20 questions with… Summer Rayne Oakes



Summer Rayne Oakes answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

A designer, activist, author, eco-model and social entrepreneur, she is currently working on the intersection of technology and local food, and before that, launched Source4Style, the online tradeshow for sustainable design.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

Bring the beauty of the world to as many people as possible. I try to do that in so many ways – whether it is through design; film; photography; good, clean eating; and a good soul by empowering others who share in the same mission. The possibilities are endless.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist. I always had a pencil or a paintbrush in my hand.

How would your friends describe you?

Thoughtful, spirited, forthright.

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

Simply falling in love with the wonders of nature as a kid. It’s been my orientation for as long as I could remember.

Who or what inspires you?

The belief that one’s life is worth living, especially when you know you can make a big difference in the lives of others. I find myself touched and inspired by people everywhere I go. Some include Allan Schwarz, for his commitment to his craft at the Mezimbite Forest Centre; the team over at Good Eggs for their enthusiasm for growing local food systems; my dear friend Joey, who seems to capture people’s true spirit in his photography; and my grandparents for their unconditional love and humour.

What really grinds your gears?


Describe your perfect day.

Waking up early to the sun, going for a run or workout, doing work that drives me forward and challenges me often, sharing a moment outdoors, cooking a meal for my friends and finishing off the night with a podcast or a good book.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

The Manhattan skyline – and a few pesky buildings obscuring the view.

What do you like spending your money on?

My creative projects, travel (preferably with a friend), unforgettable experiences, and ingredients for home-cooked meals (also with friends).

What’s your favourite holiday destination?


What’s your favourite book?

I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth, which is a tremendous read. But I’m also consuming Sex at Dawn, which is also extremely good. But my all-time favourite is Guy Murchie’s Seven Mysteries of Life, which was suggested to me by a friend of mine and I’ve read at least three times.

What’s your favourite film?

I loved Shawshank Redemption. I might have seen that movie more than a dozen times.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Increase access, opportunity and options in public transportation. I was recently in Venice, Italy, and realised how pleasant it was to not hear or see any vehicles.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

My mind immediately questioned whether there is some famous person that could fulfil me spiritually, physically and mentally and I can’t think of one, which is a little depressing. But I think I’d bring back my mentor, Tom Eisner – the founder of chemical ecology – so we could pal around and look at bugs all day.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

The best: good friends only come to those who make the time to listen. The worst: your education won’t benefit you [in the world of fashion].

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

More off-the-wall creative projects.

What’s your biggest regret?

Learn more languages at a young age.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Find a way to give back to others – whether it’s through a community garden or helping friends or family eat healthier or some other person-centric project. I find that it’s the human connection that compels us to want to do more – both for ourselves and for others.

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

Honestly? At the risk of sounding cheeky or hippy, I think more love and sex for all!

What’s your favourite quote?

Only a fool walks on the edge of a cliff. Only the man who has been there knows what’s behind. Only the man who has been there knows where no man has been. And where no man has been is where some men must go.”

Summer Rayne Oakes is a designer, activist, author, eco-model and social entrepreneur.

Further reading:

A manifesto for fashion that truly challenges the status quo

Consumers have ‘immense power’ to make food sustainable

Is a passion for fashion compatible with a concern for the world around us?


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