Purple Magazine
— The Essence of Fashion Issue #41 S/S 2024

björk in noir kei ninomiya s/s 2024


Noir Kei Ninomiya  S/S 2024

Photography by VIDAR LOGI


Aleph Molinari, art direction

Edda Gudmundsdottir, style

Steinunn Ósk Brynjarsdóttir, hair

Sunna Björk Erlingsdóttir, make-up

Jón Albert M. Guðrún-Carlosson and Sverrir Páll Sverrisson, assistants





Always at the forefront of avant-garde fashion, the Icelandic singer and musician has consistently collaborated with emerging designers. Her symbiotic integration of music and fashion is an essential part of her ever-evolving poetic universe. We met at
her cabin in Iceland’s countryside.


ALEPH MOLINARI — We’ve had an amazing dialogue this past week. It’s relevant for you to speak about fashion because you’ve always lived in a constant synergy with fashion, and fashion has always been linked to your music. How did this synergy develop?

BJÖRK — That’s a big question. It’s hard to know which moment to count. I was quite an expressive dresser in school. I would wear comfortable clothes like mountain boots, and then suddenly I would appear in a huge ball gown. I definitely enjoyed dressing dramatically, once in a while.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Which in Iceland must have been even more of a contrast.

BJÖRK — Yes, probably more of a contrast. But what’s amazing about Iceland is that people aren’t bullied. Everybody’s included, like the eccentric aunt and the crazy rapper and the venture capitalist. You’re not isolated if you’re weird. So, I was loved and appreciated.

ALEPH MOLINARI — That also empowered you, I imagine.

BJÖRK — Absolutely. I remember being 16 and going to secondhand shops and getting clothes in different colors. I had one box with yellow clothes, another with red clothes, another with blue clothes. I mean, it was a very teenage thing to do. I’d be like, “Oh, I’m yellow today.”

ALEPH MOLINARI — So, that relationship to fashion and clothes has always been there. What influenced this early sense of fashion?

BJÖRK — Well, when the punk movement kicked off in Iceland, I looked up to them. They were older than me and were like gods and goddesses. It was very much about individuality — flamboyant, but without the budget. At the time, there was a secondhand shop in a basement with no windows, and they had mountains of clothes. I would be there for hours digging through piles of dirty clothes, and when I would find one thing, my heart would just go double speed. It was a feeling of hunting and gathering. I definitely had that fever. And then being in a band and traveling abroad was also an influence.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you find that the way you dress evolved through the performative aspect of being a musician?

BJÖRK — Totally. I think it’s also somehow interwoven with my introversion. I could speak through clothes. As a kid, I was very shy, and it wasn’t until I was older that I spoke more and learned how to express myself. Also, humor has always been very important for me, and part of my fashion might be a little bit misunderstood, but I kind of like that.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Was this satirical take present when you wore that infamous swan dress? It was for the Oscars, right?

BJÖRK — Yes, it was designed by Marjan Pejoski, and I wore it at the Oscars for Dancer in the Dark. I also had six ostrich eggs made, which I would drop on the red carpet in Hollywood, and the security guards kept running after me and giving them back to me like, “Ma’am, you dropped something.” I was just pissing myself laughing. I thought it was so funny. And because I had six eggs, they were in constant rotation.

ALEPH MOLINARI — The mother swan dropping her eggs.

BJÖRK — Totally. I think it was my take on Busby Berkeley. I was like, “I hate Hollywood, but I like synchronized swimming films and Michael Jackson and Disney.” So, humor in fashion is very important to me.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Which is something that not a lot of people see, partly because your album covers have a very defined aesthetic. They have something magnanimous about them. How did you develop this visual language?

BJÖRK — When I was in all those punk bands, I quickly realized that people are much quicker at understanding visuals. If they see a video or a photo or even clothes, they get it right away. But they have to hear a song three or four times before they get it. A big part of the punk and even the rave movements was quite spartan. We were dogmatic and austere, like, “We don’t do fashion, and we don’t do visuals — that’s for narcissistic people.” And when photographs would be taken of us, I remember seeing them and being so disappointed because it wasn’t how the songs felt to me. The images didn’t look like what the music sounded like. So, I wanted to build a bridge.

