Inspired the ease and breeze of the Turkish coastline, Cape Town-based accessories brand, SUMMAH, seamlessly fuses the luxury aspect of Turkey with the vibrancy of South African culture. One glance at their well-curated Instagram account lets one in on the attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into their products as well as their lookbooks; absolutely dreamy. Between10and5 spoke to the founder Kirst Gordon, about their brand identity and a recent collaborative project with UK based, South African artist, Mélanie Johnsson.
What is Summah and who are the people behind it.
Summah is a small family based business run by myself and my Dad, Mark.
We import luxuriously woven 100% cotton Turkish Towels, Throws and other lifestyle accessories from Istanbul where I currently live. I am the founder, and I reside between Istanbul and Cape Town as regularly as possible. I personally hand-select our collection for each season, being inspired by colours and trends around me. I manage all photography, visuals, website and Instagram marketing. Mark’s key role is to manage all our stock and to liaise with our stockists nationally as well as managing the distribution of online orders connecting us with customers around the world. He also runs a corporate branding business, so we use his expertise to ensure our customers receive beautifully branded packaged goods.
Tell us about how and why you chose to go into textiles.
I studied fashion at DAF (Design Academy of Fashion). After graduating I moved to Istanbul, where I’ve been based for nearly five years. Istanbul is an exciting place to be, with its culture, history and hustle and bustle. When I first arrived, I wandered around the city and markets – it’s a sensory overload. I was so inspired by the colours, textures and quality of the thread count here as well as the craftsmanship which is passed down generations. Turkey is well-known for producing excellent quality of textile manufactured goods. I did some freelance work in the retail space and worked for an online company before branching out. When we first started Summah two and a half years ago, Turkish Towels were an unknown entity to other countries around the world and keep developing more and more. I wanted to share this and decided to explore the opportunity of exporting from Istanbul to Africa.
What is your background in fashion and how has it helped you develop the brand?
At the early stages when started Summah – I would bring a collection of Turkish Towels home with me. I got great feedback from my friends and everyone told me they loved the quality and versatility of this product. We did a lot of market research and really got to understand what people were looking for. Between Mark and myself, we got busy putting a curated range together. One of my key strengths and things I really enjoy is trend-forecasting and curating collections to make up a whole collection with different concepts or components.
Your Instagram feed and shoots are so dreamy, how do you come up with your concepts?
Mark and I have regular face-time brainstorming meetings. I usually conceptualize and come up with a story and then select items that I think fits that story. Most of the content is shot by myself and I am always interested in collaborating with photographers and creatives.
I am selective with whom I work with, as it’s important our brands fit, are aesthetically similar and our collective audiences can relate to, especially when it comes to weekend takeovers, giveaways or sending items to blogger/influencers. I try and change things up as much as possible and love creating content. I put a lot of time and effort into designing, curating a well thought-through and well-laid out Instagram and web pages. It is key to constantly challenge yourself to create, and putting yourself in your ‘audience’ shoes. It’s all about making things relative to them and keeping content interesting with fresh new concepts and ideas.
Your latest project is a collaboration with Mélanie Johnsson, how did that come about?
We recently collaborated with Melanie Johnsson. Mel is actually British and is in Cape Town for a few months. I followed her on Instagram (where a lot of my new friendships happen these days). We got chatting, and I had been thinking about changing up our packaging and making it a bit more vibrant and colorful. I sent her a brief and we communicated via email regarding colours that suited our brand and towels for SS19. Mel designed the most beautiful thank you note postcards. Our new draw-string bags are vibrant and colourful and the beautifully designed postcards are so complimentary. It really makes the most beautiful package. I am so happy with the end result, and our clients love them too.
What kind of pieces can we expect from this collaboration?
Two hand illustrated postcards, one that’s a lemon yellow that says thank you three times, The other is a mix of shapes hand- illustrated with Gouache paint. The colours used by her reflect the hand-selected colours of our current range of towels, Praia, Prainao, Fasano, Aperol spritz which are delightful softs apricots, mustards, and pinks. The dust bags we made from sustainable reclaimed fabric from Istanbul. Every item complements the other.
Plans for 2019?
Our focus this year will be more on interior lifestyle pieces. We really want to branch out more into that. We are currently working on our A/W19 collection. We have travels plans for shooting lots of new content, which we believe will bring out the best aesthetic appeal in these pieces. Travel in my view opens our minds to so many possibilities. I love working with my Dad, so we meet in interesting places around the world, we mix our creativity with vision, and brainstorm new ideas for our future. I have also just launched a content creation agency called Social Studio (socialstudio.co). It is in its infancy but is getting some great traction with some well-known brands. I help clients strategize what their Instagram should look like, and then advise and assist with photography, content creation and layout. I was doing this by default before without even realizing it, and have recently been commissioned to do it for others. It constantly challenges my thinking and pushes me as a creative.
What advice would you give to future textile designers/ fashion designers who to venture into the retail space?
Find a passion, work at it, every single day. Find things that inspire you. Travel as much as you can. Stay true to yourself and never compare yourself to anyone else. Use your uniqueness in the best way possible. There is only one you, and they can’t be you. Find your own voice and aesthetic and keep pushing yourself.
Photography: Cate Rochat
For more information about SUMMAH and to shop online visit, summah.co