What Islanders wear to work

Stina Sayre sports her own designs, made from scratch.

When some people think style on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s all salmon-colored shorts with tiny smiling whales. Pastel-pink dresses with teal embroidered flowers. Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Lily Pulitzer. Martha’s Vineyard — home of the kings and queens of prep.    

But anyone who’s spent more than an afternoon on the Island knows that’s a far-off presumption. Martha’s Vineyard can be a pretty casual place. So what is Island style?

Meet local fashion designer Stina Sayre. She’s the owner of the boutique Stina Sayre in Vineyard Haven that sells clothing she and her team design and make by hand on-Island. Stina is a champion international windsurfer who grew up in Sweden. She started her design company in 1989 and prides herself on her hands-on, sustainable design process that happens right in her boutique.

Stina wears what she makes, and loves to sport clothing that she believes empowers women, while looking stylish and feeling comfortable. She focuses on making clothing that is high quality, with comfortable materials that show off vibrant colors and patterns.

What do you usually wear to work?

Because I have a fashion store, I have to look like what I sell. I wear my own designs to work. I wear everything you see in my store. Right now I am wearing a pair of jeans and a shirt I made. If it’s warm out I wear dresses. I design a lot of things that have a soft fabric and are easy to wear every day. Typically, I like to pull from the latest of my collection to wear to work because that is what we are selling. Everything sells better on the body, so I wear my collection. I like to wear stuff that functions well and fills my purpose in my life. I have to look like I made an effort in the morning. I like to wear stuff that is comfortable, easy to take care of and something that I feel at home with.

How would you describe your style?

My style has a Scandinavian influence. I am a windsurfer, so sports have always been a big influence on what I design. I like uneven hemlines and raw edges. My clothing is beautiful but also practical, and very flattering to the female figure. I design for my body, but we also design so that the styles work on a lot of different body types. People who like what I do are people who understand how I feel when I make my clothing.

How has your style evolved throughout your life?

In 2015 I used to be very monochromatic and calm and wasn’t using much color in designs. Then I went to Africa and saw all the African prints and that really made me spend more time looking for prints. Finding good prints is very difficult and print is very expensive when it’s a good design because someone has really thought about it. Also, when we got the government we have now, I thought we needed a lot of color and print and we needed to lift ourselves. I don’t think we live with a government that is very humanitarian, so clothing has to give us more energy.

Do you have a favorite item to design?

I love the jacket I am wearing now because I think it’s beautiful. I can wear it with jeans and a T-shirt, or I can wear it as a dress. It’s dressy, but it still has a certain kind of nonchalant or relaxed feel to it.

How would you describe Island style?

Living on the Island, we have quite an array of different people, but a lot of people come to relax. That’s why I make a lot of the jerseys because it’s more relaxed. At the same time, a lot of the women who come here are buying for when they leave the Island and for their professional lives. So I also design clothing that fits that.

How do you envision COVID-19 impacting style in the future?

People are probably going to be more cautious about spending money and buying consciously. Clothing is so much more than just protection, it’s also about your expression and how you want to present yourself. Everything you put on has a meaning, including masks. It doesn’t matter if you are not into fashion, what you wear is your second skin.

Do you think masks will start to play a role in people’s style and fashion?

I think so. In the beginning, it was just about protecting yourself. Now since we have to wear them so much, they are becoming an expression of ourselves. We have a lot of people coming in asking for masks because they are tired of a paper or a rudimentary looking one. It’s part of them now, part of their style.

How is your clothing a form of expression?

I think when I wear the clothing I make it makes women feel strong because it’s a little different and has a twist to it. It’s different because we are so used to a cookie-cutter style where everyone is looking the same. When people come in here and buy something, it’s unique because of the print or the shape or how we deal with the fabric. I think the clothing [I design] is confidence on many levels — I buy locally made clothing and I support my community, and that gives people confidence. It makes them feel like they belong.

What’s your favorite aspect of designing?

Part of my joy is to work with my team here at the store. Especially right now, we are really trying to focus on having fun. We are all about the joy of making because that is what we share with people, the creativity. We just hope people like what we make. I do this because I think it’s important to make stuff locally.