Summer Rayne Oakes is an environmental scientist-turned-model who has cleverly merged the two fields in an attempt to make the fashion industry more sustainable. As a graduate of Cornell University, Udall and PERC Scholar and National Wildlife Federation Fellow, Summer’s passion has always been the environment. After working in aquatic systems, mine reclamation, and waste management, however, she realized it would be hard to achieve the broader level policy changes she was hoping for. She had an epiphany that she could use her natural modeling attributes to bring sustainability to a trade that otherwise was very powerful and very wasteful: fashion.
Summer moved to New York City and branded herself as an “eco-model”. She only takes jobs that have a green counterpart and often consults on set on ways the product can be more sustainable. She has become a type of “go-to person” on greening the fashion business and has published a sustainable fashion book called “Style, Naturally”. She also founded a sustainability innovation firm (SRO, LLC) to advise clients outside of her modeling projects and she created a sustainable sourcing website (Source4Style) to give designers easier access to “greener” materials. Summer’s strategy is to increase awareness in people that normally wouldn’t think of the environment and show them the benefits of changing their practices.
Summer believes that her generation (I guess that means mine too?) is going to solve our disastrous environmental problems, especially by challenging traditional practices like fashion to be more mindful of its effect on the world. She wants everyone to see that environmental catastrophes are not far-off and must be dealt with in our lifetimes (she has even created a short film called “eXtinction” that demonstrates all of the devastation experienced in one woman’s lifetime from birth to death). What I like most about Summer is that she demonstrates that we can all be models of sustainability, wherever our workplace, whatever we do. We can all be voices of change. Thank you Summer!