“European-style clothing for adventurous women” is how Stina Sayre describes her design line. Ms. Sayre has been creating and selling women’s clothing for 25 years. A native of Sweden, the designer was a windsurfing champion, and both facets of her background are reflected in her designs. All of the Stina Sayre separates, dresses, and accessories have the clean, spare, functional-with-style appeal found in Scandinavian design (think of a set of Bang & Olufsen speakers).
In a nod to her athletic nature, Ms. Sayre designs with wearability in mind, and uses high-quality fabrics that are both durable and beautiful (think Saab), yet free of frills or overly busy patterns. Her palette runs consistently toward cool shades, with a burst of orange or red here and there for contrast.
Since 2001, Ms. Sayre has had a successful boutique/studio in Vineyard Haven. Now the designer has opened a second location in Edgartown. But don’t expect a chain of shops. Ms. Sayre is very hands-on. The back of her Vineyard Haven shop is an open studio where she can be found working out designs on a daily basis. Now the designer will split her time between the two locations. She is adding a small space in the Edgartown shop where she can work on her creations while interacting with her clientele.
On Saturday, June 20, the new location will host a grand opening celebration with wine and hors d’oeuvres. The shop’s next-door neighbor, the Mikel Hunter gallery/boutique will host a portrait-unveiling event with artist Elizabeth Whelan at the same time. With the addition of his new neighbor, Mr. Hunter refers to the stretch of storefront occupied by the two businesses as “the Vineyard’s Left Bank,” an appropriate comparison considering the original and artistic nature of them both.
Designing is a full-time occupation for Ms. Sayre. To perfect a seemingly simple design, Ms. Sayre spends a good deal of time. Pointing to a gorgeous midweight coat, Ms. Sayre says, “This shape I probably worked on for two months.” And the design process is an ongoing one. “People will ask me, ‘How long does it take you to sew that coat?’ I say, ‘Twenty-five years.’” Shape and flow are very important to Ms. Sayre. Although the designs may seem relatively simple, they have very well-thought-out and meticulously constructed lines that both flatter and add interest.
There are some distinctive style features that exemplify Stina Sayre design. She favors asymmetric details, and often includes an unexpected drape that forms a pocket, helps create structure, or serves some other function. “In good design, every detail has intention,” says Ms. Sayre.
Quality fabric is also a trademark of the designer’s creations. She sources her material through trips to New York City. “I spend a lot time finding fabric,” says Ms. Sayre. “I look at haystacks of fabric to find one needle in each haystack.”
Ms. Sayre often uses unusual types of materials, like a structural cotton with a metallic weave. One example of a new use of a functional fabric can be found in one of Ms. Sayre’s latest creations. The Transport-Me Raincoat comes in a variety of colors and fabrics including a translucent white version made from ripstop fabric. “Ripstop is used for spinnakers,” explains Ms. Sayre. The raincoat features an asymmetrical front zipper, and bright orange is used for the belt and detailing. The semi-transparent fabric provides a muted, softened view of the colors worn underneath. “It’s fun. Whatever you’re wearing under is going to shine through. I’m always intrigued with transparency and colors. I like taking something simple and bringing it to the next level of interest,” says Ms. Sayre.
The raincoat is one piece from the new Ice and Flow line. The collection is described on the Stina Sayre website as “Spring and Summer fashions inspired by the beauty, stillness, and frosty relentlessness of these past wintery months.” The line includes pieces for every occasion; there’s the Grecian-inspired pale lilac pleated Diana Dress and the perfect classic white blouse made from handkerchief linen for crisp summer appeal, but backed with coordinating cotton jersey to transform the shape from men’s wear to purely feminine with added wearability.
For the various lines of accessories that Ms. Sayre features, she seeks out designers with a similar aesthetic to her own. Among other things, she carries beautiful soft leather shoes handmade by an Italian designer with an eye for interesting details and a focus on comfort, along with a line of gorgeous large handpainted scarves that are more of an additional wardrobe element than a simple accessory.
Ms. Sayre always introduces new pieces that will coordinate with the previous season’s looks. Some of her most popular designs have remained constant throughout the years, although she often experiments with new fabrics. The designer notes that many of her customers have become collectors who come back year after year. “A lot of designs stay around for a long time,” says Ms. Sayre.
That’s due in part to the fact that the Stina Sayre look is never trendy or so overly fancy that one gets bored with it after a few wearings. “I design for my own personality,” says Ms. Sayre. “I don’t want to dry clean. I don’t want to fuss with clothing. I focus on ease with style. Easy to take care of. Easy to wear. Easy to layer.”
This summer, the new Stina Sayre location will host a number of events, including a show featuring Randi Baird’s fashion photography (July 14), Ice and Flow fashion show and Fall Preview (August 4), a showcase of the handpainted scarves of New York artist Patricia Marroquin (August 10), and a show of work by artist Elizabeth Whelan including the unveiling of a portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks (August 22). Ms. Sayre is also designing the costumes for Wendy Taucher’s dance opera show Impresario Now! at Featherstone (July 31 – August 2).
It will be a very busy summer for Ms. Sayre, but she certainly has the energy and resilience to take on anything that comes her way, a carryover from her days as a professional athlete.