The well of inspiration for fashion designers springs eternal, whether sourced from the houndstooth-patterned 1980s or a neon fever dream of postapocalyptic future wear. For the Canadian mother-and-daughters trio behind outerwear brand Therma Kōta, inspiration can come gurgling out of a geothermal geyser in Iceland.
“See that purple? It should be our next shearling color,” says Linda Lundström as she came across a steamy mud spring in the arid fumarole fields of Námaskarð pass, one of the photo shoot locations for Therma Kōta’s latest capsule wardrobe. The celebrated Canadian designer, of La Parka renown, founded the label with her daughters Mosha and Sophie Lundström Halbert in 2017, and their Icelandic heritage has played a foundational role for the brand. If added, the cloudy purple shade would join a slate of “statement neutrals” that includes arctic opal, lava, and moss—the latest shade. “Because it’s designed by nature, it looks good on everyone,” says Mosha.
Regular trips to Iceland are standard for Mosha—based in Miami—and Sophie—based in Dublin—to photograph new pieces for the catalog and collect creative cues from the dramatic northern landscape along the way. “We find nature very glamorous,” explains Mosha. “We love pulling from the elements and just keeping our eyes completely open when we’re there.”
The bestselling Northern Lightswear line, which has been spotted on model Coco Rocha and now includes an anorak cut, captures the iridescence of the aurora borealis with its flash-friendly microscopic material. While more costly than working in a studio, shooting in a natural environment provides proof that the digital-first company’s coats can withstand the elements—and look good in them, too.
With their mother joining them on their most recent visit, the two generations of Lundström women—clad head-to-toe in green velvet that matches this season’s moss shearling—trekked north to their ancestral homeland, an abandoned plot in the highlands of Húsavík. “It’s basically farmland that’s up on the edge of a cliff. You can walk down to the ocean, and there’s a black-sand beach,” says Sophie. Known as the whale-watching capital of Iceland, the coastal city has a tundra climate with an average temperature of 37°F throughout the year. Their matrilineal great-grandparents immigrated to Canada after enduring volcanic eruptions in the area. “Just to think of what people had to do to survive there—it was very humbling,” Sophie adds.
The influence of their northern roots runs deeper than aesthetics. “If you grow up in an environment where there are harsh conditions, it kind of does toughen you up and make you approach things a bit differently,” says Mosha. One way it informs production is though a “waste not, want not” ethos inherited from their grandmother and long practiced by Linda Lundström. Each shearling—handcrafted over eight hours near Toronto—comes with a matching pair of mittens made from the coat’s scraps. Seams are hand-tied and clean-finished so that the jacket can be worn reversibly, and removable Canadian-fox-fur trim for the hood and cuffs make the garment both transitional and versatile.
Last year, a free made-to-measure option was added for shearling, enabling customers to tailor orders to their personal specifications, and in turn, reducing waste. The option, which is now preferred by Therma Kōta clientele, has also helped the company maintain a return rate of 6.5%, at least five times as low as the online retail industry average that ranges between 30% and 50% and sends upwards of 5 billion pounds of waste to landfills each year.
Investment in the made-to-order market has grown in recent years, and while some designers charge up to three times the garment’s retail value for customization, Therma Kōta’s free service is in keeping with its advocacy for size inclusivity. The offering has made entrepreneur and body-positivity influencer Katie Sturino a fan of the label, alongside the likes of the Duchess of Sussex; actresses Sarah Rafferty, Liv Tyler, and Zosia Mamet; Canada’s first lady Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and former first lady (plus current first mother) Margaret Trudeau.
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