To walk into fashion designer Samantha Rei’s Northeast Minneapolis studio is to be immersed in a world of gothic whimsy. The space reflects Samantha’s love of all things spooky, as well as a personal esthetic she describes as “witchy Miss Frizzle.” Skulls, eerie dolls and assorted vintage thrift store finds mingle harmoniously with racks upon racks of intricately detailed garments that evoke a Stevie Knicks fever dream.
The sources of Samantha’s artistic inspiration are visually apparent, and are enthusiastically underscored when she launches into an impromptu lecture on the sub-genres of Steampunk. Her expertise in this area is beyond reproach, having illustrated and written a book on the subject. Copies of the volume, Steampunk and Cosplay Fashion Design and Illustration, are displayed front and center, along with her own line of enamel pins and costume jewelry.
“I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was four, and my own boss since I was seven.” Rei started her first fashion label, “Blasphemina’s Closet” in 2001 – all the while working 3 jobs to make ends meet. In 2008, a layoff put Rei at a crossroads and she decided firmly in favor of the road less traveled. Diving fully into her passion and pursuing fashion full time has yielded an amazing response, not only in the Minneapolis fashion scene but nationally as well. Samantha even competed on season 16 of Lifetime’s Project Runway. Her television debut propelled her eponymous line “Samantha Rei” to even greater notoriety. Today, Samantha spends her days in the studio (often assisted by her dog Domino) creating looks that transform women into the “beautiful warriors” they are by “helping them feel strong, confident and comfortable in their own skin.”