Two weeks ago, our team left New York feeling excited and energized—and with the conversation at The Standard the night before fresh on our minds. This was the third annual Makeshift, held in New York each spring during Design Week. Over the years the conversation has shifted—but our goal of learning how certain themes cross industries (and how they learn from each other and work together) stays the same.
Makeshift began as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations, build communities, and help us co-design a future that is filled with love and promise—for planet, community, and one another.
Sass Brown’s ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing From Upcycled Materials, is the second in a series focusing on the eco-fashion movement. Previously, in Eco Fashion, she examined designers and labels (including Alabama Chanin) practicing sustainability in the fashion industry. In ReFashioned, she features 46 international designers who create using recycled and upcycled textiles. The result is a stunning volume of forward-thinking design that also opens a discussion on the current state of fashion and its many wasteful practices.
Sass is one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices in the eco-fashion movement. She considers herself a fashion activist, writing, “As a designer and writer, I like to tell the stories around our clothes, to help revive our material connection to our clothing.” She says, “It became equally important for me to reveal the hidden price tag of fast fashion, as a means to promote conscious consumerism.”
MAKESHIFT began three years ago as a conversation about the intersection of the disciplines of design, craft, art, fashion, and DIY—and, on a bigger level, using this intersection as an agent of change in the world. Since then, we’ve explored making as individuals, and how making as a group can open conversations and build communities.
For MAKESHIFT 2014, we have once again partnered with Standard Talks in New York to host the conversation, and will cover a range of topics, including raw materials, craft, fashion, global communities, food, and the act of making. 2014 James Beard award-winning chef Ashley Christensen will also participate in the discussion, helping answer the question: What can design learn from food?
We are in New York City this week for our third year of the MAKESHIFT initiative. MAKESHIFT is, at its core, a conversation about the intersections of fashion, design, craft, and food, and how each discipline can better work together to elevate those principles.Alabama Chanin has set up shop at our friend Lisa Fox’s beautiful East Village store, lf8, for the month of May. lf8 (elevate) is also featuring the work of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, as well as a special performance piece by musician and friend Allison Moorer. Event details are as follows:Store Hours Tuesday – Sunday 12:00pm – 6:00pm Closed Mondayslf8 80 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003The pop-up features works by Mary Ellen Mark, the Alabama Chanin collection, and one-of-a kind, indigo-dyed Alabama Chanin garments and accessories, alongside the lf8 collection. Visit in the afternoons from 2:00pm until 4:00pm through Friday, May 16 to sit with Allison Moorer and sew, talk, sing, and conspire.Continue reading →
Olga Rei and Valentine Uhovski are stepsiblings and creators of Art Ruby, a daily art bulletin that presents art of all disciplines to readers around the world in an approachable, open format.
Art Ruby is a hub for relevant news, exhibits, designers, and innovations in and around the art world. Olga and Valentine created the site with an objective of bringing together different disciplines under one virtual roof and creating an environment where art can be viewed, discussed, and shared. Their overarching goal is to create a space where “the multi-faceted and intricate art world doesn’t seem so intimidating.” The two are a natural fit for the MAKESHIFT discussions on intersecting multiple disciplines for the benefit of all, as they profess their desire to explore the larger relationships between and among art, fashion, and pop culture. As the internet can be a great democratizer, Olga and Valentine want to use their platform to help readers experience art every day, from anywhere in the world. Continue reading →
Today, April 24, is the one-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has also been declared Fashion Revolution Day—celebrating best practices in the fashion industry and raising awareness of the true cost of fast fashion.
In homage to the anniversary, we etched wax candles with our Anna’s Garden and Bloomers stencil designs—candles we will light tonight in honor of the lives lost.
Fashion Revolution Day is asking: Who made your clothes? Not just where they were manufactured…but who spun the threads? Who sewed them together? Who grew the cotton? What you do with your discoveries is up to you.
The Fashion Revolution movement is encouraging everyone to wear clothes inside out today—tags showing—to join the conversation on fast fashion and creating a more sustainable future.
“Don’t throw anything away. Away is not far from you.”
The quote above hangs in our studio as a reminder that each action we take (no matter how big or small) impacts our environment. Designed by our friend Robert Rausch a few years ago, the simple quote was stamped on an event invite as a means to provoke thought about what people use and, consequently, throw away each day. At Alabama Chanin, we are taking strides to become a zero waste company—where the results of one production process become the fuel for another. It is our continuing goal to maintain a well-rounded, (w)holistic company that revolves around a central theme: sustainability of culture, environment, and community.
