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Conversation with Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir on Artificial Intelligence in Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Design in Iceland: Founder, Rebutia (2)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/10/01


Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir is the Chief Executive Office of Dimmblá and Chief Executive Officer of Rebutia. She discusses: potential industry partners connected through the university system in Iceland; artificial intelligence and ethical and sustainable fashion dynamics; and style for Dimmblá.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, Dimmblá, Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir, Rebutia, sustainable fashion.

Conversation with Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir on Artificial Intelligence and Sustainable Fashion Design in Iceland: Chief Executive Officer, Rebutia (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: With the University of Iceland and Reykjavik University, how are potential industry partners connected through the university system in Iceland and small business owners & startups such as yourselves?

Heiðrún Ósk Sigfúsdóttir[1],[2]: When we are developing the artificial intelligence into our service, when we applied for the grant, we spoke with Reykjavik University. They have a department within the university, which is an A.I. department. They have been working with companies. They are really respected by the Research Development Grant that we get. They are really respected by them. I am sure that this collaboration is helping, or did help us, to get the grant, definitely. When they, Reykjavik University, sign an agreement, they worked with us, and bigger companies in Iceland, to develop an A.I. for them. The agreement says that, since they get so much innovation and knowledge from every research that they do in the development work, they can use it for the benefit of other companies; that are not in competition. So, let’s say, Marel (machining manufacturer in Garðabær, Iceland) are developing a fishing machine with A.I. This A.I. that they are developing for them could be helpful for us. In our case, there might be some angle there, “Yes, oh, we can use this.”

They are, actually, profiting other companies, helping them out, grow faster, and be better in international competition later on. It is a huge benefit for companies to collaborate with the university. Now, funny that you say this, I am, actually, applying for another grant in collaboration with the University of Iceland. It is a collaboration with a student for the Summer. I have an idea about what we want to do; I applied with the student. They get their angle into the application. They might think something different than I do. Then we get new views on the application, “Oh! We can go to this direction and complete this in three months.” Of course, both the student and the university, and the society, van benefit, because, if we see this person is a good fit for the new company, we can hire them. It can be a good benefit for when we are growing the economy here in Iceland. This is one of the reasons, probably, that the government decided to spend more money on the start-ups. This kind of collaboration is really great for everyone, I think.

Jacobsen: Some of the economic hits that came to Iceland’s economic shores. They have been the 2008 crash. They’ve been the counter-intuitive boom from the explosion, volcanic eruption [Laughing].

Sigfúsdóttir: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Based on my knowledge so far of Icelandic history and the people, it’s a survival culture. It’s a culture where, to quote Laxness, is “independent people.”

Sigfúsdóttir: Yes.

Jacobsen: Right? It is a people where the men went out; the women handled themselves. They’re fine.

Sigfúsdóttir: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: When men weren’t acting properly in the sexual dynamics of life for men and women…


Jacobsen: …there was a MeToo before MeToo. When bankers were involved in kind of financial ill-dealings, they were dealt with according to, where law. And they got their penalties. There are cases in the United States, where they were bailed out wih over $700 billion (USD) when the banks were acting bad. So, it was a nanny state for the super-rich. Then when it came to the MeToo movement and the TimesUp movement, we see this in the United States, but only in the last few years since, not only the election of Donald Trump but also, the explosion of the myth around a lot of these prominent male figures in Hollywood.

Sigfúsdóttir: Yes, exactly, definitely.

Jacobsen: So, Iceland is way, way, ahead. How are these artificial intelligence and ethical and sustainable fashion dynamics fitting into the larger weave of Icelandic history and culture, where it’s ahead of the curve and very conscious of things that are right and things that are wrong well ahead of their time?

Sigfúsdóttir: I think, we are a small society. We are 350,000 people.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Sigfúsdóttir: [Laughing] That’s the nature of Iceland. Like you talked about in the beginning, you went to the bar [Ed. Pre-interview conversation]. Accidentally, you meet your cousin.

Jacobsen: Right [Laughing].

Sigfúsdóttir: [Laughing] You have to go to check [Ed. The digital application is called Íslendinga-App, which references Íslendingabók or The Book of Icelanders.] If someone who you were dating was someone related to you [Laughing]. That is the problem that we have had in Iceland. I think because we are, basically, a small community.

Jacobsen: That’s a good way to put it.

