Ladybrille® Blogazine

FOR PRESS RELEASES

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eco-Chic, Eco-Sexy, Eco Summer Rayne Oakes


Summer Rayne Oakes [SRO] is all that and a bag of organic chips that taste so good! SRO has had a passion for Africa since she was six years old and has been able to realize her dreams working with Tom’s Shoes and Allan Schwartz [son of famous South African Harry Schwartz] in Mozambique. Another big passion for SRO is the environment. SRO graduated from Cornell University trained as an entomologist and environmental scientist but had one mission in mind, to convey and get the citizens of the world to be environmentally respectful, one country at a time. Today, she is a step closer to her mission with her chosen vehicles of fashion and media to convey her message. SRO is now the poster child, so to speak, for the green fashion movement representing everything that is eco-chic, eco-sexy and well, eco-Summer!

She is a model, activist, TV host on the Discovery channel's new eco-lifestyle network that serves 50 million households, journalist, consultant, fashion designer and author [her book “Style, Naturally” launches in February 2009]. LADYBRILLE.com caught up with the very Ladybrille woman to learn all about her passion for eco-fashion.

LADYBRILLE.com: [We do some chatting and catching up with model and media industry talk before interview begins] Thanks for agreeing to a feature on Ladybrille
SRO:
Thank you. It really does mean a lot to me. It is very nice.

LADYBRILLE.com: Let's start off with some of your current projects. [W]hat have you been up to lately?
SRO:
Some of my current projects have expanded into new territories for me. This past year I started working with Discovery Network Planet Green as an on air correspondent for their new network which is a 24/7 environmental lifestyle network.

LADYBRILLE.com: That sounds really cool and exciting!
SRO:
Yeah. I am doing the glamour as well as getting my hands dirty, which I love.

LADYBRILLE.com: Let me take you back to the beginning. You, this beautiful woman, graduated from Cornell University, one of the top schools in the country, with some major science degrees and then you leave all of that to pursue a movement most people have not bought into, yet. What is going on? When did you get the epiphany that made you go that route?
SRO:
My epiphany for me came in 2000 when I was at college. To go back further, I am so incredibly passionate about the environment and always have been as a child. It will always define who I am in my work. That for me I know, in my heart, will never change. When I got to University, I didn't know what to expect because I had been the first person in my school to go to an ivy-league college and there was not much preparation in my school for it. I was also the first generation in my family to go to college. I think when you come from that, you are not necessarily as prepared... However, when I got there I realized that because of my passionate curiosity for nature, I had learnt almost every single thing about every single organism that I had come across.

LADYBRILLE.com: That's definitely more than most people do, for sure.
SRO:
I was definitely a nature freak in school. [She laughs] When I got to college, I had such an incredible base of knowledge because it was what I did when I was a young girl. It really freed up my time [in college] to think of my direction more. [B]ecause I was ahead in college, I ended up getting work study programs and doing out of all things, sewage [management] research. I was getting published and was looking to change Federal regulation relating to my work because people were literally getting sick. But, I thought is this going to make a difference? What is really going to change? I felt that while I wanted to make change, if I continued interacting with the same people, [I] [was] not gonna be changing anything.

LADYBRILLE.com: That is very profound to get that at the onset of your career.
SRO:
Right. That was one epiphany. The other was that I was looking at the toxic organic contaminant in my sewage [management work]. A lot of it was coming from pesticides. The stuff we spray on our textiles, the stuff we use in our toothpaste. It got me thinking that this industry was way more connected. Fashion and beauty was way more connected to what we are putting literally on our land and it gets into our food and products and makes us sick. The third epiphany was my poor roommates who were all boys and I was constantly at the butt of their jokes and they had this idea of what an environmentalist was and felt it did not reflect their lives.

LADYBRILLE.com: Most people still feel that way.
SRO:
Right. I knew that I could say since my parents and friends did not get what I was doing that it was “them.” But, the real epiphany came when I woke up and said, "you know it is me as much as it is them because if I can’t communicate in a way that they understand that it matters, then what am I doing?” So, those were the things that really got me to throw my cause into a different direction.

