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Creatives in Confinement: Kelly Summer

Interview 24.04.20

Words Britta Burger Photography Kelly Summer

In this new series, ALSO talks to creative women around the world during the current COVID-19 global pandemic on how their output has changed, coping strategies for isolation and their hopes for the future. 

Born and raised in England’s Lake District, a love of the outdoors, drawing and skate culture led Kelly Summer to seek a fashion design career in the action sports industry. As a design director and stylist she has lived in London, South West of France and Southern California where she currently lives and isolates with her husband and two daughters, one of which is a human, the other a dog.

What’s the situation like in Orange County?

The Orange County guidelines were lax, more or less “just be careful”, so people were still going to work because they felt a bit guilty not to, then the lockdown started and all had to close, 20 minutes later they retracted it… That was the last week we worked. But I’m thankful our healthcare is still covered. As long as my healthcare is paid for and I have a job to go back to I can stay, otherwise we’d have to leave. A recent trip to the doctor would have been $5000 for an X-ray without insurance. In the US it’s such a crappy system, you’re alright as long as you have money.


Have you been able to do anything creative in the midst of all this?

I wish I could say yes. So much of my life, creatively, has been through the lens of a brand. This is the first time since university that I’m free. I’m just in a state of reflection.


But it’s also the maternity leave I never had, I only had three months off, which was really difficult, they are still just little blobs at that stage, you haven’t even healed or processed what happened, but it’s normal here. I do lots of painting with my daughter, we even made her a swing for the garden. I wish I had my sewing machine here, so I could make her some clothes out of things I don’t wear anymore. I’d also like to start observational drawing and look back into fashion illustration.


“This is the first time since university that I’m free. I’m just in a state of reflection.”

Would you post your illustrations on Instagram afterwards?

I wouldn’t, they would just be for me, which is something I haven’t done for so long. If I do something for work, I have to present it, it goes through so many layers.


So you’re the opposite of artists increasing their online output during this lockdown, you’ve had too much feedback?

Yeah, exactly, from the sales team, from the buyers, everyone is trying to figure out the direction the brand is taking, the way the market goes. The same with Instagram, you post stuff and it has to do well, not having to think about this is refreshing.


Will this crisis shake up the industry?

I hope so. Action sports brands were created as passion projects and need to get back to their values. That’s why brands like Patagonia thrive, they have a strong point of view. The same is true for many other things, skincare, hair… I feel I buy too many products just because they’re there. I’m going to streamline this and rethink my whole life.


So you will change the way you consume?

No way am I going to go back to how I was before. I wasn’t really like that in Europe, it’s just this culture of consumerism, I would never have gone out and randomly got a vanilla ice latte just because I could!


Maybe we’ll come out of this less brainwashed by consumerism than before?

I can’t work out if anyone else’s perspective is the same, but I’ve been speaking to home so much, I feel a strong connection to a simpler way of life in Europe. I’m also paying a lot of attention to UK news, and to what’s going on in France.


Even though the UK news and regulations don’t really apply to you… Is it an expat thing to go back to the roots when things get tough?

The healthcare system here is obviously going to affect us big time, but I am more interested in checking how the NHS is coping! And we are basically just following the UK rules. At the moment we don’t really live in America, we live in a house in America. I keep thinking about going back and what will we do when the flight ban is lifted. A road trip to New York and flying back to the UK from there ideally.

Words Britta Burger Photography Kelly Summer
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