It’s easy to spot a Stina Sayre design — she has a characteristic style that is very European and very contemporary. The Norwegian-born designer is obsessed with form. Her unique styles rely primarily on construction innovations for their distinctiveness and their ability to bring out the best in any woman’s figure.
Asymmetrical lines, unexpected tucks, pockets, or drapes, and flattering combinations of sleek and swingy give her various clothing lines a timeless, distinctive quality. Yet nothing is gratuitous. Like a talented creator in any field — be it furniture or auto design, architecture or painting — every element has to work together and serve both function and form. Ms. Sayre is a perfectionist. Her designs are very carefully thought out, tried out, and modified until each works on every level.
Ms. Sayre inherited her commitment to her craft and her keen sense of form and function from her architect father. “Through his thoughtful eye, I learned to appreciate what the balance of form and space is all about,” the designer writes on her website.
Ms. Sayre’s latest line is a perfect example of her design ingenuity. The Idun line is named for the Norse deity Idun (the Rejuvenating One), goddess of youth, beauty, and strength.
The line includes a dress, two skirts (one just above the knee and one a little longer), and a sleeveless fitted tunic. Ms. Sayre’s signature asymmetrical lines are used to very good effect.
Each piece is constructed with an overlapping diagonal panel that wraps around the body, giving the piece a varying-length hemline in both front and back and providing a sort of capelet effect from behind. Ms. Sayre describes the Idun line as “four pieces that build on the concept of revealing and hiding and asymmetry.”
The design allows for a shapely silhouette in profile, while discreetly draping over the back for a bit of flirty mystery. The result of Ms. Sayre’s feat of design engineering is that a woman of any age or shape can dress in a body-conscious outfit that won’t make her feel the least bit self-conscious. Not a bad trick at all.
“The look is very dancey to me,” Ms. Sayre said as she walked about her Vineyard Haven studio and boutique, modeling the dress in an eye-catching saturated purple. The back panel swayed in syncopation with her movements for a subtly seductive effect.
Ms. Sayre was a dancer for many years, as well as a professional windsurfer. She remains very active today. “Being a dancer, you’re very aware of sculptural shape,” she said. Her designs accommodate and accentuate motion, and although she can boast the lithe body of an athlete, her pieces are created to flatter any shape.
Because the designer works six days a week in her Vineyard Haven showroom, she remains in tune with her dedicated clientele, as well as prospective customers. “Because I work in the store, I hear what the customers say about my clothing,” she said. “Sometimes they know who I am. Sometimes they don’t, so I get the honest opinion.”
This enables her to design with the needs of her customers in mind, and she is always looking to reinvent and reinvigorate. “My designs always come from something I know. Then, to keep my job interesting, I have to throw in a wrench that is the problem to solve.”
The Idun line pieces are all made with soft high-quality jersey. “It’s hard to find really good jersey,” said Ms. Sayre, who shops all over the world for fabrics. “What I’m always looking for in a jersey is something that will last forever without it falling apart. Women who’ve owned my pieces for years come in wearing them, and they look brand-new. This is very important to me, because my designs are classic.”
Ms. Sayre’s most recent venture is a line of handmade Italian leather shoes. The Freja line (also named for a Norse goddess) includes a sandal and a bootie, and spotlights Ms. Sayre’s signature asymmetrics. Both the bootie and the sandal feature a slightly slanted squared-off front and a manageable 1.75-inch heel. The sandal derives interest from a diagonal apple-peel-style strap. The short boot is also constructed with asymmetrical lines.
The shoes are made from soft buffalo leather by a small family-owned shoemaking business, Duncanero, in Italy. Ms. Sayre traveled to the shoe district in Marche, Italy, to personally design her Freja line. She finds that Ducanero’s process is similar in ways to her own: “Ducanero hires the designer. Then one company makes the sole, another the heel. Many craftspeople are involved. We have all but lost the connection with the art of making these days.”
Along with the Idun and Freja lines, the fashion show will introduce a new weather-resistant shell version of her Bond jacket, and feature some of her inventive eveningwear pieces.
The show, for the seventh year in a row, is a fundraiser for the Friends of Family Planning of Martha’s Vineyard. “I share the same mission as Family Planning,” Ms. Sayre said; “to empower women.”
Stina Sayre Fashion Show: Thursday, July 28, 5:30 pm. Stina Sayre Design Studio, Vineyard Haven. Free admission. For more information, visit stinasayre.com.