Samantha Rei’s mission as a designer is “to help women feel confident, strong and comfortable in their own skin.” She believes that “they can all be beautiful warriors” and strives to communicate that message through her work in fashion and illustration.
The style that she has adopted for her label – Samantha Rei – is sweet, feminine, and intricate, with hints of whimsy plucked from fairytales such as Snow White and Alice in Wonderland. Professionally, Rei admires illustrators Chris Riddell, Brom, Tony DiTerlizzi, Brett Helquist and Mihara Mitsukazu and designers Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Hirooka Naoto, John Galliano, and Anna Sui.
The Minneapolis-based designer’s career began sixteen years ago with the label “Blasphemina’s Closet”. Over time, she transitioned to her current label, getting an education in illustration along the way.
Her journey has drawn attention from all over the map, landing her features in Huffington Post, Vogue UK, Shojo Beat and more. Samantha Rei showed a collection titled “id.ego” at the most recent Vancouver Fashion Week, calling it “very personal” and her “therapy collection” in an interview with Metro Vancouver. Below is her exclusive Vancouver Fashion Week interview with Metro Living Zine.
How and when did you get your start in fashion?
I discovered fashion at 13 and worked towards learning everything I could throughout school. My first “job” was making prom dresses for classmates. I started my first label, “Blasphemina’s Closet”, in 2000. I specialized in Lolita fashion, an alternative street style started in Japan.
Do you have a muse?
I used to have a muse. Now I’m environmentally inspired (movies, music, books, etc). I hope to find a new muse soon. I feel a bit adrift without one.
What type of music are you listening to right now?
I love metal so I’ve been listening to my favorite band Dir en Grey a lot lately. They are releasing a new single soon and I’m stoked. I’ve also been listening to School of Seven Bells, Metric, She Wants Revenge and Sleigh Bells.
Which part of the job as a designer do you love? Which part do you dislike?
I love getting to create. Every day I make something from scratch. I love telling stories. I can’t stand tight deadlines, but I make do.
Which three designers inspire you and why?
Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. They’re punk and they taught me that fashion is art.
What do you love about Vancouver? What do you dislike?
I loved how nice everyone in Vancouver was. The city is really lovely. The number of homeless people was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I spent the next couple of weeks afterwards trying to understand it by talking to people I know from Canada. It was hard to see so many people in dire straights being ignored by everyone in the city.
Which words of advice would you give to someone starting out in the business that you wish you had been given?
Be patient and know it’s work. People see fashion shows and red carpet stuff and it looks like a big fun party. It is exhausting and time-consuming work. If you go into it knowing that it’s a job like any other job and that it takes time to make it, you’ll be much more prepared. Also, find a mentor and don’t waiver in your convictions. In some fashion scenes it easy to get corrupted. Stay true to your goodness and surround yourself with other good people.
If your house was burning down, which three things would you take with you?
Old photos, my Batman the Animated Series box set and my Harry Potter first editions.
Do your parents approve of you being a designer?
My parents are my biggest cheerleaders. They come to all of my events and give me a million pep talks.
If you were not a fashion designer, which other job would you like to be doing?
If I weren’t a fashion designer, I would be a comic artist or an event planner, possibly a fashion teacher. Before I became a designer, I wanted to illustrate comics. I was even published once when I was 21.
What is the one fashion trend that you wish had never happened?
I really hate mom jeans and can’t stand that they ever made a comeback, especially because it was ironic. I those weird, furry J-Lo vests.
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