ALEPH MOLINARI — You wanted the images to express the music.

BJÖRK — Yes. When I get asked about the differences in the music of my albums, I find it quickest to use visual shortcuts. That’s kind of why my album covers are almost like homemade tarot cards. The image on the front might seem like just a visual moment, but for me it simply describes the sound of it. I try to express it with the color palette, the textures of the textiles, with the objects I’m  holding. The posture I am in shows my relationship to the world; also, the emotion of the face shares the overall mood of the album — capturing the moods, timbres, and tempos vibrating during each of them.

ALEPH MOLINARI — They’re archetypes.

BJÖRK — Yes, but sonic ones.

ALEPH MOLINARI — And when you see the scope of your albums, it’s a history of the characters that you’ve incarnated.

BJÖRK — Exactly. I started very simply with Debut. I obviously wanted to call it Debut because I felt like a beginner. I wanted a fresh start. The cover is a sepia photo of me with a mohair sweater and silver on my fingertips because silver is the alchemical messenger. The photographer, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, wanted to use a photo where I looked fabulous and confident, but I picked the one where I was basically the prayer emoji. [Laughs] It reflected the virgin and the innocence that was in me, which was the true archetype of that album. Slowly, the covers became more complicated because I became more complicated and got better at expressing it.

ALEPH MOLINARI — How would you describe your style now, compared with other stages of your life? What has remained constant?

BJÖRK — I think I discovered a lot about how to express my visual side around the album Post back in ’95. We did one cover artwork, and it wasn’t right, so I was forced to define what I wanted. It was about moving to London — Trafalgar Square — and the big city, the big lights, promiscuity, and being at every club, every bar, every party. So, the album cover needed that sort of energy, of somebody eating up the world, like a glutton. Each album carries both a casual and a theatrical side. Right now, I am embodying the most theatrical side in my live concerts. Cornucopia is a kind of sci-fi digital theater play, so it needs a flamboyant fantasy to go with it.

ALEPH MOLINARI — And you have embraced the Icelandic spirit, not just as an aesthetic but also with the sensibility of this magical world.

BJÖRK — Iceland is fully magical and has preserved its powers. When you go to the highlands for a few hours, you recharge with some unknown force and hope, and you are reminded of how small you are. But it is not Tolkien; it is not the cute hippie Woodstock butterfly stuff. Nature here is a fierce choral-techno track. Not the “old nature” Romanticism as in Caspar David Friedrich. No, “new nature” fucked by pollution, global warming, and plastic … and hopefully cured by mushrooms and other things. So, not post-apocalyptic but post-optimistic animism. And definitely no elves or puffins.

ALEPH MOLINARI — And what is at the core of the connection between music and fashion for you?

BJÖRK — Expression, I guess. Maybe there is a connection between my anarchic melodies and color choices? I find that the kind of shoes you wear often relates to the rhythms you listen to. If you want to go anthropological with it, songs first came from birds. It’s like you are claiming your space with sound, kind of like the birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea do with their feathers. To me, that is the primordial core and DNA of fashion. I did an interview with David Attenborough once, and he said that the amount of a bird’s colored feathers is directly connected to its immune system and the amount of vitamin B12. But I also like the opposite, like a dirty club beat and the trashy alien who ruined their B12 levels.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Do you feel that musicians today need to be validated by the fashion world?

BJÖRK — I think a lot of people who promote brands do it in a very blunt way. I’ve chosen not to, but I’m not against it. I’d rather do an exchange of craft. My rule of thumb is that they don’t pay me money, and I don’t pay them money, but we share craftsmanship. It took me a while to get an angle on that one. For me, it always goes back to, “How can we do this together?”

ALEPH MOLINARI — So, it’s about fostering an ecosystem of collaboration. Do you think it’s harder for musicians today, with social media and marketing flooding our lives, to navigate this cartography of exchange?

