Thomas Fuller, the well known British historian / writer had said, “He who plants trees, loves others besides himself.” This holds so true for Summer Rayne Oakes, a well known model from New York, wellness writer and an activist, who not only has an eco name but nurtures a deep love for nature and environment. Her 1,200 sq feet apartment in Brooklyn, New York, has nearly about 500 plants of more than 150 species, which clearly reflects Oakes’ love for greenery and her concern for Mother Nature.
“I was a kid of Nature and always had a natural curiosity for the world around me. I suppose that’s never left! My parents helped foster that in me—both directly and indirectly. I grew up on a beautiful plot of land in Northeastern Pennsylvania and my mother and father had the most beautiful gardens- flower, vegetable and orchard. I also foraged in the forest when I was young and learned quite a bit about herbs. So you can say it’s “in me”,” informs Oakes in an exclusive email interview with Stree.
While, Oakes agrees that it is difficult to nurture plants in an apartment, but it is certainly not an impossible task. “You are certainly constrained in an apartment because it has walls, so you are separating a plant from its environment. In many cases, you want to try to mimic the environment that the plant natively grows in, so for instance, some plants prefer high humidity because they are rainforest plants or want a sunny, dry environment because they are cacti; or if you take the Monstera, a popular home plant here in the states, they are epiphytic, which means they grow on other plants in their environment. However, we can create such environment. For instance, I’m now currently training my ‘Monstera’ to crawl up a post in my home, so it is more true to its native growth structure. I think it makes for a happier plant,” says Oakes.
To ensure that her plants continue to blossom even in her absence, Oakes has devised various contingency programs. “If I leave for a longer period of time, I have a gardener up the street who can come and take care of my plants. But otherwise, I have started to automate my system,” she says.
Oakes has designed a sub-irrigated green wall and a lot of self-watering systems. “I recently invested in a 150-foot hose in the house to make it easier to water. I find watering, and taking care of my plants is very much like a moving meditation,” she adds.
Oakes’ love for nature percolates deep down. Infact she is recognized as the first “eco-model,” a term bestowed originally by Grist to describe her values-based modeling. Over the past seven years, she has co-founded Source4Style (now called Le Souk), an award-winning venture-backed marketplace that connects thousands of designers to sustainable material suppliers around the world.
“I began to model back in 2002 because I wanted to connect my environmental work (I’m an environmental scientist/entomologist by training) to an industry that I thought at the time had no relationship to the environment, and modeling was a way in. I made a commitment to myself that if I were to pursue modeling, I would have it match my values. That’s how I got stuck with the moniker of “The Eco-Model”. I was worried at first, because I thought no one would take me seriously with a nickname like that, but it took a while, but very soon it began to open up quite a few doors—and I have been able to work with a number of awesome brands—from independents to major players like Payless and Modo eyewear—to creatively direct collections, help source more sustainably, and begin offering a new approach to business,” says Oakes with a smile.
“I love focusing attention to things that we do on a daily basis. Every morning, most of us wake up, shower, get dressed and eat. It’s routine, but in those routines, we are making everyday choices that can improve our lives and other people’s lives. I find those are the touch points that we can change for the better. Clothing—what we wear—is particularly important—and powerful. Firstly, all clothes are handmade; what I mean by that is that they are picked, spun, made, touched by someone, and we want to make sure those people were treated and paid fairly. Secondly, what we wear has a great influence over people’s perception of us, so it relates directly to our identity,” adds Oakes.
Currently, Oakes is busy developing the Sugardetox.me 2.0 site with an aim to help others do their own sugar cleanse.
“In 2014, I decided to start www.sugardetox.me
Oakes is also writing a book on the same. “The book is designed to be a no-nonsense guide to cleansing oneself from sugar. Maybe surprising to some, it’s not all about what you do and don’t eat, but steps back and asks the reader to analyze one’s lifestyle first and to make observations as to what might trigger poor eating (e.g., stress). Once that is determined, it provides a framework to detox from sugar, easy recipes—most of which take less than 30 minutes to prepare, as well as super affordable ways to plan meals,” she stresses.
Known for her fearless drive, unwavering energy and soulful beauty, Summer Rayne Oakes is truly a multifaceted diva, who continues to inspire women from across the globe, by her innovative endeavors.