Tag Archives: Sustainability

THINK (RE)THINK: THE FACTORY CAFÉ

THINK (RE)THINK: THE FACTORY CAFE

From time-to-time, we write about the business of running a business: about how we make decisions, about how many times decisions just make themselves from lack of decision-making, and about how those decisions sometimes work—and often don’t. The truth of the matter is that running a business (or a life, or a family) is about thinking about something—and then rethinking it again—and then rethinking it again. So it is with our menu at The Factory Café.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe that The Factory—including the store and the café— has only been open since November of 2013. The Factory space feels like such an important part of our studio; in reality, we’ve celebrated our connection to our community over and around our farm tables for less than a year.

In the kitchen, we’ve developed new recipes, presented delicious dishes from award-winning chefs, and celebrated those chefs (and an array of worthy organizations) through our Friends of the Café Dinner Series.

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TEXTILES OF SCOTLAND: HARRIS TWEED

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I have done a bit of traveling and it has been my lifelong habit to observe local fashion trends – what crosses regional boundaries or doesn’t, what I predict will be a passing fad, and what has become a mainstay. In the last couple of years, it has become evident that tweed is reappearing in a big way all across the globe. Years ago, it was considered by many to be an old man’s fabric, representative of a stuffy, moneyed culture. It is refreshing to see that contemporary designers and connoisseurs have adopted tweed and added modern styling touches. Tweed is timeless. And today, certain varieties of tweed are still hand woven by individual artisans in their own homes; a skill that is reminiscent of our own artisans.

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Tweed was first crafted in Scotland and Ireland in the 1700s; a coarse cloth woven from virgin wool, it is naturally wind and water resistant and well suited for the local farmers working in damp, cold climates. In fact, surplus cloth was often traded among farmers and workmen – becoming a form of currency in the Scottish Isles; it was not uncommon for islanders to pay rent in tweed blankets or bolts of cloth. There are a remarkable number of types and classifications of tweed. There are clan tartan tweeds, which are used to identify members of a specific family, and estate tweeds, which were used to denote people who lived and worked on an individual estate. Some tweeds are named for the type of sheep who produced their wool (like Cheviot or Shetland); others denote their region of origin (Donegal or Saxony). There are also brand names of tweed – such as Pendleton Woolen Mills and Harris Tweed (the latter being one of the most well-known).

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DIANE’S NATURAL DYE HOUSE

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About four years ago (to my dismay), Diane Hall, our head seamstress and studio directress, turned in her five-year notice. However, as her retirement grows closer, it has become evident to all of us at the studio that we will continue to see her around The Factory after her “official” retirement.

Diane has developed a passion for natural dyeing—in addition to sewing, pattern making, etc. She first encountered natural dyeing with indigo during our workshop at Shakerag in 2012. Her experience there with the renowned dyer Michel Garcia left a lasting impression. Last summer, while our entire company was writing a 10 year vision, Diane wrote that she envisioned a natural dye house here at The Factory and volunteered herself as the head dye master after her retirement.

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After that simple act of writing our vision, the dye house miraculously began to take shape.

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MAKESHIFT 2014: A RECAP

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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.

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REFASHIONED

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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.”

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EARTH DAY + RECYCLING

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“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 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.

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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.

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JACK-O-LANTERN FARM + COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE

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As most of you know, Alabama Chanin strives to support local farmers whenever possible—especially now that we’ve opened The Factory Café and are sourcing local and organic ingredients for all of our dishes. Our kitchen manager, Arron, has built a strong relationship with our friends Steve and Connie Carpenter, who operate nearby Jack-O-Lantern Farm. Each week, Steve delivers the freshest local produce to our kitchen, which Arron incorporates into our seasonal menus. Steve also picks up bags our Factory Blend Coffee and house made granola that he then sells at his farm, just across the river. Watching Arron and Steve collaborate these past few months has been a wonderful (and educational) experience.

Jack-O-Lantern Farm is getting ready to launch their 2014 Community-Supported Agriculture box program—and The Factory will be a pick-up location beginning Friday, May 16.

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AN ALABAMA CHANIN FAMILY OF BUSINESSES

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Those of you who have followed Alabama Chanin for years know that this company was built around the concepts of expert craftsmanship, beauty, function, and utility. Focusing on using sustainable, organic, and local materials and labor, we have committed ourselves to producing quality products made in the USA.

As we grew, the company developed a life of its own that emerged as a multi-fold organization—while staying true to the original mission and business model. We encouraged organic growth, without forcing ourselves to fit into a traditional mold. We recently began referring to what has emerged as the “Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses”—a heartfelt nod to the Zingerman’s approach and their Community of Businesses. Each of our divisions has individual specialties, yet all fall under the same mission established for Alabama Chanin. Our philosophy guides each arm and we all work together toward the same goal: creating beautiful products in sustainable ways that enrich our customers, community, and co-workers.

From our mission statement:

At Alabama Chanin, we preserve traditions of community, design, producing, and living arts by examining work and life through the act of storytelling, photography, education, and making.

Thoughtful design. Responsible production. Good business. Quality that lasts.

A guide to our growing family of businesses:

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Alabama Chanin—the heart and head of our family of businesses—began early in 2000 with the creation of hand-sewn garments made from cotton jersey fabric—and retains the same intention and integrity today. Heirloom pieces are made from 100% organic cotton, sewn by hand through a group of talented artisans who each run their own business, in their own time, and in their own way. The company strives to maintain sustainable practices—across its disciplines—and create sustainable products, holding ourselves to the highest standards for quality.
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NEW FABRIC COLORS + COLOR CARD UPDATE

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Over the past six months, we have been developing a selection of new colors to add to our fabric library. Each time we add to our color library, we begin the color development process by browsing through Pantone Solid Chips. In the studio, these books are used for reference as we select new fabric dyes. Once potential color options are chosen, color swatches—in the form of paper, fabric swatches, and/or Pantone chips—are sent to the dye house in Raleigh, North Carolina, so that they can create dyes to match the samples. We have worked with our dye house extensively for custom color development and dyeing since 2008. They perform lab dips—developing a color recipe—and test dyes on our organic cotton jersey; the fabric samples are then sent to us for comparison, inspection, and approval. Sometimes the hue comes out right on the first try; other times there is a back-and-forth process until the perfect shade and hue is achieved.

We are excited to announce the addition of seven new medium-weight organic cotton jersey fabric colors: Dusk, Gold, Persimmon, Autumn, Wine, Teal, and (an updated) Peach. They are vibrantly saturated and fit perfectly alongside our existing shades.

While the first six are additions to our existing color palette, Peach is an improved-upon color. Dye lots can change over time, with variations in the ingredients and methods. Our Peach had begun to resemble Light Pink, and therefore it was due an update to a fresher, brighter look.

These new colors will be replacing Popcorn, Green Tea, Green Organic, Brown Tea, and Brown Organic fabrics, as these naturally grown colored cottons are no longer available.  At the same time, Indigo—originally included on Color Card 2—is also grouped with our more robust selection of nine Natural Dye fabrics, and is offered in both Light and Medium-weight.

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ECO FASHION

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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.

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