Cara Smith grew up in Traverse City, MI—a legendary fishing area—spending time at her grandparents’ house on the Boardman River. She learned to love all aspects of fishing, even sewing fishing rod bags with her grandmother and helping her grandfather to tie a thread around a fishing pole. The heritage of fishing is woven deeply into the fabric of Cara’s life.
Smith’s grandfather, pictured below with Cara, is the renowned angler and craftsman, Bob Summers, the name behind the iconic R.W. Summers, maker of specialty bamboo fly rods. Today Cara continues her grandfather’s legacy and brand with her own company, Summers & Co., a brand of fly fishing apparel designed for women, founded in 2016.
Cara’s idea to create an apparel line did not happen by circumstance. Alongside her love for fishing, she was also interested in fashion which led her to study Fashion Design and Product Development at the University of Cincinnati where she developed a deep understanding of both the creative and business sides of the fashion industry. When Cara would come home from college, her grandfather would ask her to sew him a fly-fishing vest and urged her to create a line of fishing apparel.
Eventually, Cara gave in and ran with the idea for a school project. It was through that design process that she came upon the idea that a women’s fishing apparel line was worth pursuing, and it brought together her passion for fashion design and her family’s heritage in the fishing industry.
Although Cara had the opportunity to work for several fashion houses after graduation, the call of home and to start her own brand were too strong to ignore. She moved back to Michigan three years ago and started her company, Summers & Co. The brand was founded on a women’s fishing vest, shown above, inspired by her grandfather’s original request and Cara’s own frustration with vests she found at retail—which were unattractive and bulky.
The vest is sleek and fitted to the female silhouette which allows women to be more comfortable for longer periods of time when they’re on the water. The Summer’s & Co. brand, like her grandfather’s, is Made in the U.S.A, and products are tested in the waters of the Boardman River.
Today, Cara is on a mission to make fishing more accessible to women by encouraging them to get into the sport, out on the water and back to nature. Her apparel and accessories collection, while designed to be more form-fitting and less bulky than traditional men’s fishing apparel, holds true to the heritage and tradition of fishing that she learned early on from her grandfather.
Photos courtesy Summers & Co.