For many years, designing clothing with fabrics that didn't pollute rivers, weren't made from nonrenewable petrochemicals, and didn't contribute to habitat loss or worker abuse (i.e., conventional fabrics) was almost impossible. Sure, there were organic cottons, naturally dyed wools and hemp textiles out there, but they were (very) hard to find and often came in limited colorways.
Plenty of designers, especially smaller, independent outfits that were already stretched to the limit on time and money, simply couldn't afford to spend the extra energy to find sustainable fabrics. And many others didn't even know they existed.
To solve that problem — which is not so much one of supply and demand (as the global public has demanded more Earth-friendly fabrics, companies small and larger have brought new options to market) but one of access and education — sustainability expert (and eco model) Summer Rayne Oakes teamed up with her best friend, Benita Singh, to put together a platform, Source4Style, wherein designers could simply and easily search for more sustainable fabrics, by color, type of fabric, country of origin, or aspect of sustainability. So, for example, I searched the site for a red knit fabric from the United States, and six options came up, some in organic cotton, some organic wools, and a blend of the two, which is exactly the kind of flexibility a designer needs.
After a year of testing and tweaking, the site launched Dec. 12.
"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. Suppliers all over the world — whether they be a cooperative of artisans or an emerging sustainable mill — can apply to showcase on Source4Style’s platform and be opened up to the growing community of designers and apparel brands, which currently come from over 70 countries around the world," according to the Source4Style site.
The site offers swatches of fabric, but doesn't keep inventory and sell the fabric (Source4Style isn't a middleman), but rather connects buyers and sellers in a simple, seamless way. And fabric's just the start. Soon button, trim, zippers and yarn will be searchable, too.
"As a vetted and curated supplier-generated site, pricing and inventories are all updated in real time, along with the most comprehensive material specs online," says the site. So now ethically minded designers can spend more time designing, and less time worrying about the negative impact of their business, or setting up their own complicated supply lines for each fabric they want to use, meaning they can do more of what they love to do — creating great clothes for us all to wear.