Category Archives: BEAUTIFUL LIFE

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

TOMATOES + FASHION

In 2006, Leslie Hoffman of Earth Pledge asked me to write an short paper for inclusion in their Future Fashion White Papers.   I recently came across the volume while browsing my library and the essay stirred up so many memories from that time.  As the last of my tomatoes drop to the ground, I wanted to (re)share my thoughts on tomatoes and fashion.

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“IS ORIGINAL THOUGHT STILL POSSIBLE?”

“If so, HOW?

If not, WHY?”

- from Nam June Paik (Tate Publishing – February 1, 2011)

I love the photograph above – and thought of these questions today.

Get lost today in Nam June Paik’s official website.

It is an incredible resource for information on the artist’s ground breaking vision.

EFFORTLESS

Our floor sweeping skirt is made of soft, wearable jersey. Pull-on design is framed by stretchable stitching, and can easily be worn slung low on your hips or high above your natural waist. The Long Embroidered Skirt is comfortable enough for everyday, but the incredible all-over design and details allow it to fit any occasion. Shown here worked in Negative Reverse Applique with our Anna’s Garden stencil. Make this perfect piece yourself with a CUSTOM DIY Kit and in the stencil design of your choice.

The hand-stitching adds a structural element and the subtle weight allows for a flattering drape.

Pieces like these are my secret weapon for a day travel, followed by an event. Add a change of shoes, a little mascara and lip-gloss for a total transformation in under five minutes.

Although it will take more than five minutes to make-it-yourself.

Also available in our Bloomers pattern.

IDLE

Inspired by Tom Hodgkinson’s talk at the Hello Etsy conference (along with a cover-to- cover read of his newest book, Brave Old World: A Practical Guide to Husbandry, or the Fine Art of Looking After Yourself, and a stubborn cold that followed me home from Texas), I decided to spend the weekend being idle – or at least as idle as I can be with my temperament and a five year old at home.

In the introduction, page xiii, Hodgkinson explains that the word ‘husbandry’ means “nurturing animals, crops, your children, yourself.” Brave Old World is written in the form of a monthly calendar or almanac, of sorts, that draws beautiful quotes and recipes from great authorities on husbandry like, Hesiod (8th century BC), known as the father of Greek didactic poetry, Virgil (70 BC), Pliny the Elder (AD23-79),  John Evelyn (1620-1706) and John Seymour (1914-2004). Continue reading

CHALLENGE

I can’t recall exactly where, but I once read an article that instructed the reader to dress in layers when attending an event. You were to shed these layers very very slowly. The idea was to take off one piece every hour (give or take, depending on the duration and your tolerance) until you were down to an incredible, shoulder baring party frock.

If ever there were a garment made for such a display it would have to be our beaded crisscross top. Rarely does a piece manage to look so elegant and refined while retaining a bit of an edge.

Black-tie, dive bar, or for those up to a challenge: both in one night, all eyes are on you-guaranteed.