Vineyard air inspires designer Stina Sayre

Stina Sayre wearing a dress from her new spring line. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Martha’s Vineyard clothing designer Stina Sayre will introduce her spring/summer collection this weekend with a two-day celebration at her boutique in Vineyard Haven.

For those not familiar with the designer, Ms. Sayre has created a style that she describes as “functional elegance.” Her looks tend toward simple styling and soft geometric lines but often with a twist. Everything is constructed from high-quality, often textural, fabrics.

Like her lovely light-filled boutique on Main Street, which features lots of blond wood, expanses of white and spare light fixtures, and hanging racks, Ms. Sayre’s designs tend toward minimalism. However, as with the occasional pop of bright orange or bold pattern one sees among the racks, the designs often feature unexpected design focal points.

“I really design for myself,” said Ms. Sayre, originally from Sweden. “My design sense is very Nordic, European. I’m very minimal in my style.” The former international wind surfing champion also looks for wearability in her figure-flattering designs, which can easily transition from casual to dress-up.

“My style comes from my athletic background,” said the petite, toned designer. “It needs to be comfortable. Not too fussy. I like a little frill now and then, or a wind shift as I call them, but I like simplicity.” Some of her signature details are asymmetrics (an aesthetic that even extends to an attractive shoulder bag) and unexpected tucks used to create low-hanging pockets or interesting hem drape.

Ms. Sayre, who grew up working in her family’s clothing stores in Sweden, has been designing professionally since the 1980s. She had a boutique across from the Black Dog Tavern for five years and then focused on trunk shows and wholesale, selling to about 50 different stores all over. “Now my kids are grown enough that I have the freedom to spend the time on a business that needs that from you,” she said.

The new line will feature separates — dresses, tops, jackets, and pants — in a neutral palette centered around navy blue, silver, grey, and white. Ms. Sayre has named the collection Silver Marin to reflect a feminine, sophisticated take on classic seaside style.

“I didn’t want to use the word marine,” she said. “It has too many references. The designs make you think of ocean, water, sailing, but in a more poetic way.” For example, a reversible shift dress features navy blue and white stripes and a modified boat neckline but, unlike the classic sailor style top, the short, figure-flattering dress has vertical stripes — pinstripes on one side, slightly wider stripes on the reverse for the option of a subtle or bolder look.

A simple sleeveless jersey dress in a subtle grey-and-white stripe features a scoop neck back with a soft, white hanging ribbon — a feminine take on sailor style. There’s also a faux wrap dress in a wonderful structural grey-and-white seersucker that gives this classic style a no-fuss, crinkly look.

An asymmetrical zip raincoat in neutral color blocks or solids has great European flair, while a more edgy style is found in the Rock n’ Roll coat — a lightweight stylized trench fashioned from an amazing structured fabric made with metal filaments that allows the wearer to scrunch and shape this versatile jacket/top for a custom look.

Many of the other pieces benefit from unique fabric attributes like the shimmer in a pair of silver slacks that Ms. Sayre described as “the new dressy denim” and a textural canvas look in the navy blue version of the same pants.

“Ninety percent of the garment is the fabric,” said Ms. Sayre, who finds many of her unique all-natural or blend fabrics. She purchases through jobbers in New York who she has worked with for years, often securing deals on very high-end designer material.

“When I fabric shop I see the fabric and it tells me what to do with it,” she said. “I favor natural fabrics and I also favor very technical fabrics [like the metallic blends]. When you think about it, when you go into a clothing store and you’re looking for a sweater, you go to the sweater rack and you can’t see the design, you gravitate to a fabric or a color.” Many of Ms. Sayre’s pieces invite touching and even molding.

Catering to plus-size clients, Ms. Sayre added a blousy linen top to her line of essentials. The styling details — a large, sharp gull-wing collar and oversized cuffs — give a crisp menswear touch to this top while a hi-lo flutter hem and breezy shape make it a feminine, easy-to-wear basic that comes in a range of colors. “My customers are my inspiration,” she said. She likes to build on her line each year, adding elements that will work well with her previous designs.

The designer has also found inspiration in her adopted home. The colors in the new collection reflect the soft, wind- and ocean-worn shades of the Island and the subtleties of the Vineyard water and light.

“We all look at nature,” she said. “It’s so beautiful what nature creates. The colors we have here are quite evident in what I do.” As further evidenced in the names of some of her new pieces (the Cloud Dress, Wind Shift), the former windsurfing champion has found a new way to derive inspiration from the sky, sea, and wind.

Spring Launch Party for Stina Sayre Design: 2013 Spring-Summer Collection “Silver Marin,” Saturday, March 30, 4–6 pm, Stina Sayre Design, Main St., Vineyard Haven. 508-693-5180;