Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Style, Naturally: A Night with Summer Rayne Oakes

Photo by Andrea Bakacs

Sometimes you have to get inside the system to make it work to your advantage. Instead of lunging for the jugular of companies not utilizing ecologically sound practices, Summer Rayne Oakes decided she’d find a way to show them the light – without being the stereotypically overzealous eco-warrior. Actually, her face scrunches up a bit when you say the word “eco.” The entrepreneur, television host and model has found a way to reach everyday individuals with the message of sustainability.

Ladies Lotto New York members, guests and one interloper crammed into Brooklyn’s Hooligan Studios to hear Summer Rayne speak about translating her strong beliefs into the perfect synthesis of career and lifestyle. A Cornell graduate, she was trained in entomology and environmental science. She's the combination of brains and beauty everyone idealizes. She's also pretty ballsy; having turned down modeling gigs that were not in line with her life's mission -- to make land, people and businesses as sustainable as possible. Naturally this did not sit well with the blue chip agencies for which she was recruited.

Summer's recent projects include Style, Naturally, a style guide focused on sustainability (Psst, LLNY member, Kate McGregor's shop Kaight is featured*) and the Zoe & Zac line for Payless; the low cost shoe retailer's first foray into sustainability. Zoe & Zac has been well received by fashionistas and soccer moms alike -- so well that it's been selling out. Of course, other companies are interested in following in Payless' footsteps and are actively seeking out Summer to work on similar projects.

Having been born middle class but forced to become independent at the age of 14, Summer stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with people who wholly believe in you; they're the ones who'll be there when you're in a tough situation. The lady of the night gave props to Ladies Lotto for creating a supportive network of women with entrepreneurial spirits. She stressed the importance of networking and finding a mentor. In Summer's case the mentor and mentee relationship can make for strange bedfellows. One of her greatest advocates is a man who before meeting Summer had little to no interest in going "green"; however, he's put her in touch with like-minded organizations.

In keeping with the spirit of the night, all guests left with Zoe & Zac goody bags with makeup from Jane Iredale, one of a kind rings from Susan Dommelsmith's re-purposed jewelry line Dirty Librarian Chains and information about sustainable coffee and spaces for launching green businesses. Lucky ladies imbibbed 44 North cocktails prepared by Elena Vazintaris and delicious nibbles from Sarah Pace's Rabbit Mafia catering.

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