Green Designers  

The movement for a greener fashion industry brings all kinds of people together.  To create the change that is so desperately needed for our planet, designers, scientists, models, and spokespersons must all work together.  Summer Rayne Oakes is all of these and more.  She took time to answer all of my questions about just how she does it all, and more importantly why


20 Questions with the Leading Lady of Sustainable Fashion: Summer Rayne Oakes
by Casey Jay


SJFW: Struggled?

SRO: Against some challenge- whether it was financial or geographical or whatever- and have the audacity and fire to overcome boundaries to create and live their dream. We're not all given the same lot in life. I don't share my background with large groups, but I think my personal experiences and the idea of youth entrepreneurship can really be used to inspire a whole generation of young people.

SJFW: What are your hopes or plans for the future?

SRO: Well, it's a good question, because I think it builds off your "hope to inspire" question. I do get a lot of positive response to my work, but I haven't been in the position to create an infrastructure for people to operate in.

SJFW: Meaning what?

SRO: Meaning, if someone calls and asks "How can I help?" - I can't just plug them into what I'm doing and say "Here you go, do this - or do what I do." There is no "movement" or no "blueprint." I can point people to concrete activities and organizations, but nothing that I'm necessarily doing under my umbrella. You know, I worked with Dorothy Cotton, one of MLK Jr.'s right-hand women in the Civil Rights Movement and the Education Director for the SCLC, during college. One of the most striking things she said to me was, 'Most people think the march of the Civil Rights Movement was just a march. It wasn't - there was education and training happening. Leaders were emerging out of the work that was being created.' We need to create leaders. Not just followers. This is the premise for some of my "master" plans in the future. I may be a little too esoteric or ambiguous right now, but I know what I have to do- and what I'm doing now is merely a nice little foundation for what I feel like I'm meant to do.

SJFW: Can't wait to see what it is and how it turns out.

SRO: [Laughs] Me too!






SJFW: Speaking of things turning out, you have a book coming out February 1st, "Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion & Beauty." What does it encompass

SRO: Yes! I'm sooo excited. I was so sick of looking at it on my computer screen, but as soon as I saw the book and held it in my hands, I was like, "WOW! Just WOW!"

"Style, Naturally" is 350 pages of full color layouts, great girl-on-the-street style profiles, product reviews, designer and beauty profiles, personal vignettes and tips of the trade. It looks, reads and feels like a style guide, but it's all about environmental consciousness.

SJFW: Who’s your target reader, and what do you hope to accomplish with the book?

SRO: The reader of "Style, Naturally" is a smart, sophisticated woman who has her own sensibility, and probably has a sensitivity to the issues happening in the world around her, but may not necessarily "put it to practice" the way that she aspires to. I want any woman who loves style to pass by this book, pick it up, and learn so much more than she ever thought she would from a "style" guide. It's written in an accessible, witty tone. It doesn't takes itself too seriously, it's not too sales-y, and surely not highfalutin. I just said what I wanted to say to the readers. Just be real with all of you out there, you know? You won't find me saying that these stilettos will save the world. Piff! If anything, it's the anti-fashion fashion book. It's the one that is style because it just is. It's the one that makes you think, and it’s written in a style that you can make all your own. That's it. That's style, naturally.

SJFW: Where can you get it?

SRO: Everywhere starting February 1: Barnes & Nobles, Borders, Better World Books,, and a number of non-traditional booksellers. It'll be in 10 different countries and we're having parties and events in 8 cities now.

SJFW: Any in the Bay Area?

SRO: San Francisco of course! My favorite city in the whole world - and my second home for awhile.

SJFW: When will your San Francisco event be?

SRO: Haven't set the date yet, but it'll definitely be sometime in April, so tune into my site and for updates.

SJFW: Who are some of your favorite designers?

SRO: Ah! That's always a tough question because there are so many. You know I'm such a whore for local designers because Brooklyn has so many good ones! Gals like the clan from Pinky Otto, Carasan, Covet, Bodkin, The Dirty Librarian. All those girls are mad talented. But others that come to the top of my head: Deborah Lindquist for her bustiers, and now her pants! I have her silk tweed pants that are perfect for the summer. I love the tailoring of designers like Noir, Prophetik - a Tennessee-based designer, Alabama Chanin, and Loudermilk. Kirsten Muenster's jewelry - she's out of San Francisco, and Ombre Claire. I love Lara Miller's sweaters. I got two this year. I was never a sweater person because they take up a lot of room and I aim to be a minimalist, so you know they have to be good if I have two of them!

SJFW: You're a minimalist?

SRO: Yes! Sort of. Aiming to be. I realize that "stuff" makes me anxious. It makes me less happy. I really only have books and plants in my room. And some vintage furniture pieces. And plants. Lots of plants. The goal is to feel as if I'm in the rainforest canopy [laughing].

SJFW: One more thing and then we're done.

SRO: Cool.

SJFW: Do you have a philosophy or motto to summarize your economic and fashion ideals?

SRO: Oh, I have a lot of my own mottos, but I think a Dr. Seuss motto is most fitting here: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

SJFW: Love it.  Thank you for your time Summer Rayne.

Thank you.

Image Credits
• Summer Rayne in Lara Miller recycled cotton sweater (photo: Abdul Smith)
• Summer Rayne on the runway for Deborah Lindquist
• Summer Rayne planting trees at the Mezimbite Forest Centre (photo: Ester Havens)
• Summer Rayne with Blake Mycoskie and the Hansons at a Shoe Drop in South Africa


Summer Rayne

Style Naturally

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