Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


December 29th, 2011

Source4Style 2.0 Takes Materials Sourcing To The Next Level

Source4Style, the first trends-driven global sourcing marketplace for the fashion and design industry recently launched the 2.0 version of their site. Since the launch of its pilot in October 2010, Source4Style has brought together independent designers and apparel brands with the world’s leading suppliers of sustainable fabrics to connect and do business through an e-commerce platform. It is an online community and platform that sources sustainable, ecological materials in a modern and stylishly laid out interface. It presents a new contemporary B2B design marketplace which not only looks good but one that functions well too, and overall was recently launched with new features to make sustainable design possible.


Founded by Summer Rayne Oakes  (an Environmental Science major) and co-founder with Benita Singh, Source4Style, is an online platform and community for materials with a difference. Benita’s background and experience lies in seeking ways to bring artisanal goods to new and mainstream markets.  In 2004 she founded a fair-trade social enterprise when  she undertook research of post-war truth commissions in Guatemala as part of her International Relations degree. Summer holds accolades such as that by publications like Vanity Fair who has named Oakes a “Global Citizen,” Outside who called her one of the “Top Environmental Activists,”; CNN hailed her as a “Young Person Who Rocks,” Glamour anointed her “70 Women of Green,” Cosmopolitan awarded her the “Fun, Fearless Female” Award, and AMICA named her one of the “Top 20 Trendsetters under 40” and she has been praised to be the “Worlds First Eco Model” it is no wonder that all materials come exclusively from sustainable and ethical sources. But Summer and Benita started Source4Style as they saw a problem. They found that fashion designers, when looking for fabrics, tend to visit trade shows, wade through hundreds of sample folders, surf vast online directories and, according to research from Cornell University, this can take up to 85% of their time ‘leaves just 15% actually designing, which strikes us as a terrible waste of resources,’ says Summer.

“Despite the rise of online solutions to fashion commerce, the $400 BN market for materials sourcing remains offline and fragmented,” says Summer Rayne Oakes, co-founder of Source4Style. “Suppliers can spend up to 43% of their marketing budgets just on tradeshows,” adds Benita Singh, co-founder. “It’s a huge up-front time and financial commitment with no guarantee of a return.”

I recently met with Summer on one of her trips to London where as part of it she undertook in doing a presentation with ASOS as part of their Breakfast discussions. She has a gentle composure and such confidence in this field that you can only but trust her passion and credibility to bring on ly the best and to seek out the best options for her customers. I had purchased a selection of raw silks, silk/modal jersey blends, and a variety of cotton blends (organic of course!) to add to my eco textile library. What is now exciting to see is the growing range of suppliers that Source4Style working with in African countries Ghana, to South Africa, to Madagascar, to Uganda supplying fabrics such as batik print, bark cloth and even my personal favourite Kente!

image – Source4Style – “Hipstamatic_Prism”

Source4Style has a new edge in a market currently occupied by sites like Alibaba and MFG through its robust fashion trends content, custom wholesale ordering technology and sleek, design-centric user interface. As a supplier-generated site, pricing and inventories are all updated twice a day, along with the most comprehensive material specs online. In addition to providing designers with extensive data at the click of a button – from lead times to availability – Source4Style offers all designers the option to purchase swatches and samples at a nominal cost of $4 per swatch, including shipping. Summer explains. ‘Source4Style showcases the fabrics with high-resolution photos that you can zoom in on to examine the weave, and suppliers can show their first batch for free.’

Source4Style – Swatches- image Shawn Brackbill

Source4Style – Doing-Trend-Sheets-image – Shawn Brackbill

Premium members of Source4Style have access to unlimited global sourcing at direct-from-supplier pricing with no fees or commissions, mark-ups or fees. Premium members can also use the platform’s in-site messaging tools, inquire about material customization through RFQ tools, and download materials testing and certification documentation. They can book orders directly online, avoiding wire transfer fees and other inconveniences of doing business across continents.

“Our goal is to provide the most cutting-edge tools to facilitate commerce between two groups that are currently disconnected in the global market – the leading sustainable suppliers and the designers looking for them,” says Singh. “Suppliers all over the world – whether they be a cooperative of artisans or an emerging factory can apply to showcase on Source4Style’s platform and be opened up to a rapidly growing designer and apparel brand base.”

In addition to its sleek user-interface and functionality, Source4Style is also leading the pack in content and trends. “Design and apparel brands want to come to a place where they are inspired, where they can discover new trends. Most don’t want to purchase the material for their upcoming collection in the same place they can source coffee beans or machine parts,” says Oakes.


Coupled with a materials marketplace that grows bi-weekly are Curations by some of top cultural connoisseurs, seasonal trend reports, design webinars and a syndicated sponsored video channel called The Cutting Edge, which is described as “Talk Soup Meets the BBC News.”

Sustainability is an integral feature of Source4Style’s offerings. Though not a certification body, Source4Style does carefully vet suppliers based on a number of criteria and opens up the “transparency of the supply chain,” according to Oakes.

“Sustainability is an inevitability, “ she says. “The industry is under increasing pressure to ensure social and environmental compliance along the supply chain. Organizations like the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and OIA’s Eco Index send a clear signal that change is imminent. It’s too great a liability for any brand not to know where their stuff is coming from.”

Source4Style 2.0 will host over 1,300 materials from over 23 countries and counts Payless ShoeSource, Project Runway’s Christian Siriano and Ecco Domani Award winners like Study among its designer and apparel brand members. The company also won the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards for North America this October at the Women’s Forum in Deauville, France.

For all the women out there thinking of starting a business – or have recently launched a business – you will have already discovered that there are very few “Women in Business” Awards out there – particularly for those that are focused on the development of a social enterprise. That’s why Summer and Benita were so excited to discover the Cartier Awards about two years ago. They first applied back in May of 2010 and the selection committee selected Source4Style as a finalist from over 1,400 other applicants and thus began a very rigorous and disciplined series of coaching sessions, business plan development, and oral presentation in front of a panel of judges to then to go on to win this year.

It has definitely been a successful year for Source4Style. According to the Co-op Ethical Consumerism Report, ethical fashion sales increased 30.3 percent in just 2004 to £43 million, and with sustainable and ethical fashion being an industry that has been growing by 40% yearly since 2005, we at Africa Fashion Guide can only see sites like these as a necessity in the industry and so look forward to its growth and development in the future.

To see and source for yourself do go to:

For inquiries contact Source4Style at


Author: Jacqueline Shaw



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