Tonight, Third Thursdays will unveil the products of a design challenge poised to pair four local fashion designers with works from Minneapolis Institute of Art's extensive trove. Inspired by the pieces' artistic aesthetic and cultural elements, the designers have created looks that bring their visionary juxtaposition with art and fashion to life via a stylishly eccentric gala runway show. In this article, l'étoile will be featuring a short Q&A section where readers not only get an insider's perspective on the designers' specific art choices but also catch a sneak preview of their wearable “works of art” collection.
We caught up with fashion designer and the creative chops behind local apparel line, Blasphemina's Closet, Samantha Rei, to chat about the challenges of experimental sewing projects, fashion as escapism and why her Third Thursday collection is a l'amour homage to her hubbie.
l'étoile: The works you chose as inspiration are very architectural: panels, grilles, terra-cotta tiles, an upholstered chair. What drew you to these?
Rei: Love, I guess. I'm a very romantic and whimsical type of person. I'm usually drawn to pretty and feminine things. My husband has had a long love affair with structured and blocky types of things. When we go to the MIA we go to the same wings all the time: Japanese Art, anything Rococo or Baroque, and the Art Deco section. Art Deco makes me think of him and it's pretty much the opposite of my aesthetic. It's both a challenge to my usual look and love letter to him.
l'étoile: George Elmslie – the artist who created the majority of your selections – designed with an organic, ornamental aesthetic in mind. How did you incorporate this aesthetic into your Third Thursday collection?
Rei: I did a lot of hand sewn trims when I couldn't find fabrics that had the shapes I wanted. I made felt backings for the circles to make them perfectly shaped, but hand stitched braided trim to get the right manipulated look. I chose lighter weight upholstery fabrics to get the prints I wanted and stayed with structured, yet pliable dupioni silks to get the rigid and organic look I was going for in the solids. I think so many of the items were both feminine and masculine, structured and fluid. It was a fun experiment!
l'etoile: These artworks are decorative yet useable, reminiscent of how the Victorian-inspired designs in Blasphemina's Closet are ornate, yet still function as wearable fashion pieces. How do you create garments that are whimsical while retaining their relate-ability?
Rei: I think about the fact that I'm not the only escapist out there. What would you want to wear to make yourself feel special if you were sure no one would give you a hard time? And in the end, would you really care if they did give you a hard time if you felt beautiful?
I try to put myself in the shoes of every prince and princess that live in the minds of every man and woman. There's no reason why people can't wear art every day and still be comfortable. I think there's an epidemic of comfiness. People equate comfortable with easy and lazy. It makes me sad to see people going through their day, not making a statement, or if they are, that statement is' "I don't care what people think of me. I want to blend in. I don't want my appearance to cause a fuss." When making a collection, I pick a theme that makes me warm and tingly inside; I ask people what they wish they had and I run with it. I do a lot of research; I read a lot of books; I watch a lot of TV and movies. I never want to make a garment that would make someone feel like they are set apart from everyone, because I don't want them to feel lonely. But at the same time I want them to make a statement, be a leader and run with their own look.
For more info on Third Thursdays at the MIA on November 18th click HERE.
For more info on Samantha Rei click HERE.