Sigfúsdóttir: Heritage is our nature. It is our heritage. It is all around us. I live in the city. After five minutes, I can, actually, be in the woods. Of course, I live in the suburban area. However, I only have to travel five minutes to have the river, to have the woods, and to have the beautiful valley, which is untouched. I think I can tell, at least from my perspective, and the people around me. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandma. I still remember; she saved everything. She kept jars. I am drinking from a jar now [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Sigfúsdóttir: I still remember it. She needed a bedroom table. She went to her basement to make one. A table and other stuff, they were putting this together. Then she had a nice table for her bedroom. We just built it, out of stuff that she found. She never bought a bag when grocery shopping. This is 30 years back. She was concerned. She reused. People were poor. They did not have the money. So, they just had to adapt. I think because we were a poor country; people, we learned from our grandparents. This was a way of living. You had to survive with the small things that you had. You had to repurpose things. We learned a lot from our grandparents and being so close to nature. Many of us in the younger generation have gone travelling in Iceland. We are only a few minutes from Reykjavik. You are amazed, “Like, wow!” We have the highlands and so much untouched nature. Many people, when the tourism was really high in Iceland, were scared as well.

Because when there was so much tourism in Iceland, when you travel abroad or to the United States, you pay for everything. It wasn’t the case in Iceland. You could see the waterfalls and everything, but then thing changed with so much tourism. Suddenly, we were standing in line. A few years back, you were standing alone. Nobody was there. That was the best thing. Now, it was crowded with people. People were paying to see something. Even us Icelanders, at least, we had to pay for everything. For us, it was like, “Really?! I am travelling in my own country.” We are so close to nature. We might be brought up by parents, grandparents, who didn’t have much and had to make the most of things. I think this has, definitely, made us more conscious. At least, some of us [Laughing], most of us.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] The township where I live is hovering around 120,000 or 130,000. The capital of Iceland with Reykjavik is floating around the same number.

Sigfúsdóttir: Vancouver, I went there when I worked for an orthopedic company. I liked Vancouver. It is so beautiful there. Oh my God! This is a place I could imagine living. You could go out. You could be like, “What am I going to do today? Should I go skiing, swimming at sea?” [Laughing].

Jacobsen: A big thing, I think, for a lot of Vancouverites. I live in the Greater Vancouver Area. I live on the outskirts in a small town called Fort Langley. It was the first capital of British Columbia. It was a colony before Canada was a country. To get to Downtown Vancouver, it is a significant amount of travel relative to a European’s idea of travel. You can walk from one corner of Reykjavik to the other in about an hour. That’s the length of the drive to Downtown Vancouver.

Sigfúsdóttir: Yes, exactly. That’s a benefit of Iceland, or Reykjavik [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Yes, Canadians don’t understand how other people view them because provinces that we have are bigger than most countries. That really puts it into perspective, I think. I think Canada has a lot of Icelandic-Canadians as well, maybe 100,000.

Sigfúsdóttir: Exactly, true.

Jacobsen: What other areas could we touch on that are relevant to others to cover the relevant dynamics of Iceland? I think the fashion rooted in the culture. With Dimmblá, every fashion company has a particular style. You’re rooted in Iceland. Other than things like Sky Blue and Nay Blue. Things like this. What other things are you thinking in terms of style for Dimmblá?

Sigfúsdóttir: I have been going away from fashion a bit. Because I have been focusing on sustainable living. What I have been designing is basically the accessories, like scarves, of course, I was designing the dresses with a designer before. We were always thinking about what we wanted to capture: As a woman, what you would be feeling when you were wearing the Dimmblá clothing. That’s mostly what I was thinking. It was for women who were free spirit going out into nature. Something reminding her of the nature and the comfort. Someone who is, actually, a traveller who has been around the world, basically. Because what I have learned, you begin to appreciate things more, especially, for me, when I travel, “Oh wow, we have this at home.” You start to appreciate your nature and your heritage more when you start travelling. So, when people are travelling more and learning about new culture, I have seen that for many cases. People start to appreciate. They start to get more conscious about things around them after travelling, learning new culture.

You want to, basically, (not save) keep the heritage and the nature. I see this when people come to Iceland. They travel and come to Iceland and see the nature. They go, “Oh wow, you have managed to keep nature so untouched. It is amazing how much nature that you have.” Then they start to say, “You have to keep it. You have to make sure that it is not ruined. It is the feeling when in nature and close to nature. It is the feeling, which I that want to inspire with my products. You want to get this sustainable and to not be affected by the chemicals or the pollution, which are so-often used in this business. I think that’s a really important perspective for me, in everything I do. I want to inspire people and make the right choices, basically. When you buy something, you know this is something authentic. They believe in this. It is something that you want to be a part of.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Heiðrún.

Sigfúsdóttir: [Laughing].

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Dimmblá; Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Rebutia.

[2]Individual Publication Date: October 1, 2020:úsdóttir-2; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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