Source4Style (now Le Souk)

Build a company to make sustainable design possible.

Sourcing textiles is hard. And sourcing more sustainable textiles? Well, that's even more challenging. At least that's what I found out from the countless conversations I had with designers when researching for my book, Style, Naturally. After a little more research across a hundred in-depth interviews with fashion designers, I found out that designers on average were spending 85% of their time sourcing—not designing. That was a sobering fact. I began to wonder whether there might be a way to reduce that pain point for designers and help them source better fabrics more efficiently. From there, I enlisted the help of my former business partner, Benita Singh, and we set out to build a company whose mission was to make sustainable design possible. That's when Source4Style was born—a B-2-B marketplace that connects designers to suppliers around the globe.

Tara St. James of StudyNY fits her textiles to a mannequin. Photo: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Tara St. James of StudyNY fits her textiles to a mannequin. Photo: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

For the majority of us, our first introduction to design is what we see off the runway, in online shops, magazines and storefronts. But the reality is design is very much a process—one that touches dozens of hands before it arrives to our closets.
— Summer Rayne Oakes
Mood board inspiration of Samantha Pleet. Photograph by Shawn Brackbill.

Mood board inspiration of Samantha Pleet. Photograph by Shawn Brackbill.

Imagination plays a key role in a designer's creative process. how she envisions her collection coming together starts with inspiration. this can come in a variety of forms—a song, an image, or perhaps even a faint childhood memory of playing outside among freshly fallen leaves.

From StudyNY: Materials are matched to design. Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

From StudyNY: Materials are matched to design. Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Tara St. James of StudyNY creates a swatch board for her season's collection.  Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Tara St. James of StudyNY creates a swatch board for her season's collection.  Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Sourcing the appropriate fabrics is the cornerstone of a designer's collection. in many cases, it may be one of the most important elements of design.  

Tara St. James of StudyNY points to the buttons on one of her shirts. Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Tara St. James of StudyNY points to the buttons on one of her shirts. Photography by Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

On average 85% of a designer's time is spent sourcing.
That means less time for a designer to do what she does best—design.

The lineup for Samantha Pleet's runway. Photography by Shawn Brackbill.

The lineup for Samantha Pleet's runway. Photography by Shawn Brackbill.

A model poses against a white background for a lookbook shot at the Samantha Pleet runway show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill.

A model poses against a white background for a lookbook shot at the Samantha Pleet runway show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill.

How the designer takes her vision from paper to the runway to the retail outlets may seem like a mystery, but it's actually the result of a team effort—most often involving many people along the chain of custody—from textile manufacturers to pattern makers to graders—some of whom the designer may never have the good fortune of meeting. 

Samantha Pleet runway. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill.

Samantha Pleet runway. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill.

Behind-the-scenes at Samantha Pleet. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill

Behind-the-scenes at Samantha Pleet. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill


Designers and textile manufacturers don't often speak the same language. 

Before creating Source4Style, we polled both designers and textile suppliers about the biggest challenges they had in working with one another. We found that suppliers were overwhelmed when it came to supplying swatches and small sample sizes to designers, yet swatches and small samples sizes were necessary for a designer's  initial collection. So Source4Style took swatches—or small samples of fabric—under our roof.

Swatches are an integral part to a designer's sourcing process. She will often take more swatches than she needs and sees how some of them can come together to form a cohesive collection. Here Tara St. James pins her swatches to a board. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Swatches are an integral part to a designer's sourcing process. She will often take more swatches than she needs and sees how some of them can come together to form a cohesive collection. Here Tara St. James pins her swatches to a board. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

No, seriously. Swatches were under my roof! In a typical start-up story, we ran Source4Style's day-to-day operations out of my home for 18-months. Over 1,500 materials were stashed away in filing cabinets, bins and drawers.

Benita, Elizabeth and I were the core team at Source4Style. Nothing would have been made possible without the help of these two ladies! Photography by: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.

Benita, Elizabeth and I were the core team at Source4Style. Nothing would have been made possible without the help of these two ladies! Photography by: Shawn Brackbill for Source4Style.


Source4style gives designers the freedom to search, sample, customize and source materials all in one place —without having to travel to textile centers around the world. That means more time for designers to design their collections.

A designer points to the models on the runway before the big show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill

A designer points to the models on the runway before the big show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill

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Samples of textiles from Source4Style's various suppliers around the world. Sustainable textiles have been at the heart of Source4Style's sourcing operations.

A model waits backstage at a fashion show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill. 

A model waits backstage at a fashion show. Photography by: Shawn Brackbill. 

Like any website, Source4Style has undergone a number of iterations. over the course of five years, Source4Style has made improvements both on the back-end and the front-end to make sourcing for designers easier. The images below give you an idea as to how the website has evolved from 2010-2015. 

2015

2013-2014

2011-2012

2010

There is a sensuality about fabric. I think all materials should be inviting when they touch the skin. When I watch children stroking their mother’s clothes, I feel that I have succeeded.
— Azzedine Alaia

When Source4Style initially launched, it was big news for the industry.  

Never before was there a destination where designers could source more sustainable materials all in one place. In London, we made the announcement at The House of Lords and the launch party brought in members from the British Fashion Council to some of our first "founding designer" members. 

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A passerby carries some Source4Style swag.

A passerby carries some Source4Style swag.

Head of the British Fashion Council, Anna Orsini and Actor Noah Huntley came to celebrate the Source4Style launch in London.

Head of the British Fashion Council, Anna Orsini and Actor Noah Huntley came to celebrate the Source4Style launch in London.

Within two years time, Source4Style made some serious headway.

The company was sourcing over 1,500 materials across 25 countries, had thousands of designer members from 70 countries around the world, and was featured in over100 publications ranging from Italian Vogue, Vogue.com, WWD, The Guardian, The New York Times T: Style Magazine, GreenBiz.com and others. 

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In 2011, we applied for the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards and won for North America. This opened up many doors—including doors for future outside investment, which Source4Style later procured the following year. 

Benita and I packed our bags to France to present Source4Style to the judges at the Cartier Women's Initiative.

Benita and I packed our bags to France to present Source4Style to the judges at the Cartier Women's Initiative.

We had many laughs at the Cartier event. 

We had many laughs at the Cartier event. 

And had a lot of time for celebration.

And had a lot of time for celebration.

And not to mention some time for interviews as well. Photography compliments of: Cartier Women's Initiative. 

And not to mention some time for interviews as well. Photography compliments of: Cartier Women's Initiative. 

Today Source4Style sources textiles in 38 countries around the globe and continues to help designers source better. 

website: source4style.com

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/Source4style

instagram: @LESOUK_NYC


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