When the 16th season of Project Runway airs next Thursday on Lifetime, local fashion fans may spot a familiar face. The cast includes Minneapolis-based fashion designer Samantha Rei, a fixture of the Twin Cities fashion community for more than a decade.
The 36-year-old designer joins the ranks of other Project Runway contestants hailing from Minnesota, including Christopher Straub (season 6); Ra’mon-Lawrence Radeke (né Ra’mon-Lawrence Coleman), now based in New York City (season 6); Danielle Everine (season 9); Raul Osorio (season 10); and most recently in 2014, Tim Navarro (season 13). Of the group, Straub placed the highest, coming in fourth. Earlier this year, Minnesota teen Hawwaa Ibrahim placed third on the second season of Project Runway Junior.
Rei began her fashion career with the launch of her label, Blasphemina’s Closet, in 2000, and quickly gained a following within the national Lolita, neo-Victorian, and cosplay communities, thanks to her meticulous construction, attention to detail, knowledge of historical fashion, and darkly whimsical aesthetic. In 2013, she shuttered the label and launched her eponymous collection, which moved beyond the boundaries of alternative fashion styles and into a slightly more commercial, wearable realm while still incorporating historical and literary references. Yet, the designer remains so well-respected in the steampunk and cosplay worlds that she was tapped by instructional book publisher Walter Foster to write and illustrate the book Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration in 2015. Also in 2015, the designer brought her tailoring skills to men’s fashion with the launch of Marching Achilles, a dapper line of menswear.
With her potent blend of creativity, fashion knowledge, sewing chops, and sheer determination, Rei is sure to be stiff competition on the show.
“I’m stupid fast [at sewing], I love details and textures, and 80 percent of my dresses have pockets,” she says in an interview on the Lifetime site. Plus, “I’ve been between sizes eight and 20 as an adult, so I learned early how to dress all frames, I listen to my clients, and I’m a wiz at draping.”
“Project Runway: Season 16” premieres Thursday, August 17 at 7 p.m. CST on Lifetime with host Heidi Klum, mentor Tim Gunn, and judges Nina Garcia and Zac Posen. View the designer’s past work on the Lifetime website, mylifetime.com.