BJÖRK — It’s a different climate today and a different way of communicating. It’s harder in some ways and easier in others because you have a whole audience on your phone. If you do a good Instagram or TikTok, the whole world sees you. If that’s the way to go for a young celebrity today, then just do it. I think it’s important for every person to find their language and their roots in a world where everybody is on a mission, and the most minimal thing can become huge and meaningful in a different context. I think everything is allowed.

ALEPH MOLINARI — You’ve worked with a lot of fashion photographers, including Inez & Vinoodh, Nick Knight, Juergen Teller, and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. How do these collaborations come about?

BJÖRK — Since it’s 10 albums, it’s 10 answers. It’s never the same twice, but if there’s one answer that could work for all of them — it’s usually the person I’m connected to at that moment. Inez & Vinoodh became some of my best friends, so we had a very strong connection. We did the albums Vespertine, Biophilia, and Medúlla together. Volta was a weird one because I shot it with both Nick Knight and Inez & Vinoodh. It’s basically my tribal album, like a sort of neon-green fire element.

ALEPH MOLINARI — So, every album expresses a constellation of creatives around you at that moment.

BJÖRK — Yes. I always work with the photographers and people who are in my life at that moment. For example, the album cover of Utopia was done by the artist and animator Jesse Kanda. I needed to mutate into a plant, and it looks like the sexual organ of a plant coming out of my face. The whole thing was super erotically charged. It took me a long time to figure it out because it had to be a mutation between a bird, a flute, and a woman. There are bird sounds throughout the whole album. That’s probably the most sci-fi bonkers I’ve ever gone. I shot the album cover for Fossora with Viðar Logi in my cabin during Covid, and I chose mostly fashion designers who are still in school as there seems to be a good, healthy reciprocal energy there.

ALEPH MOLINARI — How do you go about collaborating with a designer either to dress you or to do an album cover?

BJÖRK — I follow what’s going on online quite well. It’s sort of how you gather music, right? It’s from several sources. But I try to support emerging designers, some from Central Saint Martins or from other schools. And it actually goes both ways because
I like experimental clothes, and it’s beautiful to wear something that there’s only one copy of. I support them, but they also support me. And sometimes I do several dresses with the same designer; you establish a friendship, and it’s consistent, like with Richard Malone or Iris van Herpen, with whom I began working when she was just starting.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Iris works a lot with technology and 3D printing and has a biomorphic element to her designs. Does the integration of fashion and technology excite you?

BJÖRK — Totally. In a way, we’ve done even more dresses together than I did with Lee [Alexander McQueen]. I asked her for very specific things, and she would nail it. There’s so much work in every single dress she does. She made the leather flower for Biophilia. And another that’s like dark matter, magnetic.

ALEPH MOLINARI — And you worked closely with Alexander McQueen?

BJÖRK — Yes. I went to London around ’93, and I met Jefferson Hack first, and we became really good mates. Lee was in the same group of party friends, so that’s why I came to ask him to do the outfit for Homogenic. It was accidentally professional. I had done my first two albums, and everybody was like, “Oh, it’s the crazy elf from Iceland.” It was a sort of colonial pop journalism. Now it’s changed, but at the time it was this kind of “othering.” When I did Homogenic, I had kind of peaked after my promiscuous period, and I was like: “Okay, I tried that.” So, I went to Spain and did the most Icelandic album I could make, which was basically strings. Weirdly, it’s somehow easier to be patriotic somewhere else.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Yes, you gain perspective on your culture and appreciate it much more.

BJÖRK — Totally. That was when I really came into my own and started producing the album much more. And then I did volcanic beats, techno beats — we invented them. That was the concept at least. A lot of Icelandic artists and creatives wanted to be taken seriously on the global stage, not just treated like freaky people from Iceland or some animal species. We wanted to be equals. It was like some justice fight we were fighting. I called the album Homogenic because it is the opposite of the first two albums, which were done all over the place with all kinds of people and all kinds of genres. And at that time, I said to Lee: “Let’s do nothing Icelandic. No Icelandic sweater, no Icelandic Viking helmet, but everything else.” So, it was like Mexican hair, the African neck rings, the eyes from space like a futuristic alien, European manicure, and, of course, the incredible kimono dress that Lee designed. We thought we were doing globalism, like: “Yes, I’m from Iceland, but fuck you. I’m from everywhere.” That was the statement. And also emotionally, what I said to Lee and Nick [Knight] was that I want to sort of look confrontational because a lot of the songs are a bit aggressive.

