Nordic sensibilities. One of their most popular products, for example, their iPad and MacBook sleeves, are all crafted with Icelandic Wool - ‘some of the best wool in the world’ according to Anthony - and inspired both by southwestern prints and Icelandic winter tones.
It’s a recipe that works. Americana is hugely popular in Iceland, and Iceland, it goes without saying, is cool everywhere. Anthony is nonetheless aware of how transient such trends can be. In Iceland, ‘cool things will come and disappear just as quickly. Labeling products as ‘handcrafted’ has taken off like the ‘organic food’ phase a few years ago but I think if we stick to our values that we started with, we’ll ride easy.’
The desire of Reykjavík Trading Co., therefore is less about following trends and more about crafting products that last and can be passed on. To that end, they go to great lengths to source materials of the highest quality - like the Kentucky White Oak they import and use for the base of their popular Cloche, Oak & Porcelain Lamps, and their new Hanging Planter.
He shows me pictures of their new range of leather coasters made with veggie-tanned calf hide and Finnish birch, etched with cross-stitch patterns adapted from a 17th century Icelandic knitting book.
It isn’t the first time that history has come up in our conversation. Anthony learned recently that his Italian great-grandfather opened a small candy shop in Brooklyn when he immigrated to the US with nothing more than a few suitcases. ‘He came to this foreign land, started a family, a business, a new life.’ Now he too, finds himself recreating that same path.
‘In Iceland’, he reminds me, ‘you can do what you want to.’ I imagine his great-grandfather had a similar sense of optimism about the New World. I ask him, then, about where he hopes to take the company. Anthony sees himself owning a shop one day soon where he can carry R.T.Co. as well as a curated selection of his favorites from LA, Portland, Denmark. “I want a space that I can be in there working, making our goods, having my coffee, doing custom orders & bring back this spirit that was shared back in the day when things were simpler. Things are in motion, so that’s exciting.’