She is an environmental scientist, eco-model, trendsetter, and sustainability activist. She lives with 670+ plants in her famous Brooklyn apartment. She helps sugar addicts to fight the addiction with SugarDetoxMe and designers to connect with sustainable materials around the world with Le Souk. And she has a chicken as a pet. We took a curious peek into the plant collection of our girl crush du jour, Summer Rayne Oakes... Hats off.
Words: Meri Frig
You have been involved in so many projects that have offered creative solutions to some of our greatest environmental challenges. What are some of the most gratifying projects, a moments to remember, when you really felt you had made an impact?
Sometimes the larger projects that I've been involved in, like the rainforest conservation projects, can feel less personal, than say — working on bringing in volunteers to the local community garden for a day. As such, some of the most gratifying projects, I've found, are often really close to home because they are really local, personal, and keep happening every day.
Which projects or tasks have been really touching or even life-changing for you personally?
I'd say, when I set out to work on sustainability in the fashion industry during a time when it really didn't exist in any real way. That was not only empowering, but completely life-changing, if I can use your word. It really set me on the trajectory that I am on today, and allowed me to meet with people that I typically wouldn't have had the pleasure of knowing.
"She puts up with so much, as a volunteer, and keeps on giving so much back. It's people like this that are inspiring by just being their genuine selves, and showing up every day despite the challenges."
You are recognised as an eco-model and regarded as the conscious fashion influencer to watch right now. How would you describe your own style?
It's far more relaxed now. Since I'm working mainly with plants now, I suppose I can say 'farm girl chic'? (laughing). I mean, I live in overalls. But they are designer overalls, if that serves as an excuse!
What are some current projects or people that you find inspiring?
The person who comes to mind first is Martin von Hildebrand, who is an unsung hero. He's been successful at securing 70% of the Amazon Rainforest as indigenous territory or environmental reserve in Colombia. But honestly, even the garden manager at my local community garden; she puts up with so much, as a volunteer, and keeps on giving so much back. It's people like this that are inspiring by just being their genuine selves, and showing up every day despite the challenges.
You organised a plant swap event in New York this October. What kinds of plants are now the most popular amongst the New Yorker plant lovers?
The Pilea peperomioides has finally hit the States and is showing up at plant shops. Although, I don't personally find it that exciting, it's the darling of the moment. And I would say that cacti and succulents have grown in popularity; and unique and interesting Philodendrons are always a hit here, too.
Summer Rayne's leafy Brooklyn apartment (click on image for slideshow):