Category Archives: BEAUTIFUL LIFE

MADE BY JUNE

As someone who is usually short on time and always short on patience, I am a master of safety pin alterations. I’ve sewn myself into something more than once, used a glue gun to make a handbag, and embraced unfinished hems with unbridled enthusiasm. Although I enjoy the process of making, most of my handy work would never survive the wash. In a handful of embarrassing moments, it hasn’t survived the evening.

It wasn’t until I joined the ranks of Alabama Chanin and attended my first workshop that I actually made something that had the potential to last. I chose a DIY Swing Skirt in a beautiful shade of green, with our bloomers pattern stenciled just around the edges.  I wielded a needle and thread to the best of my ability and actually managed to finish the skirt by the end of the day. Even though the front seam is a little crooked, it remains in heavy wardrobe rotation and has survived the wash many, many times.

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DECORATE – DECOR8

How lovely to spend time this weekend just sitting, reading, and dreaming. A sun drenched afternoon, tea, time with Holly Becker’s new book Decorate leaves me inspired. Every so often a book seems to speak directly to our sensibilities, and I can’t help but feel that Decorate was somehow made for me (and I am not alone). Guidance for highlighting design and architectural details, while using a predominately white pallet- yes please.

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PREPPY: CULTIVATING IVY STYLE

Preppy, the latest collaboration between Jeffrey Banks and Doria La Chapelle, arrived in our studio this week.  The lovely volume documents the evolution of this iconic style with images from the early 1900′s to my favorite Slim Aarons to the current Hilfiger campaign (shown above). The book is not a manual, but rather a brief historic overview of the iconic style. Its strength relies on beautifully curated photographs to illustrate the subtle changes of the trend over  the time.

Perhaps because the style hit its heyday in my youth or simply because I love the color combinations, I find the volume completely stunning. During my teenage years in Chattanooga, Tennessee, our school uniforms were strangely similar to the picture below.

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ALABAMA CHANIN + LOWCOUNTRY

Thank you to Kate for this lovely email that came in today:

“Also – I finished my dress.  (That I started at the March weekend workshop!)  I love it… it took me nine months to make it and I kind of feel like I gave birth to it!  I am so proud.  It fits perfectly.  I haven’t taken any proper photos yet, but will do.  Here’s one from my sister’s iPhone and a far-away shot on my blog. The dress’s debut was at a farm dinner!”

We are working with Kate on a workshop in Charleston, South Carolina for Fall 2012.  Can’t wait for my first Lowcountry Feast!

P.S. Notice how Katharine’s dress has the same pattern as my long skirt – taken at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on a recent trip.

P.S.S Kate’s trip to Burning Man and a pair of Alabama Chanin shorts coming soon!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

For those of you have participated in our past weekend workshops, there is a good chance that you have already met June Flowers. (The name belies the tattooed fireball of a woman in our studio who is equally adept with computers, flower arranging, and power washing.) If you’ve signed up for an upcoming workshop then you’ve probably exchanged a few emails with her; if you’re hosting a workshop or providing the space for one of our events, you’ve probably exchanged 50+ emails, including pictures of kids, dogs, and favorite garments.

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PERFECT FIT

More than any other time of year, the start of fall brings with it incredible rushes of nostalgia. The first chill usually arrives with distant memories, put away with last year’s winter coats.This light-weight piece is the first thing I reach for to welcome the returning season. Our Tied Wrap employs the simplest of designs. Rectangular layers of jersey drape across the shoulders and tie behind your back. The result? A tailored fit no matter your size. Fold it over for a beautiful muffler when the weather gets colder.

CIVILITY, HISTORY, + SONG

Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, has spurred many conversations and thoughtful moments in my life. I listened to the episode, Civility, History & Hope – Vincent Harding in conversation with Krista Tippett – in August and I just can’t seem to get it out of my mind. On my recent trips, I listened to it at least four more times and each time it resonated with more clarity. I have since read the entire transcript and I continue to contemplate the message.

