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Lucire 2011

At the office Source4Style co-founders Summer Rayne Oakes and Benita Singh with director of community relations, Elizabeth Cloyd.

Source4Style: perfecting the process

UNEPUNEP logoChanging the world again: Source4Style makes the global business of fashion more ethical and transparent as it helps labels source directly from sustainable, ecological suppliers
by Jack Yan
SOME PHOTOGRAPHY BY SHAWN BRICKBILL

 


Above Summer Rayne Oakes, co-founder of Source4Style.

 

SUMMER RAYNE OAKES has had a long association with Lucire. Both Oakes and this title have a commitment to the environment, with Lucire being the first international magazine to publish sustainable style editorials. Oakes’s ‘Behind the Label’ found its original home here, and as the 2000s unfolded, her impact on the world of eco-fashion grew remarkably.

Spreads in everything from Vanity Fair to international newspapers followed, with Oakes acclaimed as the ‘eco-model’. An entomologist by training—she graduated from Cornell University—but a model during her university years, Oakes “lived the brand”, endorsing, strategizing and representing only companies that shared her socially responsible outlook. Not that any of us here doubted it since we first crossed paths nearly a decade ago, but it was the appearance of Oakes’s comprehensive book on eco-fashion, Style, Naturally, that cemented in the general public’s minds that she was an indisputable authority on the subject.

She wasn’t alone in carving a niche in social responsibility in the fashion world. Others were making inroads in Fair Trade, Shared Equity and sustainable sourcing. Yale alumna Benita Singh travelled to Guatemala in 2003 as part of her research into post-war truth commissions for her International Relations degree. There, she met women whose husbands had died in the conflict, and were surviving on craft. However, they faced difficulties in marketing their goods.

Singh connected those artisans with first- and second-world markets after that journey. She co-founded Mercado Global, a non-profit that now provides employment for over 300 women artisans. Singh then went to India to work with crafts’ cooperatives there.

Two years ago, Oakes and Singh began planning a global fashion and design industry portal. Just as Singh connected artisans with markets, Source4Style, as the venture ultimately came to be known, connects sustainable fabric supplies to designers in an ecommerce platform. The second incarnation of the Source4Style website, which had been in pilot phase for the last 14 months, launches today, December 19.

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Source4Style home page

Source4Style banner

Top Source4Style home page. Centre Elizabeth Cloyd (Director of Community Relations), at work. Left Source4Style banner. Above Origins of Source4Style’s users from the site’s beta phase.


Source4Style launches with 1,300 materials, including plain cottons and silks to the likes of bark cloth and salmon-skin leather, from 23 countries. According to Source4Style, Payless ShoeSource, Project Runway’s Christian Siriano and Ecco Domani Award winner Study are among the foundation designer members. Eight hundred designers were already on board with the original, beta version of the site.

The market, as Oakes highlights, is worth US$400,000 million—but there is no single, manageable destination for sourcing. Sustainable clothing alone is a US$6,000 million industry, growing by 40 per cent per annum since 2005. This is where Source4Style’s genius lies: it has the potential of reorganizing the way designers do the business of sourcing. Reorganizing lives has always been the task of the biggest internet ventures, be it Google or Facebook, and Source4Style’s proposition is so simple, yet so compelling, designers should find its offering a no-brainer.

Using a B2B subscription model, Source4Style aims to shave the costs of suppliers who are, according to Singh, spending up to 43 per cent of their marketing budgets just on trade shows. ‘It’s a huge up-front time and financial commitment with no guarantee of a return,’ she says. On the other end of the scale, Cornell University research shows that designers are spending up to 85 per cent of their time visiting those same shows, going through online directories, or wading through sample folders. This means the real reason they got in to the field—to create and design—is only 15 per cent of their task.

And with consumer demand for eco-fashion rising year on year—there is no sign of the trend abating—Source4Style simply makes sense.

The market has rivals. Alibaba and MFG currently play in this field, but lack the focus. Source4Style has changing, original content, and a custom wholesale ordering process. Inventories and pricing are updated twice a day. Lead times, availability, and material specifications are all clearly presented on a website that we found particularly navigable.

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Below Source4Style’s screen shots, plus a sample swatch.


Source4Style aims to shave the costs of suppliers who are, according to Singh, spending up to 43 per cent of their marketing budgets just on trade shows. ‘It’s a huge up-front time and financial commitment with no guarantee of a return,’ she says. On the other end of the scale, Cornell University research shows that designers are spending up to 85 per cent of their time visiting those same shows, going through online directories, or wading through sample folders

 

 


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Join Source4Style for 30 per cent off

 

Lucire readers in the fashion trade can benefit from Source4Style. By inputting the code 30ERICUL at the check-out, they can get 30 per cent off an annual Premium Level Membership until January 31, 2012.

 

 

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