The Entrepreneur Bringing Textiles to the World
Prior to co-founding Le Souk, a platform connecting the world’s finest mills & tanneries directly to the design industry’s leading creatives, Singh spent her career working with artisans to develop products for brands like Anthropologie, Levi’s, and ABC Carpet & Home. On trips to Guatemala, India, and Peru, she discovered spectacular textiles, but to her disappointment, found that many weren’t available to the traditional buyer attending the traditional trade shows. “That’s when I realized that there was a real gap between designers looking for quality textiles and the mills and tanneries that offer them,” says Singh, whose company brings together a trusted supplier network, the latest technologies and a community of designers and makers to make global sourcing possible—any time and anywhere.
“We started the platform with 15 suppliers that came mostly from my sourcing network in South America and India, including organic vegetable-dyed cotton from India, natural color pima cotton from Peru and hand-woven Ikat from Guatemala,” adds Singh. “Now, designers can search, sample, and source directly from mills using our online portal—no agents, no trade show, no middle men.”
Le Souk has grown so much that the platform now hosts more established mills in markets like Italy, U.K., and Japan. Today, they host the online showrooms of over 100 mills and tanneries in 19 countries with a community of 18,000 buyers. As if this isn’t enough, Le Souk is sponsoring the Le Souk Fabric Library at the CFDA Fashion Incubator and they’re an exclusive sourcing partner of the CFDA. This means that every season, they bring the latest fabric hangers directly to designers at the Incubator by maintaining a rotating fabric library, featuring the latest collections and direct from supplier prices—a great resource particularly for independent designers who don’t make it to the mainstay fabric shows in Paris & Milan.
This year Le Souk is also a sourcing partner of CIFD (Council of Irish Fashion Designers) and the Danish Fashion Institute, solidifying their offering as the premier sourcing platform for designers and suppliers globally.
Here Singh reveals what a day for her as CEO looks like, her favorite places in New York, and how to Le Souk’s ethical practices inform the business.
How do companies qualify to be on Le Souk? Do they have to abide by ethical code of practices?
As we’ve grown significantly beyond artisan suppliers, we’ve stayed true to our guiding principles of quality and transparency. Whether it’s a family-owned suiting mill in Biella, Italy, that’s been spinning and weaving the highest quality cashmere for 200 years or a shirting mill in Japan that’s preserving the art of banshu ori, we are committed to working with suppliers that represent the highest quality craftsmanship available on the market today.
In addition to quality, it is essential for suppliers to be transparent about their sourcing practices and certifications. This means that we ask all suppliers to disclose from where they source their raw materials. And if they claim that their materials are certified organic, they must upload their GOTS certification to the platform. We are not in the business of certification, but we are in the business of transparency. Our primary goal is to give all designers the information at their fingertips to better understand where their material is coming from. People don’t always realize that this basic transparency is lacking in an industry that’s currently dominated by agents and fabric stores.
What does your typical day for you at Le Souk look like?
My day starts around 5:30am with some quality time with our five-month old girl Alina. By 9am, I’m en route to our office where I tend to immediately dive in with our tech team to review which new site features and optimizations are on the docket. I then transition to meeting with our Account Management team to review which new suppliers are joining Le Souk and what our marketing team is doing to get them as many new qualified buyers as possible.
Afternoons are reserved typically for external partner meetings, whether it be with one of our designer association partners like the CFDA or with our Japanese partner Katsu New York. I may also pay a visit to our swatch warehouse at Manufacture New York in Brooklyn (The only inventory we keep at Le Souk are fabric swatches from all our mills which designers can then order directly from our platform and receive within 1 business day.)
After my husband and I put the baby to bed by 8:30pm, I then settle in for my “second shift” where I follow up on the action items from the day, review our site traffic and data, and take advantage of some uninterrupted time to work on investor and business development proposals. This is also a great time to connect with our suppliers in India & Japan.
You’re New York based, but you must have to travel all over for work. What three New York places do you miss when you’re on the road?
- As a new mother, the first place I miss these days is Home and our stomping grounds on New York’s Upper West Side. Like Epicerie Boulud for a lobster roll and the perfect view of Lincoln Center. Or the Pier I cafe in Riverside Park South for their legendary veggie burger and a true retreat from Manhattan.
- Any place with a towering view of Central Park. Robert at MAD on the top floor of the Museum of Art & Design is a special find. As is BG atop Bergdorf Goodman.
- And, of course, Central Park itself! A run around the reservoir or the outer loop never gets old—the juxtaposition of greenery with the skyline is so classic New York.