Not only do we reuse and recycle each scrap of fabric, but we also participate in other sustainable and environmental practices on a daily basis. We recycle paper and cardboard, collect and save glass in the café, compost all food waste, repurpose scrap paper, plant trees, and are even starting a garden at The Factory. Waste not, want not.
It’s been too long since I visited Blackberry Farm AND since Alabama Chanin has held a Weekend Away Workshop (the last Weekend Away was in Taos, New Mexico in 2012). My last trip to the farm was a few years ago for Taste of the South (an auction benefitting the Southern Foodways Alliance) and I am looking forward to returning this June. It’s the ideal summertime trip: a refreshing, rejuvenating weekend retreat to the foothills of the Appalachians.
To get in the spirit, we kicked off our Chef Series at The Factory Café this month, featuring Blackberry Farm and Chef Joseph Lenn. The special menu at The Factory Café runs through the end of the month and includes recipes from The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm cookbook. Nothing beats Chef Joseph’s cuisine, which can be experienced firsthand at The Barn.
Join us this summer for Alabama Chanin’s Weekend Away Workshop, which includes incredible meals prepared onsite amid beautiful settings.
We provide all of the materials necessary to complete a custom do-it-yourself garment, chosen by the participant ahead of time. Work with me and the Alabama Chanin team, and immerse yourself in the Alabama Chanin philosophy. The workshop is a place to learn and practice stitching techniques, tips, and tricks while enjoying craft and community, Blackberry Farm cuisine, laughter, and fellowship.
You may have read recently about dear friend, advisor, and co-worker, Jennifer Rausch. As I recounted then, I have known Jennifer and her husband, Robert, since returning to Alabama. After moving home from New York (and after years abroad), I felt a little shy and out of place in my own hometown. It was a relief when Robert reached out to me, seeking artistic alliances. We were both looking for a relaxed camaraderie—someone to relate to in a somewhat unfamiliar world. After years of friendship and collaboration, we have Southern roots, design, sustainability, and family in common.
In those early days, Robert approached me and asked if I would speak to his university photography class about living and working as a fashion and photography stylist. Shortly thereafter, we became fast friends. It wasn’t long before Robert was helping me with projects for my first company. And since those early days, he has been a part of designing and creating images and photographs for the Alabama Chanin website, catalogs, the Studio Book series, and any number of other materials. We have co-hosted dinners, picnics, and events together over the years. We have raised kids, shared a dog, and talked design.
In 2002, Robert bought and restored a historic building in our community, which is now called GAS Design Center. He shares a deep love of sustainability and healthy living and this was evident in his approach to renovating the space and building the business. Every reusable board was repurposed and natural elements were invited in whenever possible. Natural light is perfectly harnessed in the GAS photography studio, to often-breathtaking effects. In fact, our first Alabama Chanin Workshop was held in Robert’s repurposed space—a comfortable place to launch what was then an intimidating venture for Alabama Chanin.
Our team experiments with all types of fabric manipulation here at Alabama Chanin. We have used ruffles to create texture in our textiles and jewelry; have featured crochet work in our collections and projects, and love how something so simple as a knot can add complexity and depth to a piece. In Alabama Stitch Book, we showed how fabric might be used to repair and repurpose farm chairs – an idea that we explored further in our MAKESHIFT 2013 Chair Workshop. Lately, the team has been experimenting with a large floor loom in The Factory. I have long wanted to incorporate rugs into our lifestyle collections, which would also be a wonderful way for us to utilize scraps and decrease waste. I remember my grandmother saving fabric to make rag rugs and there was always a rag rug in front of her sink.
In its most basic definition, weaving is a way to produce fabric using two sets of thread, yarn, or fabric, that are interlaced to form cloth. The longitudinal threads are called the “warp” and the lateral threads are the “weft.” Though hand and finger weaving is suitable for small projects, larger fabrics are usually woven on a loom.
Weavers have been valued craftspeople almost since the beginning of humankind. Very rudimentary woven cloth has been found in prehistoric graves and settlements. Tens of thousands of years ago, man began to develop string by twisting together plant fibers. Weaving together this primitive string by hand was the next logical step. The first, crude weaving looms were likely developed in the Neolithic Era. Weaving looms were developed from this basic form in China, where silk from silkworm cocoons was utilized and the weaving of this silk was a well-defined craft.