Source4Style is a new sustainable fabric business to business database that brings together interior and clothing designers with sustainable suppliers. The website is currently in beta and will be open to the public sometime in the next couple of months. The impetus behind the creation of this online database, as explained by co-founder Summer Rayne Oakes, is to offer a scalable solution for the industry and relieve the pains of sourcing.
Oakes is a sustainable strategist, eco-activist-model and author of Style Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty. Through her consultancy work, she found sourcing eco-friendly materials to be very time consuming.
Think Virtual Eco-Friendly Fabric Trade Show
Source4Style is more like a virtual 365 day trade show than just a database website. And its creation could not come at a timelier juncture with the world grasping at the heels of sustainability. When I heard about the site, I jumped at the chance to take a look. Readers, you know how much I love green decor and have a special place in my heart for sustainable fabrics. Believe me. I have spent many an hour looking for sustainable fabrics for my own home. I don’t envy designers. For that matter, I don’t envy my own designer who constantly sees me shake my head when I tell her, not sustainable enough. I want it all. Sustainability and Glam. But did I mention in traditional patterns too?
Before, you go running to the website, hold your horses.
It is a beta invitation only site at the moment. <em >I was devastated when I went to click on the site. Update: Don’t worry about your horses, the site is out of beta. Go graze.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. Oakes graciously took the time to walk me through the mechanics of the website. See the below video interview as well as the podcast for those wishing to listen to just both Oakes’ and my beautiful voices. I encourage you to listen to one or the other since Oakes is quite passionate and a wonderful speaker.
A Sustainable Designer’s Dream Website
Was I impressed? You bet.
Will it make a designer’s life easier? Absolutely. You can source the type of material from silk to rayon with each fabric displaying a story about its certifications and origins. In the alternative, you can source the material based upon your end goal as a designer. For example, someone might want to source fabrics that are hand woven to help disenfranchised woman versus someone looking for an organic fabric. As the website evolves to a public beta, Oakes indicates that there will be icons for each fabric indicating whether the fabric is, for example, fair trade, organic, and/or contains recycled content.
What I loved best about the website is that you are able to actually see the material up close and personal due to the website’s zoom capability. I was dazzled by the quality of the photography. You can actually see the weave.
Like what you see, and you want to order samples, no problem. There is an option for this as well.
Who Gets to Flaunt their Green Wares?
One concern I had before interviewing Oakes, is how will the Company determine who gets to play in the sandbox? Which means, how will they determine who is green. Everyone these days seems to claim their product is green in some way.
Oakes explains that all fabrics must contain a verifiable certification. However, fabric suppliers with a social mission who cannot afford certification will be given some leeway. The Company has a four page questionnaire to assist in creating the transparency of the fabric and its orgins. Plus, as Oakes states either co-founding partner, Benita Singh or her have “boots on the ground” to visit the suppliers.
But Oakes and Singh realize that being green is important; however, there are other factors that designers use in order to source the right materials. The site will list among others, lead times, and minimum and maximum orders, flammability, pilling, rubs, weight, and weave.
Why do you want your green fabric on the site?
Oakes views Source4Style as a marketing arm to bring designer and supplier together. There will be a cost to the supplier to display their fabric, but in the end it will be minuscule compared to the exposure a supplier will receive.
What about the designers who can’t reach the usual minimums?
The good news is that many of the suppliers seem amenable to lowering their minimums to help smaller independent designers. In addition, Oakes stated that areas under discussion for the company includes a designer buddy system similar to a cooperative or designer to designer excess fabric sales.
Why do I think this Site will succeed?
Oakes and Singh are no stranger to the rigors of sourcing sustainable fabrics. Oakes as a sustainable strategist has worked with many companies in creating sustainable brands such as the likes of Payless ShoeSource’s Zoe&Zac line and Portico Home and Spa’s organic bedding line. In addition, she is the editor at large of Above, a UK avante garde fashion and environmental magazine.
Singh, equally impressive, co-founded Mercado Global, a non-profit which employs more than 300 women artisans to help break the cycle of poverty through the payment of fair trade wages and partners with such retailers as Levi Strauss & Co., Whole Foods Market and ABC Carpet & Home. After three years as Mercado Global’s president, Singh branched out into working on product development, scaling local enterprises to increase production capacity and connecting groups to companies to sell their wares such as Barnes and Noble and Gaiam.
Not only have these powerhouse women combined their talents, they have sought input from the industry during informal focus groups and feedback with one currently held in New York in August. See Source4Style’s blog for current updates on the website.
Can anyone buy from the site?
Yeah, that is me in the back corner with her hand up saying “pick me. Pick me.” This is a business to business site so only the trade can buy. However, I can look and bug my eco-designer with all the fabrics that I think will look good in my home. And then she will shake her head at me and tell me to stick to my day job and let her source the fabric. Her job has now become so much easier because Oakes and Singh had a dream and the vision to make it reality.
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