Inside the Whimsical World of Twin Cities Fashion Designer, Samantha Rei

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Samantha Rei Crossland is someone you’ll never forget after you meet her. She is a colorful burst of energy contrasted against the greyscale landscape of the mundane world. This Twin Cities based fashion designer and artist is the poster child for the vibrant, innovative and growing fashion scene in Minnesota. Samantha, known for her impeccable sense of style and “cartoon” rainbow-colored locks, became a notable figure in the fashion scene due to her distinctly fanciful approach to her work. All of her designs are bold, smart and wearable, yet maintain a high level of functionality that makes her work a gem in the world of modern fashion.

She has been influenced by a range of inspirations, from the opulent designs of Alexander McQueen, to the demurely soft and feminine designs of Kate Spade–which explains why her unconventional style encompasses so many contrasting elements that blend together harmoniously. Fifteen years after she first came into the fashion world, Samantha is still one of the Twin Cities most beloved designers. In 2014, she was chosen by City Pages as “Artist of the Year” in the category of fashion. Most recently, she earned the title of author with the release of her new book Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration, published by Walter Foster Publishing in September of 2015. Even though Samantha is not a Steampunk designer, her versatility as an illustrator and fashion expert shines throughout the book’s composition. The content is not just limited to Steampunk; it incorporates several different genres of cosplay fashion.

I wanted to catch up with Samantha for an interview so I could ask what is the secret to her longevity as an alternative fashion designer. I first got the pleasure of meeting Samantha when she was a participant in the largest bi-annual teen art exhibition in the state of Minnesota called “Hot Art Injection (May Cause Side Effects)” in 1999, in conjunction with the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council. She was one of the few artists selected out of hundreds of submissions, which means even as a teen she was one of the top artists among her peers. I was one of the twelve teen curators who put this massive show together. Ironically, 16 years later, we are sitting across from each other at The Happy Gnome (one of St. Paul’s trendiest restaurants and bars) working together again, but this time with me as a freelance writer and her a leading indie fashion designer.

Samantha’s journey to being one of the most prominent designers in Minnesota had very humble beginnings. When she was young, she wanted to be a children’s book illustrator but over time her interests expanded into several different realms. Her father introduced her and her siblings to comic books when she was 12 or 13 and she became a huge “comic nerd”. She would watch Saturday morning cartoons and then would watch the fashion programs that would come on afterward. She thought to herself, “I could do this.” She merged her love of comics and fashion when she began to trace her comic characters and used them as her first croquis (before she even knew what one was).
Samantha’s mother had always been extremely proud and supportive of her art, but only passively tried to teach her how to sew because she thought that she might lose interest. Crossland began hand-sewing clothing for her dolls but she didn’t take up a strong interest in learning to use a machine until she was a teen.

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