Combining three of my favourite things – summer style, sunshine and travel – I instantly fell in love with the story behind House of Summer, an online boutique showcasing pieces from young entrepreneurial women living and working all over the globe. I caught up with founder Aleksa to hear more about her travels and how they influence the collections, from the streets of Rio to the mountains of Morocco.
The concept for House of Summer sounds great! How did it come about?
Well, it’s a tough one because House of Summer had many beginnings. When I moved to London I found it really hard to find unique and quality beach wear and summer wear that was colourful, sexy and vibrant – so I always did a lot of shopping during my travels (especially in Brazil, where I’m from). I started to informally sell bikinis and accessories to friends here in London and decided that there was potentially a bigger market for unique stuff that you couldn’t get in the UK. I was also getting awfully tired of finding myself wearing the same thing everyone else was wearing on the high street – I’m talking your typical Zara florals – I knew there was much more to it than that. So after a long time studying and researching and talking about my niche, I decided to go for the theme of “Sunshine” and that every product I bought to re-sell would conjure the image of a sunny somewhere. And that’s when I launched House of Summer.
You source exclusive pieces from all around the globe. What do you look for when travelling and how do you know when something is perfect for the brand?
House of Summer is a happy place, so the products need to take me somewhere sunny and special where I can let my hair down and dance on the sand. You know that feeling you get where you’re in a far away place and no one knows who you are, you don’t care about your hair or makeup – you feel so free. There are a few key things I love and those are open backs, neons, bright prints, a little sex appeal… You get that from latin counties like Brazil, Spain, Italy… Before I travel I do a little bit of online research – I try to find some niche bloggers with great style that perhaps work with indie brands. I try to gather about 10 different boutiques to visit and collect designer’s names. Once I’m in the country I’ll pop in to have a look at the quality and try and buy a few pieces to test. If I think it can work, I’ll get in touch later and start some buying! I’ve found many cool designers through Instagram!
You’re passionate about travel and the season of summer. How have you been able to explore these passions through House of Summer, and how have they influenced your collections?
I have indeed! I think I am a bohemian explorer meeting a chic modernity – I’m not only beach. House of Summer is not only about fashion, it’s very cultural as well. I feel like I need to understand cultural behaviours in order to find products my customers will love. I created House of Summer to give my travels a purpose. I travel not to sit down by the pool, I travel to meet designers, boutique owners, artisans – to understand how local fashion represents culture. Some designers come from big cities like Sao Paulo, others are artisanal – every product has a story, an origin and a meaning – and for me it’s always a memory of a place I explored.
How do you support emerging design talent?
I just love new designers! They are so full of life and want to do so much! I buy from them as much as possible, and we help each other with sales and cross promotion. Ultimately the biggest reason I work with small designers is because I like unique things that aren’t mass produced. What I try to pass onto my customer is the value in the product I sell and that’s a hard message to pass because people take their clothes for granted. There is so much cheap clothing out there no one even thinks of where their clothes come from! There is no relationship between designer, product and customer. It’s just a thing, disposable next season. My job is to tell the story so that there is a connection between designer and product – I’m the link.
Where is your favourite place in the world to spend the summer months?
Brazil and Ibiza – I’m lucky! I get two summers! In the northeast of Brazil (Bahia, Piaui) – there are all these hippie villages with cobbled streets, fairy lights and warm humid air. In the summer in Europe I go to Ibiza – I fell in love with the island, the people and the culture. Ibiza is a funny one, because it’s easy to get caught up in the “hype” yatchs, clubs, and materialism. But if you can go around June during early season, it’s bliss. Find a family run B&B in the middle of the island and walk around the lemon groves and the Old Town.
You’re originally from Brazil. What tips and advice would give you someone wanting to visit?
Brazil is HUGE – it’s basically the size of the whole of Europe so you need to pick your start. I would start in Rio for a quick glimpse into the care-free lifestyle of the “carioca”, walk around Lapa and Sta. Teresa and do the sites. I would then work my way up the Northeast coast of Brazil (Bahia, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceara, Piaui and Maranhao). The beauty of Brazil is in the simplicity and the friendliness. The moment you try to be fancy in Brazil you go wrong! Aim for at least 3 weeks, and don’t take all your jewellery (especially in Rio)!
How do you find London compares to the other places you’ve lived? What do you love most about living and working in the capital?
I’ve only lived in Brazil, the USA and the UK. I love London, I hate London weather – Oh how I wish it were sunny here, it would be the best. What I love about London is my freedom. And this can be as simple as taking the bus, walking the streets home at night and sleeping without worries. It may sound weird to hear this but in a city like Sao Paulo you grow up very sheltered, mainly for security reasons. So when you’re a teenager, you don’t really have a lot of freedom. I love the open-mindedness of the people and the cultural diversity. I’ll go out for dinner with friends and we’ll have people from all over the world at the same table, that’s hard to get anywhere else in the world.
Where’s next on your list?
What’s next for House of Summer?
So many things! But in a nutshell I want to start creating House of Summer’s own collection for SS16 (I don’t follow fashion calendars). There’ll definitely be a bigger push into ethical and sustainable fashion, recycling, and bringing awareness towards responsible consumerism – that is the direction I’m heading.
Your top tip for travel:
Don’t be a tourist! Go to a place and really try to get involved with the culture, speak to your waiter, to the person who runs your hotel. Talk to them, interact… are they happy? Is it a good place to work, to live? Sometimes we’re so obsessed with taking selfies and boasting about our travels, we forget that we are temporarily borrowing someone else’s home and land. So treat it with respect and love, above all.