Behind The Seams: Cindy Poole of The Summit
Launched in 2010, South African accessory label The Summit has quickly emerged as one of the most covetable design brands to come out of The Cape. In fact, recently Wallpaper Magazine deemed The Summit one of the top 20 reasons to visit South Africa. If that's not enough reason to pack a first-class trip across the pond, no worries, we're bringing The Summit straight from Cape Town to your doorstep through Heritage1960.com We caught up with Cindy Poole, founder and designer behind The Summit, to learn more about her inspiration behind her wildly sought-after line.
Heritage1960: Tell us a bit about your background and where you grew up.
Cindy Poole: I was born in Cape Town and grew up in East London, South Africa, in a small beach town at the edge of the world. There is a lot to be said for small towns. The most interesting people I have met come from small towns. I think it has something to do with being observers. The retreat into fantasy fuels the desire to contribute to the world from a place so remote.
I studied fine art at University of Cape Town, majoring in sculpture and then did a post graduate degree in Writing, Directing and Production Design for Film. Neither industries inspired an actual career, but I do draw on these mediums in my design process.
H1960: When did you transition to designing and what drew you to men’s accessories?
CP: I have always designed… in that I have always made things ever since I can remember. My first product I designed for The Summit was in 2009 as I was exploring the belt as an essential accessory.
I am drawn to the eloquence and aura around a man who conducts himself well in the world, with manners and respect for everyone around him, he who is respected by his peers and seeks to contribute positively to the world. That man often understands the purpose of dressing well, embracing his appearance as an extension of his character and individuality.
‘The Summit Man’ dresses appropriately, respecting the relevant context in which he is currently in. These men do not all look the same, and in fact desire to infuse their choice of wares with their personal individuality and a flair of difference. This is the man I design for. These are men I may encounter in history books, in films, in my family, amongst my friends and those I meet or witness on the street who inspire my designs. I found a muse this way.
H1960: Tell us more about the first piece you designed for The Summit - a belt!
CP: The belt without a buckle - Ace22 - was my first leather product for The Summit range. It encapsulates all the qualities of The Summit’s design philosophy – innovative and streamlined design. The belt rids itself of the unnecessary buckle, reverting to the brass rivet, called the Sam Brown, which originated in the army.
My current collection expands on the Ace 22 – all my belts continuing to refute the buckle. I have also designed the suspender bowtie short and long, the lapel scarf, bicycle sling bag and luggage bags, as well as a host of leather stationary including ipad/iphone cases, laptop holders and a ubiquitous wallet.
H1960: You describe your label as ‘Nostalgic Futuristic’. Where did this originate?
CP: It was in the midst of submerging my imagination in mid-century architecture, film, furniture and fabric design when I recognised that a great deal of the inspiration to create at that time was about serving an imagined utopian future. I looked at my obsession with this era as nostalgic and then saw the irony in that era’s dreaming of their work being relevant beyond 2000.
My designs seek to innovate age old product designs and contribute to the slow evolution of men’s design through subtle and unique innovation, be it through added application and usage, more simplified and streamlined design, or utilising relevant fabrication that increases its charm with its wear and tear. I look to the past as I have a deep interest in the evolution of design and creative process through multiple media as it mirrors the desires and motivation of people in their time. I am inspired by age old craftsmanship, leaps in technology and fabrication that considers our environment and celebrates our individual contexts. Despite how little our desires for comfort and aesthetic simplicity has changed, I'm really intrigued and inspired to contribute toward this slow evolution of men’s design.
The Summit pays homage to the traditions of menswear design, whilst at the same time looks to the future. This nostalgic/forward looking dichotomy embraces innovation. It encompasses the gentlemanly aesthetic of early icons of fashion, but updates it with a futuristic nostalgic urban edge.
H1960: Your design aesthetic and philosophy is uncanny. We can't wait to see more! Would you ever explore mens clothing or distinctly women’s accessories?
CP: The truth is, design according to gender distinction is to a large extent quite absurd – but the world delineates distinctions that way. I design for an ideal subject that is truthfully without gender but more a person of a distinct character. However, if I look for who or what niche intrigues my imagination, it would be the world of men.
What I design and what may be manifested in reality is reliant on budget, time, relevance and a ready audience. I’m constantly designing anything from furniture to soft furnishings, kitchenware, swimwear, apparel, underwear, stationary, luggage, recipes, new brands, new lines, ceramics – its endless. That's probably why I need such a specific, highly defined niche to design for, so I don't get carried away by endless possibilities!
H1960: Who are your style icons?
CP: My grandparents Sylvia and Harrold Ross. People who made the most of what they have and who have chosen what they have very carefully. I’m more interested in the common man’s lived in and personalised style than in celebrity.
H1960: How would you classify your personal style?
CP: ‘Nostalgic futuristic’ fantasy… whatever it is, it's story telling. Well, I guess I abide by my own definition of style! I wear what is in line with how I feel and the context of occasion. I think to myself, “Is there consistency with what I am wearing? And with what I want to portray?” There is always a narrative around one’s choice of dress, so ultimately the question becomes, “What story do I wish to tell?”
H1960: What are your favorite items in your closet?
CP: To name a few:
1) My burgundy ostrich square sling bag my dad gave my mom, which she then gave me
2) My two-tone navy and white Italian mid-century vintage heeled brogues [Brooklyn nightmarket vintage vendor]
3) My black and burgundy short suspender bowtie [The Summit]
4) My snake skin Ace22 belt [The Summit]
5) My Borsolino black beret [J.J’s hat centre, NY]
6) I also hardly ever feel dressed up without my matte red Rubywoo lipstick [Mac], vintage sunglasses and Guerlain Pomplelune perfume.
Realising these are all accessories I just mentioned – these would be my favorite clothes:
1) My black high-waisted jeans, palazzo pants and pencil skirt.
2) My satin cream 1940’s vintage blouse [Retrofit, Sanfrancisco]
3) A navy velvet dinner jacket.
But accessories are so much more important than clothes, evidently.