Artist Sam Skyler brings Spirit & Story to geek fashion

Photo credit: Sam Skyler

Photo credit: Sam Skyler

By Lisa Granshaw

One of the best parts of geek fashion is that each piece has meaning. It has a story to tell about the fandom that inspired it and the reason why the wearer chose to wear it. That’s why it’s perfect that artist, cosplayer, and designer Sam Skyler’s new nerd fashion company is called Spirit & Story.

Spirit & Story officially launched on Jan. 3, a date chosen because it’s the birthday of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien. Skyler chose this name for her company because those are two words she goes to whenever she designs or creates any kind of art.

“Spirit, meaning I want to create pieces that have an energy to them. They’re inspired by the worlds that we love and how can I replicate that in a way that’s really authentic and then has a spirit of its own,” Skyler told GeekFold. “And story because I believe it’s just like the Force. I believe it binds the galaxy together, it’s what connects us, and through that people get to then share their story through my work and that’s what really inspires me.”

Skyler always wanted to create nerd inspired fashion, but she wasn’t sure where to start. The idea began when she started going to conventions with her boyfriend to cosplay. She was inspired by how much you can connect with people there and wanted to find ways to have that level of connection everyday as well as have that love of a character everyday through more ready-to-wear items.

Her first fashion design experience came from her involvement with the Her Universe Fashion Show at San Diego Comic-Con. In 2014, her stunning Pikachu dress and poké ball jacket walked the runway. That design included the idea of story elements in its creation as did the design that was accepted the next year inspired by Baymax, and her design for last year’s show inspired by Moana. It was due to Skyler’s experience at the fashion show with last year’s dress that helped her finally take the leap to start her own line.

“When we have these ideas, they feel sometimes so big in our heads that we don’t even know how to start. After the fashion show last year and seeing Moana and then everyone sharing their stories with me was almost this validation that I was looking for,” she said. “That I can actually pursue this because so many people were vulnerable and I was vulnerable and we really shared our stories and it was this special moment of ‘ok, if you were waiting for a sign this was it! Go for it!’”

Moana was a movie that hit Skyler in a personal way when she saw it. She’s part Pacific Islander and was going through a period of self-doubt at the time. The year before she had lost her grandmother and she was in the middle of a Kickstarter to make her art book.

“It felt like all the color in my world shattered at the time. I just didn’t know how to move forward with my art. Especially when you’re a freelancer, that’s really scary because that’s also how you make your income. When I saw the movie Moana it hit me in such a way because her grandmother was exactly like mine. Always dancing, always full of life, the village crazy lady,” Skyler explained. “For me it was this sign that ‘ok this is what I need. I need to be like Moana and be a wayfinder to move forward.’ I actually wasn’t expecting to do the fashion show last year. I kind of was like ‘maybe I shouldn’t do this’ and then in the middle of the night I just got this feeling like you need to share this story. It might help somebody else and inspire them.”

That Moana dress included some of Skyler’s grandmother’s dresses that Skyler repurposed and sewed into it. That being part of the story of the dress brought things full circle for Skyler. After the show, people shared their own stories of self-doubt and loss with her and the experience of connecting with people led to Wayfinder as Spirit & Story’s first collection. The Wayfinder collection includes beautiful designs on leggings, totes, tops, and more. The stand-out piece is a stunning stingray scarf that Skyler infused with symbolism and meaning from traditional Polynesian culture.

Image credit: Sam Skyler

Image credit: Sam Skyler

“It was really important to me because that’s what inspires me. Spirit & Story are the two building blocks of creativity for me. Color and culture are how I execute them. Color inspires me, like what looks good on multiple skin tones. What looks good for the story aspect of that piece but then culture, how can I also really respect it and honor it and find ways to connect people and unite us,” she said. “My favorite sign is in the center and it’s Koru, which has the Maori meaning of new growth. I thought that was so important so when people wear this it’s like they get to feel inspired because there’s actual symbolism in it. It feels really special and that’s what I want people to do so that they can be a wayfinder themselves.”

It’s not just the people wearing Skyler’s products that she wants to share their stories.

“A lot of the models that I’m starting to line up I want them to share their stories and why they love this because I think that’s once again the Force that binds us all together,” she said.

Image credit: Sam Skyler

Image credit: Sam Skyler

There will be more pieces released for the Wayfinder collection eventually and the line is just the beginning of what Skyler has planned for Spirit & Story. Skyler revealed exclusively to GeekFold that she will soon be releasing collections inspired by Disney princesses who she feels have strong stories but are hard to find items for. The first of the princesses she’ll feature is Mulan, who will receive an Honor collection which should be ready for release for Chinese New Year.

“I pick words that I feel represent that character. Wayfinder was for Moana and for Mulan, it’s honor because that’s something that’s really important for her. I want with this to reflect the struggle that she goes through and I’m researching a lot about Chinese culture,” she said.

The collection will include a scarf called Reflections that will feature the flower art pictured below, which Skyler said was created in the Chinese brush painting style.

Photo credit: Sam Skyler

Photo credit: Sam Skyler

“The other half of the design will tie in some elements that are part of her journey, to encourage others that they have everything in them already, to bring Honor to others and to themselves,” Skyler said.

 A Black Panther line will come after that as Skyler was inspired by the amazing costumes in the film and then, closer to the spring, fans can expect the release of the Hacker collection inspired by the Blizzard video game Overwatch. Video games are another area Skyler wants to look to a lot for inspiration.

“Hacker will be inspired by [the character] Sombra. I made that cosplay a couple months ago for the last BlizzCon. A lot of people were complimenting my leggings and I designed them and I was like ‘wait, I should really make these available for everyone to have.’ It’s really exciting and I want to really infuse a lot of science into that and coding because she’s a hacker and I want to encourage people to explore the STEM fields,” she said.

Skyler’s Spirit & Story is an exciting addition to the geek fashion industry. With its first collection, it goes right to the heart of why people love to express themselves through what they wear. It will be fun to see what she comes out with in her next collections as she provides new ways for geeks to tell their stories.

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