ALEPH MOLINARI — At the same time, the local aspect is what gives us power and what gives culture an edge today. If not, then everything seems to be the same under the guise of normality.

BJÖRK — For sure. I think it’s like any revolution — it’s like a tank. And you have to have more awareness.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Beautiful. It seems to me that you’ve always had a fascination for the biomorphic in your approach to fashion.

BJÖRK — Totally. I really like where technology and nature meet. It’s a huge part of me, actually. And I really enjoy the places where two areas of plants meet, like when there’s moss, and then it becomes a forest. Also, when I do arrangements, I like to have something hyper acoustic and then something really techno. It’s the bridge-building between them, not just in one place but in a hundred places. When we were doing all the silicone plants, yes it’s biomorphic, but it also looks fucked up. It looks techno. Also, nature for me is dangerous.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Yeah, it’s not always idyllic. It’s cold, it’s rough, it’s the jagged volcanic rock. Nature has a sublime violence in Iceland, and that’s something that has really impressed me about this place. This island feels like it’s from another geological era. Nature is so compressed here — volcanoes next to glaciers, waterfalls next to hot springs. There’s an overwhelming density of nature. Does this inform in some way your approach to fashion?

BJÖRK — Absolutely. For me, it’s always about trying to connect everything together to create a flow. I’m not good at any one thing, but I’m a connector. What I like about Iceland is that you can go to a bar or a nightclub, and then you walk out and the mountains are there. It’s not two separate worlds. Nature and techno are twins. You can sing very human songs about love and failure and joy and be like a dark matter snake. I want us to have mobile phones and AI and still be in nature. I want the best of both worlds. I want the physical, the visceral, the flesh, and I want the technology. But it is also in fashion. There are designers who mix fabrics so well, the natural and technical fabrics. For me, if you’re not doing that in 2023, you’re a coward. It’s like an affirmative life statement.

ALEPH MOLINARI — How do you see the current moment or the fashion zeitgeist that is happening now?

BJÖRK — I don’t think so much about zeitgeists, but I noticed that there was a gentle accident with the world becoming obsessed with mushrooms. Science is finally reading and mapping the mycelium world. Mushrooms are very 21st century in that way. They’re more of a string theory, quantum physics, solar-winds kind of magnetic energy as opposed to the molecular 20th century with Einstein, the elements table, minimalism, the atomic bomb. It makes sense in my musical brain if you think about it as a vibration, a sound. But talking of a zeitgeist, I think the environmental angle on fashion is very important.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Today, we were walking, and we saw this beautiful mountain where your mom’s ashes are. Having a mom who was an activist from Iceland, what do you think about fashion and sustainability?

BJÖRK — I think about it a lot. Obviously, we can all do better when it comes to the environment, including myself. With a lot of my friends who are fashion designers, I never understood why they do so many collections in a year. Some do six collections. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. Why don’t designers just do one winter and one summer collection? I understand it makes money, but I think it’s a mindfuck for designers because I know so many designers, like Alexander McQueen, who get on the treadmill, and it’s just insanity.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Yes, and in some ways, McQueen was destroyed by that. The pressure, plus the creative, emotional, and personal distress.

BJÖRK — I think for both mental health and ideas, it’s better to do fewer collections. As a musician, I know this very well. When I finish a project, I just go abstract and try to forget everything — tell stupid jokes, have fun at a hip-hop bar, or climb the Himalayas, and then maybe accidentally an idea comes. Clothes should be made like that, too.

ALEPH MOLINARI — Maybe we should slow down?

BJÖRK — If you do one concert a year, everybody wants to be there. I think fashion designers would also do better work doing fewer collections, and more pieces would become timeless. I think the majority of the global-warming waste thing is just all the stuff that gets left in the shops. It’s just too much waste.


[Table of contents]

The Essence of Fashion Issue #41 S/S 2024

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