When Alabama Chanin was founded, part of our initial mission was to create modern garments using age-old techniques, like hand sewing and quilting. Though we have continually grown, we still believe in celebrating the “living arts” and community-building traditions like quilting circles. As Alabama Chanin has expanded, our goals have also matured and expanded and we are happily developing our scope and physical size – though we continue to embrace that first set of ideals.
The past year has seen a growth and expansion that I could never have imagined those many years ago. We opened a flagship store and café in our Factory home and we are preparing to launch our machine-made line, A. Chanin. When I was beginning my efforts to produce those first t-shirts, I was told repeatedly that it was not possible to produce responsibly sourced, machine-made garments in the United States. Time after time, I heard that this kind of item would never make a profit. And, yet, we persevered.
In the book Eco Fashion, our friend Sass Brown celebrates and examines designers and labels practicing sustainability in the fashion industry, including Alabama Chanin (you might have recognized our hand-sewn garment featured on the cover).
Sass offers several definitions for eco fashion—from slow design and traditional techniques to recycled, reused, and redesigned methods—and explores ecological design and the connection between green lifestyle choices and successful business models.
Scout By Two is a collaboration of two artists, via Alabama and New York. Marisa Keris and Constance Sepulveda met while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, and their shared aspiration to design and make products they’d use themselves led them to launch Scout By Two earlier this year. “Our mission is to seek and extract the spirit of vintage goods. Inspired by American style and tradition, we integrate natural materials to create modern, functional works of art,” says Marisa, who resides and works in the Shoals.
If you have visited The Factory Store, you’ve seen Scout by Two’s handmade collection featured in our Holiday Market. For a limited time, Alabama Chanin is featuring the Peacemaker Wallet in our online Holiday Gift Guide. The wallet is crafted with waxed canvas, premium vegetable tanned U.S. cowhide, and solid brass hardware. Vegetable tanning is a traditional process that uses bark, roots, and other vegetable matter to convert skins into leather. The leather will gradually soften and develop a patina with exposure to natural elements.
Heath Ceramics is celebrating 10 years of design by showcasing interpretations of time in the form of one-of-a-kind clocks designed by friends and collaborators. I was honored to design and contribute two clocks, featuring Alabama Chanin’s etched Camellia pattern. It’s really common in my family to hang plates on the wall, and I was inspired by this tradition. I remember all the plates on the walls at my grandmother’s house, and I have continued the practice by hanging Heath + Alabama Chanin plates on the wall in my own kitchen. It made perfect sense to design clocks that reflected that tradition. The Alabama Chanin clocks will be available at Heath’s Design in Time show this weekend, along with several other collaborations and interpretations. The show opens this Saturday, December 7 from 5:30pm – 8:30pm at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles showrooms. xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
Photos courtesy of Heath Ceramics.
A former business partner of mine once wrote a press release that stated our company “came from nowhere.” When I read that “came from nowhere” years ago, my stomach began to turn and, honestly I was a little angry and my feelings were a bit hurt. That sentence seemed to imply that our work was effortless and my business was created magically, without the pains of labor. It certainly didn’t feel to me like I came from nowhere.
Who was talking about me working my way through design school with a four-year-old child, on a wish and a prayer? Who talked about years of working day-in-day-out? Who knew that, in the beginning, I often worked alone, in a basement full of cave crickets and the occasional 6-foot snake? Those were important moments in the life of our company. Ignoring those moments makes our accomplishments seem less important. Nothing comes from nowhere.
Thank you to Eric Wilson and the New York Times for their unwavering support these last years. And for this report on Green Fashion.
We are deeply honored.
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
Our continued practice of responsible and sustainable design and production will grow even more now, thanks to the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge. I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the grand prize of $75,000.
With the award, Alabama Chanin will support our company growth, which includes our machine-made garments under the label A. Chanin, creating jobs, promoting Made in the USA production, and, yes, a new Alabama Chanin collection.
Thank you again to the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Lexus for this award and opportunity to further our sustainable practices.
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
If you visit our studio here in Alabama, you will arrive to find that we are housed in a sturdy, industrial-style, metal building which we call “The Factory.” Our community was, for generations, home to textile mills that employed an incredible number of area residents. This industrial building where we work and spend hours of our lives has seen thousands of workers pass through the doors over the years; it has heard the hum of machines running and the voices and laughter of employees passing the day away. This building is part of Alabama Chanin’s history, but, more importantly, it is part of our community’s history—a symbol of economic boom, hard times, and community rebuilding.
Phillip March Jones is an artist, photographer, and author of the photo essay book, Points of Departure. He runs the non-profit gallery, venue, and publishing house, Institute193 in Lexington, Kentucky, and curates shows in the U.S. and Europe for various artists, including Lina Tharsing’s recent exhibit of new paintings at Poem 88 in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s also a regular contributor to the Alabama Chanin Journal.
Phillip joined the global MAKESHIFT conversation about the intersection of fashion, food, music, design, craft, and DIY by crafting the above MAKESHIFT tote for the Image Quilt. The tote is hand-drawn in acrylic ink (and is one of our favorites).
At Alabama Chanin, we believe in living and creating a sustainable life – beginning conversations like MAKESHIFT, contributing in every way we can to the Slow Design movement, growing and reusing existing cotton, whenever possible. In our continuing efforts to become a better company and commit to ecological sustainability, Alabama Chanin now ships UPS packages using carbon neutral shipping.
Carbon neutral means that a person or a company reduces carbon dioxide emissions to counter balance emissions made elsewhere. In the case of our shipping method, UPS calculates the carbon impact each transported Alabama Chanin package has on the environment. Then, on behalf of Alabama Chanin, UPS purchases a carbon offset for an emission reduction project somewhere else in the world, like the Garcia River Forestry in California.
When your next order ships from our studio, know that you are supporting carbon neutral efforts, offsetting your carbon footprint, and helping us to build a sustainable environment for work and life.