Newport’s Got Soul
You know the feeling: You’re introduced to someone or someplace for the first time and immediately there’s a connection. A familiarity. A comfort. It seems this new person or place has always been there, or was meant to be. You’ve found your Soul Mate — or Soul Place.
“Hanalei, Kauai is a Soul Place for me,” says Summer Meek, a local whose concept for an apparel company and charitable foundation was inspired by the location. “You look around and realize you’re between two worlds — all of this incredible beauty but also a lot of poverty.” Understanding that most of the beautiful places around the globe that she’d visited or hoped to visit faced challenges of some kind, Meek looked for a way to spin her passion for apparel into benefiting humanity. In 2010, she and her husband Don started Soul Project, an apparel and souvenir collection out of Laguna Beach that donates $1 from every item to a local children’s or environmental organization. A Newport Beach location soon followed.
“We thought, ‘When you visit a special place, you want to take home a T-shirt,’” says Meek. Even cooler is that they enlist artists in each Soul Place to design them, and then give back a portion of the proceeds to a charity in that community. The Project has expanded its apparel line, and stretched to other coastal towns including Encinitas, Santa Barbara and Big Sur. With big dreams for the future, the Meeks purchased 49 website domain names, one for each of their desired locations.
Self-taught painter and illustrator Ben Brough has been the creative mind behind the Newport Beach collection, with the Boys & Girls Club as the benefactor. Soul Project is now seeking new artists in the area — established and emerging — to try their hand at the next set of graphics. Here, Meek gives us a closer peek behind the Project.
A lot of Soul:
I have more than one Soul Place … Laguna Beach … Newport Beach … Joshua Tree … I keep collecting them along the way!
The heart of NB’s soul:
Our favorite place in Newport Beach is the Ferry. It was an actual mode of transportation for people at one time, and represents everything that is old school about the city. We love to ride over to The Crab Cooker and to get frozen bananas — those iconic Newport Beach things to do.
She believes the children are our future:
The best way to help maintain the integrity of a Soul Place is through happy kids and a healthy environment. If kids are thriving, they’ll want to protect the future of their Soul Place. There are so many existing children’s and environmental organizations doing great work in these places that we can support.
We are always looking for new artists and [philanthropic] organizations to partner with. Sometimes an artist will lead us to a particular charity that they already have a passion for. We’re also open to artists of all ages — it would be cool to have some kids create artwork for the project.
A world of goods:
We opened a storefront in Laguna last summer, where we sell our apparel for men, women and kids, and accessories like hats and water bottles (“No more plastic bottles!”). We’ve added a beauty line that includes beach-y items like perfume oils and wave spray, as well as fun home goods like coffee table books and candles and nautical decor. We source most items locally, and try to stick with brands that are behind helping the environment or that give back in some way.
A community workshop:
The store is also used as a gathering place for events and workshops — we’ll host some activities — like flower-crown making — just for fun and to give people an opportunity to be creative. Other events are meant to raise awareness for a cause. Our next Art Walk event will draw attention to The Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage; a local student, Kelsey Paul, recently went to Africa with her mom where they learned about this rhino rescue program. They’ve created T-shirts and a book and are using the money to help the rhinos.
In July, we’ll co-host an event with the program With My Own Two Hands — a nonprofit that raises money to help children in Africa. They’ll be screening a movie about their efforts in Newport Beach.
Enter to win:
Follow us on Instagram @thesoulproject for reminders about our weekly “Where you Love Wednesdays” contest. Send us a photo and description of your Soul Place, and automatically be entered to win a free Soul Project tee.
The road ahead:
We’d like to have a retail store in more locations, including Newport Beach. We hope to expand the line and open the door for more artists, and [subsequently] be able to give more money away to people in need.
Are you an artist who wants to lend your work to a cause? Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.