When we opened our Building 14 manufacturing facility in the summer of 2013, we knew that we had to commit to learning about the ever-changing manufacturing industry—and that the learning curve would be steep. But as we began to educate ourselves, we found that no manual or set of rules existed for us to consult. Over the past three decades, the American textile manufacturing industry has been in decline, with an estimated drop from 2.4 million jobs in 1973 to 650,000 in 2005. Between 1994 and 2014, Alabama lost 29.8% of its all of its manufacturing jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). As those jobs migrated elsewhere, so did the skills needed to create these jobs and a vicious Catch-22 emerged of reduced skill/reduced capacity. In its early days, Building 14 ran right up against this problem of rusty skills in combination with new materials and processes, with no clear roadmap on how to bridge the knowledge gap. And so, we realized that we needed a School for Making—for ourselves, for our industry, for our fellow makers, and for our community.
After much struggle, success, learning, and growing, we are proud to announce an important new partnership between Nest (www.buildanest.org) and The School of Making.
When we first opened our Building 14 division in July of 2013, we learned quickly that there was still SO MUCH to learn. So, with the concept of The School of Making firmly in place, we began at the beginning to work on a set of finishing examples for our Building 14 machine-made division. Like our Alabama Chanin Library of hand-embellished fabric swatches, this library documents the capabilities of the machines, folders, and attachments we have available in the factory and the endless variations and combinations that create everything from collars to hems and in between.
In 2015, and as we fold our MAKESHIFT programming into The School of Making, we foresee many more conversations about design, fashion, DIY, and community. And, of course, we will continue sharing the evolution of our manufacturing systems—including this new sort of maker’s library—to explore their part in the larger making process.
Photos from Abraham Rowe, Angie Mosier, and Rinne Allen
At Alabama Chanin, we frequently speak about the concepts of Slow Design and sustainability. We attempt to create a healthy environment so that we can create healthy products. Part of being sustainable means we take great care in the materials that we source to create our products; it also means that the processes we use to create use the most non-destructive methods possible. We keep this goal of sustainability in mind at every stage of production—from concept to final product. In our attempts to be a well-rounded, holistic company, we take inspiration from farmers and the Slow Food movement—where the results of one production process become fuel for another.
Check out the newest additions to our A. Chanin + Accessories category: the Cropped Pullover, Peplum Cardigan, and Patchwork Tank—great layering pieces to add to your cooler weather wardrobe.
The Cropped Pullover is shown here over our Long Sleeve Scoopneck rib top and paired with the Magdalena Gore Skirt in Black. This top is a lighter-weight alternative to our popular Long Sleeve Raglan.
Alabama Chanin as a concept and a company began as a DIY enterprise. I made the first garments by hand, to fit my own body. Our entire business model was created because I couldn’t find manufacturing for the sort of garment I wanted to make—and so, we created our own manufacturing system, one stitch at a time.
Because those first garments were made from recycled t-shirts, many of our customers took the concept and re-imagined it for themselves, making their own patterns and clothing. Others felt that—with just a little help—they could create something similar, something that was their own. Almost accidentally, our garments were stirring in others the desire to make. Slowly, and as the internet became more robust, sewers formed groups on the internet to share their Alabama Chanin-style garments and swap ideas. This was the beginning of a more formal DIY presence in our company.
These things were happening at the same time as I began writing our first Studio Book, Alabama Stitch Book. Writing that book helped me crystallize my thoughts on making, open sourcing, and education. It was, in essence, me putting voice to what was important about sharing ideas and creating a community of makers. Throughout the writing process—and as the company grew and evolved over the years—I returned again and again to the idea of keeping the living arts alive. It’s the belief that survival skills for food, clothing, and shelter, are important arts that we live with every single day. And these arts—often considered secondary arts—are equally (and perhaps more) important as the “primary” arts of painting and sculpture.
Our design and production team at Building 14 has been working overtime to launch these three new A. Chanin styles. From the perfected V-Neck T-shirt, to the updated Fitted Rib Tank, to our machine-sewn Natalie’s Black Jacket—we think that you will love the styles, our 100% organic cotton fabric, and the quality of these beautifully crafted pieces.
Designed to wear every day; made to last a lifetime.
P.S.: Look for new styles, colors, and collection pieces in the coming weeks.
xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
Recently, Building 14, our new Design + Manufacturing Services division, produced the Grist in collaboration with our friends at Billy Reid. This raglan style men’s t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton and features an antique button snap pocket.
Read more about our team, the manufacturing collaboration, and Building 14 on the Billy Reid Journal.
Photos courtesy of Bradley Dean.