fabric | Apr 17, 2024 |
A new online directory shines a light on independent textile brands

It’s a conundrum that many a maker can relate to: Once you’ve mastered your craft and made a collection, how do you get people to buy it? This feat is even more challenging when your clientele is the design trade, who are already busy and constantly flooded with emails about new product. Faye Bell, who founded her eponymous textile and wallcovering brand in 2018, felt like a disproportionate amount of her effort was spent sending cold emails to designers pitching her work. In talking about the issue with other textile designers, the artist realized she was far from alone and started to change her approach. Instead of simply introducing her own brand in her outreach, she started including links and information about her colleagues’ collections as well.

Faye Bell
Faye BellKristin Ferro

“I wanted to make an effort to show that I’m not just trying to get designers to buy my stuff; I’m trying to help solve a problem around product discovery,” says Bell. “Even if someone loves my work, it’s not going to be the right fit for every project, so it made sense to share some other great lines that they may not have heard of.”

After using that strategy for more than a year, a more formal concept took shape, culminating in the launch of Creative Source, a directory of independent fabric, wallcovering and tile brands. “I knew that everyone I talked to in this sector was spread thin as far as their marketing, and it occurred to me: ‘What if we had one space where we could combine our marketing efforts and make it easier for designers to discover us?’” says the artist.

Greenville, South Carolina–based textile designer Teresa Roche was part of the original group that helped Bell bring this idea to life. On her own, she never had the budget for broad-based marketing efforts. “When you’re a small business, you really have to think about scale. There wasn’t a way that I could be showing at High Point—or any shows, for that matter—without spending a lot of money on my own,” she says. The new website allows her to broaden her reach while leaning on her fellow directory members for business advice and design tips.

Creative Source has the user interface of an e-commerce website, with a twist: It is a place for discovery, not a digital multiline showroom, and instead of an “add to cart” button, there’s a link that redirects to a specific product page on a brand’s own website for sample requests and orders. “The idea is that instead of a designer having to bookmark 20 different websites, they can bookmark this website and know that they’re going to be able to search through all the catalogs of all these independent brands in one go,” says Bell.

Creative Source member Paola Melendez, the Puerto Rico–based founder of Paola Melendez Casa, says she had always struggled to get on designers’ radars. “There is a barrier for designers to get to know and work with boutique brands. If they’re not in every showroom or if they’re not going to all these trade shows, how do they get to know us?” she says. “Recognizing that barrier of entry combined with our power of doing things together rather than alone, Creative Source became the answer.”

Bell launched the directory with 15 brands (including her own), and plans to add more over time, though she ultimately aims to keep a lean, curated assortment. The lines represented run the gamut aesthetically and also geographically, with companies based everywhere from Milwaukee to Puerto Rico and the U.K.

When weighing which independent brands to include, Bell came up with specific criteria for membership (brands pay a small monthly fee that goes toward the cost of hosting and maintaining the site), including a unique perspective, a trade program, and in-stock samples of all SKUs. The site will be updated monthly, with an email blast highlighting new lines and product. “You can open one email a month and know that you’ve seen everything new,” she says.

It’s been a collaborative effort to get the website up and running, and there has been some talk of forming a board of directors, but for now, Bell is steering the ship. “Just for the sake of efficiency and getting it off the ground, I’m the boss, and we’ve tabled the idea of a more communal leadership until 2026,” says the textile designer. “But I hope that as it grows, leadership could change over time.” She also plans to incorporate Creative Source as a nonprofit and donate a portion of collected fees to public school art programs. “My mom was an artist, so I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with art supplies lying around, but most people don’t have that,” she says. “I would love to make giving back to the community integral to this.”

Additional reporting by Aidan Taylor

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