From the program:

“Vincent Harding is a wise voice of history — the history of civil rights. This hour, as part of our Civil Conversations Project, he helps us imagine how the lessons of that time might speak to contemporary American divisions. Martin Luther King’s vision, he reminds us, was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; he aspired in biblical words to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society. And Vincent Harding possesses an infectious hope for the continued unfolding of that possibility, even now. He’s spent recent decades bringing the elders and lessons of civil rights into creative contact with new generations. As we navigate rancor in our time, he says, we can look both to history and again to the margins of society, to young people of courage and creativity.”

I come back over and over again to the thought of the “beloved community,” the feeling of Dr. King and Vincent Harding that the term “civil rights” is not enough – that we as humanity are bigger than that.

Our voice is big, and beautiful and strong.

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ECOSALON FRIDAY (AGAIN)

ECOSALON FRIDAY (AGAIN)
Where did the last two weeks go?  Read my bi-weekly post @EcoSalon on the importance of being wobbly.

And thank you to my friend Georg for the gift of a simple garden gnome – so many, many years ago. Perhaps I will watch Amelie tonight!

There’s No Place Like Gnome

I planted my fall garden last weekend – perhaps about a month late but nevertheless, it is in the ground. My daughter has finally reached the age where she is a willing participant most of the time. In fact, she planted about half a row of garlic before scurrying off to uncover the peas I had just planted and to bury the little ceramic garden gnome that keeps watch on the birds who are eating our carefully planted seeds. That little antique gnome, a gift I received 20+ years ago while living in Vienna, has traveled the world with me, gone to every new home, and overseen each new incarnation of my life. He has always reminded me that a garden was waiting in my future.

The morning I decided to plant, I woke up in my own bed after returning home the day before from a trip that included three stops in two and a half weeks. I arrived home with a head cold and the desire to lie still for another two weeks. But, my daughter and I got up that morning and raked and hoed and planted. It felt good. I sighed, and relaxed and smiled as we settled into an afternoon of working and playing side-by-side.

I admit that I am not the best gardener in the world. This fall garden should have been planted a month ago; my rows are a bit wobbly as they move down the length of my backyard plot. I am certain that when the lettuce and spinach begin to sprout, there will be sections of the rows where too many seeds were strewn too closely together, and other sections where nothing will come up.

This is much like the story of my life and business.

A business owner recently said to me, “You are so successful, you wouldn’t know about the difficulties we have had in trying to build our business.” I couldn’t help but laugh. There are beautiful aspects to what we do at Alabama Chanin every day but there are also carefully planted rows that don’t come up, sales that don’t happen, frustrations and disappointments.

I recently came across an essay I had written in 2006 for Leslie Hoffman at Earth Pledge titled, “What Does Planting Tomatoes Have to Do With Fashion?”  It seems at first blush that the two would have little to do with one another. The gist of the essay was how coming home and re-learning how to plant a garden had connected me to my community, my business, the greater art of sustaining life and, consequently, to the fashion industry at large. As I look back over the essay, it feels like such a long time since I wrote those words. Our first book had not yet hit the shelves. My separation from my former company was still new and the wounds were fresh. When I re-read that essay, I could sense my fear, my hopes and my determination between the lines.

What that essay also reminded me was that while my rows today might still be wobbly, the birds-eye view of the garden is straight as an arrow. My path has been crooked, but the mission that I set for myself so many years ago is alive and growing.
So, what I really wanted to communicate to the business owner that day was not laughter – as if it were a silly question. I meant that laughter to mean: I am in the same garden! As a business, we experience the same ups-and-downs, the same excitements and the same disappointments, and in spite of it all, we are still here and we are still gardening.

Today, as I sit and look at my wobbly rows, my garden feels like my business. I realize that the wobbly row is a perfect analogy for my own process. We plant rows that flourish; we plant rows that putter along. We water, we nurture, we pick, we grow. But the real beauty of it all is not in the harvesting but this moment of sitting in the sun waiting for the first sprouts to poke through the earth.

The point is to watch the little plants grow and to savor the laughter that will come when I finally discover the buried garden gnome that my daughter has left for me as a present.
xoNatalie