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Five Minutes With – Jess Matthews

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Jessica Matthews is the driving force behind Wellington based Summers the Label (previously known as Aida Maeby) an accessibly modern and ethically produced clothing label. Their gorgeous ranges are designed to be worn through every season and the exceptional quality means they will last for many years to come.

We sat with Jess for five minutes to get to know more about her and her brand’s journey. Follow her on social media here and here and check out her beautiful website here

1) who are you and what do you? 
I’m Jess Matthews, owner and designer for Summers the Label – from my combination workroom/showroom in Newtown, Wellington I produce womenswear, designed to be worn and loved at least three seasons of the year (not hard with our changeable Wellington weather!) in a manner as transparent and honest as I can make it.
2) What motivated you to start Summers the Label as an ethical New Zealand based brand? And how is it different from your old label?
I have issues about the word ‘ethical’, as everyone’s idea of ethics is subtly different; but to me it means making a product that does the least harm possible to people and the environment. For us that means a focus on waste reduction (being careful around the use and disposal of waste fabrics, minimizing garment travel by producing everything within the city limits, recycling scraps, and picking up deadstock fabrics to include in our ranges), searching out natural fibres for our base materials, and making sure that every hand that touches the work is one that’s paid fairly. I think you can feel that care in the end product, just as much as you can feel the lack of it in fast-fashion garments. We still have some work to do around sourcing bulk fabrics that tick all of our traceability goals, but we’re learning every day! All the same Aida Maeby hallmarks are there – quirky design that remains wearable – I just added a few more hoops to jump each design through!
3) Why is a focus on ethical clothing so important to you?
It jut makes no sense to me that I would live a private life trying to create as little waste as possible and teaching my children to respect people and the planet, and then go to work to do the exact opposite. Fashion as a whole is an industry rife with issues around sustainability and care, and I just don’t want to be part of that giant churning machine. At the same time I feel called to create clothing so Summers is a way for me to be a part of the fashion conversation whilst providing a safe shopping space for people who hold the same values.
4) Tell us more about how you prevent waste during production. 
I cut all our garments here at the workroom and I pride myself about being absolutely miserly about fitting as many garments into a piece of fabric as humanly possible! Usually there’s not a lot of fabric left over after a run of garments is cut, but there’s always a way to use up what does go onto the floor – selvedges (the unusable strip on the side of a piece of fabric) are used to tie bundles of cut pieces for transport to our manufacturers (or taken home to truss up my tomatoes), larger blocks are kept to incorporate into subsequent designs sometimes, fabric swatch cards from wholesalers are gifted to our local kindy for art projects . . . the list goes on. I’ve even gone to the extent of cutting bias slip dresses one-by-one as it was the only way to fit them onto the fabric without a gap of unused meterage! We keep production runs tight to ensure that there’s not many garments left hanging around at the end of the season, and because we’re less trend-driven these sell in their own time. The result of taking the slow road is that we have minimal (or no) wastage at both ends.
5) You donate to charity from every purchase made. Is this something that’s particularly close to your heart?
Closer than I’d like it to be. For some reason it never occurred to me that I would be in my 30s and watch a friend die of breast cancer, but here we are. SO many women are in the same position. most of us have a story of a beloved friend or aunty or mother or grandmother affected by breast cancer, if not our own story. I lost my friend but I hope that by supporting Breast Cancer Foundation NZ with each purchase goes a little way towards helping those wahine and their families still fighting the good fight. Summers is named for my friend, and each garment that leaves the workroom with her name on it makes me smile.
6) How would you describe the style of your label?
Approachably modern, high-casual pieces for women with shit to get done.
7) Who are you inspired by? Any artists, designers or similar?
I’m desperately in love with anything and anyone mid-century (they knew how to edit!) so people like Shirley Jackson, John Steinbeck, and Frank Lloyd Wright. I never get tired of looking at Yohji Yamamoto’s work. Locally at the moment I covet art by Susan Te Kahurangi King and Brendon Wilkinson, although something pretty drastic would have to occur in order for me to ever own any of their work!
8) Lastly, where can we buy your goods? 
Our stockist page has the full rundown on all of our NZ stockists, everything is online at our website and you can also come up to the workroom and see me for a cuppa (and usually biscuits) at our Newtown workroom xx

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