I ended up concentrating in fashion and media, two loves that were very linguistic and that people just were not utilizing at the time. At the moment I started thinking about this, I was like, how can I infiltrate the fashion industry? I came in through the modeling aspect with a project I was working on called "Organic Portraits." It tied avant-garde photography with sustainable design, environmental education and conservation. It did not really take off the way I wanted it to but it really put my foot through the door and also showed the connection between education, media, fashion and environment. [I] saw the power of using fashion as a communications tool to communicate ideas as complex as sustainability. But, as I moved forward I saw how the industry itself could change and be greener and more environmentally respectful.

LADYBRILLE.com: So transitioning from there, we are now seeing a big push towards the green movement in the fashion industry. Walk us through some designers we must know when it comes to the eco-chic/green fashion movement?
SRO:
Some of the designers that come to mind: Loomstate. It is more premium denim for men and women but they also do hoodies and tees. It is run by Rogan Gregory and Scott Hahn. Rogan has three lines. He has Loomstate, Edun [designs for Bono] and Rogan, his self-titled line. He also won the Ecco-domani fashion awards I think this past year. Ecco-domani is a prestigious award and they have also developed a fashion awards for sustainability. Target had wanted [Rogan and his team] to do a line a while ago. They wanted them to do it non-organically. It would be a national collection. [Rogan] said "no." Target re-approached them this past year and they said, "okay. We are ready and you can do it your way." I think that is a good testament with aligning your values with what you believe in.

LADYBRILLE.com: Basically having your set of principles and not wavering
SRO:
Right. Designing for Target is a great opportunity. It is also great because green has always been considered a bit more elitist and aspirational. One of the reasons for this is the green fashion movement is saturated with independent designers. These independent designers do not have the economies of scales to necessarily [mass produce] organically because it takes a lot of time and infrastructure and as a result their designs are more expensive. Whereas if you have companies like Walmart and they can guarantee they can buy organic cotton for the next five [5] years and because they have the economies of scale, they can of course sell these designs at a much cheaper price.

LADYBRILLE.com: Indeed.
SRO:
In April of 2009, I will actually be launching and marketing a line of sustainable shoes with Payless.

LADYBRILLE.com: Congratulations!
SRO:
Yeah.We've been talking for a long time and they are a great company. They have been basically asking themselves what is important to us and to our market? One is diversity and they have a large base of African-Americans and Latinos both in their work force and as their consumer base. The other thing they said was very important to them was sustainability.

LADYBRILLE.com: Really?
SRO:
Yeah. I am coming on as their spokesperson as well as their sustainability strategist and I am helping with their designs. Those are the kinds of clients I like to work with because you have a say or at least suggest input in their projects and they really look for that in their partnerships.

LADYBRILLE.com: Awesome. I am so proud of you.
SRO:
[Chuckles] Oh thanks! I really want to democratize green. So this is amazing especially for the footwear industry this has never been done. I have been babbling and I only named two designers to your question.

LADYBRILLE.com: [laughs]
SRO:
[Laughs] I think this is where the industry is headed and [green] is here to stay and is blossoming worldwide and spontaneously not just in the USA. We are now seeing names like Walmart, Levi’s, Payless incorporating green [concepts and movements into their businesses].

LADYBRILLE.com: On blossoming worldwide, I have to ask you since you know Ladybrille is about Africa and bringing Africa to the West through fashion. One of the things I kept saying to myself when the West began singing the green movement, I would say and still say, "but Africa has been doing the green movement for so long. Africa cannot even afford the infrastructures and monies to churn out the pollution or chemically treated textiles that are toxic to our bodies, although the infiltration of cheap Chinese chemically treated textiles in Africa is changing that. But, we still have most of Africa using lots of natural plants and materials to make clothes. How come Africa has not been listed so far on the [green movement] map.

SRO:I think a few reasons. One is there have been a lot more investments in other countries. In Africa, it is a harsh reality that the continent . . . I have been working with Allen Schwartz [Son of famed South African Harry Schwartz] in Mozambique and we are working on 23 sustainable projects and vertically integrating the systems so that everything is grown and made in the country or in the region itself. There are so many people that need to work and can work so you want to make the highest value added products while preserving or conserving the land where it grows. Many of the artisans have the ability but they do not have the expertise to create a product that is ready for market. In Mozambique, were we work, which is one of the top ten countries with the AIDS virus, out of 54 people we trained to do bracelets, 47 died within a course of two years. It is really hard for a company/person to want to invest in a country when the people you train for six months, die six months later.

