Summer Rayne Oakes may have first gained recognition in the modeling world, but she’s more than a pretty face. When she’s not strutting down the catwalk, the multitasking multihyphenate is an author, a shoe designer, and a social entrepreneur. The thread that ties these disparate enterprises together becomes apparent with Oakes’ latest endeavor: Source4Style, a trade-only online marketplace that allows designers to find, compare, and buy sustainable textiles from a network of global suppliers at the touch of a button. Earlier this month, we snuck a peek at the upcoming site during a cupcake-filled preview in Brooklyn. Better yet, we managed to sidle up to Oakes herself to glean her thoughts about S4, sustainable fashion, and why community matters.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
S4, which is currently in beta and invitation-only, didn’t begin on a whim. When Oakes and her team started their research last fall, they uncovered that up to 85 percent of a designer’s time is spent sourcing fabric, rather than designing. “I think that’s ludicrous,” she tells Ecouterre. “No matter how big or small you are, sourcing—especially sustainable sourcing—is a major pain point in the industry. If we can flip that statistic…if we can enable designers to design again by giving them the tools and the information at their fingertips, then we’re doing what we set out to do: We’re making sustainable design possible.”
Up to 85 percent of a designer’s time is spent sourcing fabric, rather than designing.
Another oft-overlooked aspect of fashion design: community, or more to the point, the power of crowdsourcing. “Sourcing can be a highly individual experience,” Oakes says, “but by creating the infrastructure and access all in one place we’re helping pool what people are looking for in order to help analyze, predict and inform buying trends.”
MADE BY HAND
At the same time, Oakes wants to grant designers and retailers easier access to artisanal groups, their stories, and their products. “Oftentimes these groups have longer lead times because items are created by hand,” she says, “and it’s important for us to share why these items are so special to the greater fashion, interior, and apparel communities.”
S4 is just for designers, but rather a collaborative work-in-progress with them.
But S4, Oakes stresses, isn’t just for designers. Rather, she views it as a collaborative work-in-progress with them. “It’s hard to know what every designer needs until you really sit down and talk with them and say, ‘draw how it’ll work,’ or ‘what would that page look like?'” she notes. In fact, discovering what made designers tick was the entire point of the inaugural Feast & Focus Group. The site, after all, was built for them, so gathering their feedback was foremost on the agenda.
Next on the Summer Rayne Oakes World Domination Tour? Taking S4 (and its cupcake fests) global. “We’ll probably have another one in New York before the end of the year,” Oakes says. “And now we’re planning one out in London to get a more European perspective.”