Where have you seen this Cornell University-trained entomologist? Maybe you've seen her on the runway, or maybe on Planet Green, or was it on the cover of her 2008 book Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty? Yes, Summer Rayne Oakes is a hard one to keep up with. Whether she's relaunching her S4 newsletter (more about this in a bit), at a speaking engagement, wowing audiences and being compared to Al Gore, or doing the green modeling she's best known for, she's always up to something. Lucky us, we were actually able to catch up with this gorgeous writer/model/entrepreneur/activist.
Last year Summer won the 2009 Heart of Green Awards Pathfinder award for her work with Payless' organic and affordable (and adorable) shoe line, Zoe&Zac, which is now in their fifth season. I was curious if she thought any other companies were doing affordable and sustainable well. She didn't. A little above the "affordable" line, she likes a lot of what Levi's is up to; they offer a wide range of organic jeans. She also mentioned Portico Home's organic bed and bath line, which is available at Bed, Bath & Beyond this month. Both brands are clients of Summer's.
Now about that S4, or Source4Style newsletter. A new focus for Summer is working to connect awesome, sustainable materials with the designers who want them. There is "so much material that folks don't know exists," she said. She's currently digging organic leather. Another big problem, according to Summer, is that "global suppliers don't have access to the U.S. market place." Her newsletter aims to bridge the divide.
I was curious to see what advice she would give to a young fashion designer hoping to make her line more sustainable. Summer suggested, "Honing in on what your real story is. "Sustainable" encompasses a wide range of issues, all organic, carbon neutral, etc." With the sustainable market space so crowded, she said it's really important to craft a clear message that your demographic understands.
Summer's personal style currently is focused on simple and wearable looks; she's super busy after all. Her favorite designers are John Patrick Organic and Norwegian designer Leila Hafzi. And what about some advice for a budding sustainable shopper? She suggests starting with curated websites that do some of the work of finding great brands for you. She likes Kaight Shop, The Green Loop and Nimli, and of course vintage shopping is always a sustainable choice.
So what would Summer say to the world if she had one minute to have her message heard by a huge audience this Earth Day?
Lobby your government to:
1. Support social entrepreneurship in our educational systems.
2. Support green jobs now.
3. Stop using coal, and support the creation of and funding for cleaner energy solutions.
4. Encourage the construction of buildings that produce their own energy, capture and recycle water, and produce some of their own food.
Seems like Summer wants the government to be as busy as she is.
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