Online trade shows are cropping up to take the place of, or at least supplement, the hassle and expense of in-person trade shows. Boutique Fashion Brokers, as just one example, was founded last year by a former model in order to streamline fashion’s entire ordering process, from sharing lookbooks and press, to tracking sales, orders, and shipments.
Now the digital tradeshow field is expanding into niche territory, with the recent launch of Source4Style’s new platform a prime example (they’d been in beta since the initial launch in 2011). The site provides global access to extensive fashion textiles — around 4,000 options with suppliers in over 30 countries — allowing designers and buyers to sample and source materials from an enormous roster of international suppliers. The idea, according to founder Benita Singh, is that there’s “a better way to get [artisan suppliers from around the world] in front of the designers who are looking for distinctive materials every day — rather than just a few days a year at a trade show.”
The platform is clean and easy to use, and in a nod to more consumer-facing sites, upon joining, they even ask you to fill out a short survey of materials you’re looking for, to properly match you up. A global trends section is more reminiscent of an online magazine than the utilitarian vibe of a tradeshow. The site’s editorial arm is a go-to for textile inspiration (and to see what’s new each week). Meanwhile, the search function allows members to look for fabrics based on terms and attributes like certified recycled, certified organic, certified Fair Trade, handmade, and craft preservation.
In terms of the access, ease of use, and variety it provides, this sort of platform is undeniably useful to the fashion industry, but it’s also an important facet in the ongoing globalization of fashion. While some retailers jump to add eco-fabrics or source sustainably on a case by case basis, simply sourcing and giving exposure to artisan and traditional weavers and textile makers (many of whom would unlikely ever end up at a conventional trade show) is one way to more broadly even the global fashion playing field.