LADYBRILLE.com:That is understandable whether you are in Africa or not there has to be reliability on your workers/employees. But most Africans will tell you what about places like Ghana, Niger, Botswana, Lesotho, these countries do not experience much of their population dying from AIDS.So going to Mozambique to train people is the choice of the company/person knowing fully well most of the population trained will die.
SRO:Ghana is a good example. It has a rich history in textile design and dyeing. That is a country that has a really nicely integrated system of textile weaving and hand printing. I also know a number of designers that work with women in Ghana. Lesotho is also another great example but it is an incredible amount of investments where a company like the GAP, because they believe in it, are funding it. I know that in speaking with the GAP. They have been working with Lesotho for quite some time. But, the reality is that it is a huge investment and they are not getting much return on their investments. They are there because they believe in the country and do not want to put people out of work. Niger is also a great example. I know someone who works with women of a particular tribe to create market ready products. There is definitely talent. However, reflecting on where we are working, it is difficult when the average age is 37 years.

LADYBRILLE.com: I [feel very strongly] about the environment and although the way I was raised was really about respect for nature, nature and more nature, I don't feel I am as educated as I need to be about conserving energy and respecting the environment as best as I can.I think for me and most people, the real challenge are the tools to live an environmentally conscious and environmentally respectful lifestyle.

SRO: Yes. I agree. I think the tools and the confidence. That has been one of my criticism with this movement because it does not make it as accessible. We don't have an environmental movement were everyone is involved. Creating green jobs, for example, for people in the inner city.

LADYBRILLE.com: That is true. Sort of like the whole digital divide thing.
SRO:
Yeah. When I attend these green conferences, it is more of people talking at you and I think what you said which is really needed, are the tools. You don't necessarily have to have all the information to get involved. . .

LADYBRILLE.com: That makes so much sense. And in fact for Africa, there is more of an opportunity since a lot of the Western infrastructures that create pollution are lacking, Africa can build environmentally friendly systems.Here in the West, we have to get around our existing infrastructures to become eco-friendly. So that is what I really love about this movement that it is an opportunity if harnessed well where Africa can be involved in a natural and very culturally relevant way.

SRO: Right. The culturally relevant way is so important because I have seen situations where Africans bring outsiders to build their own buildings for their communities. I know it takes six months to a year longer if they have to train people to build their own buildings. But that is exactly what you should be doing, train people to build their own buildings with local materials that they have because they are the people that live there.

LADYBRILLE.com: Exactly plus their own local materials are more environmentally friendly.
SRO:
Exactly and there is a sense of pride when they build their own and they can do it again, and again, and again.

LADYBRILLE.com: Yeah and I also think having Africans involved in the conversation at the table figuring out how to save their own environments so the continent is not left behind.
SRO:
I don't like the idea of not including Africans themselves in the conversations. [Y]ou have to have your communities/stakeholders in the conversations.

LADYBRILLE.com: Indeed. Summer thank you so much for a great conversation. I know you will continue to excel and really be that trailblazer and face that the world associates with the eco-fashion movement.
SRO:
Awwww thank you and we can't let that much time pass between us.

LADYBRILLE.com: Definitely!
SRO:
I will let you know when I come out to San Francisco.

LADYBRILLE.com: No problem. Thanks again.
SRO:
Thank you!

~Interview by Uduak Oduok

2 comments:

Divalocity said...

We can no longer allow other nations to pride themselves as Africa being of the forgotten people living on the margins of globalization.

Africa has the wealth to be a team player and partner among many nations of the world and yet we are vehemently excluded.

The international neglect and exclusion that Africa has suffered for century’s must end if we are to have a real stake in globalization.

Globalization has passed Africa in favor of India and China. We have the resources in our people to change our destiny. Africa must unite if they are to self govern the continent.

Through excavation of Africa’s minerals and the search for more oil the African environment will be destroyed by the west in search of profits for themselves.

Here is a very invaluable link that you may find interesting:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11013

Kim said...

This was a wonderful interview!

Theme images by Jason Morrow. Powered by Blogger.

© 2007-2017 Ladybrille® Blogazine, All Rights Reserved.

Designed by ScreenWritersArena