Review: Samantha Rei's "Vanitas" Fall/Winter 2018 Collection


Local designer Samantha Rei makes a strong return with a preview of her latest collection.

All images courtesy Samantha Rei

On Valentine’s Day, Minneapolis fashion designer Samantha Rei debuted a series of darkly beautiful ensembles at Northeast salon and gallery, Wild Hare. The gothic space proved to be the perfect setting for the gallery-style presentation, which represented one half of the Minneapolis fashion designer’s fall/winter 2018 collection, “Vanitas.”

Rei says the collection took inspiration from 17th-century Dutch vanitas paintings, the food-styling scenes from the Hannibal TV series, and themes of birth, death, and rebirth. The designer utilized textured brocades, hand-dyed cottons, silk velvet, bead embroidery, and faux fur to create the texture and palette of vanitas paintings, which contain symbols of death or change as a reminder of their inevitability. Models were situated throughout the space, motionless for the duration of the event as if sitting for a portrait.

The ornate, textured looks were shown alongside sculptor Richard Girard's hauntingly beautiful porcelain-white dolls, which were outfitted in petite dresses and bejeweled accessories by Rei. One wore a seamed dressed with a jeweled necklace and another wore a large scarlet-beaded brooch exploding with strings of oversized pearls, placed on the abdomen as if to mimic a (particularly fabulous) open wound.

The muted, reflective staging seemed to represent the quiet after the storm for the designer, who has had quite the busy year. Last August, Rei appeared as a contestant on the 16th season of Project Runway. Shortly thereafter, she debuted a new collaborative line of enamel pins and tote bags inspired by her cute-gothic aesthetic with graphic designer Ashley Hay and was prompted to move to a new studio. As a result, Rei hadn’t released a new collection since her spring/summer 2017 line, “Harmonic Convergence,” which recently made its Twin Cities debut via a series of experimental images in collaboration with local photographer Alex Butterfield, currently on display at Showroom boutique in Uptown. 

The break seems to have centered the designer. Her fall/winter 2018 collections shows Rei returning to her darkly romantic roots with sure-footed confidence, inspiration, and genuine thoughtfulness.

The second half of Rei’s fall/winter 2018 collection will be shown at the upcoming Black Hearts Ball fashion show on April 27 at Aria. Tickets are on sale now at

Shop Rei's ready-to-wear and inquire about custom work at

Image credits: Photos & fashions by Samantha Rei, dolls by Rachel Girard, harnesses by Apatico, makeup by Grace Witthuhn (lipstick by Elixery), hair by Orley Anderson

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