Tag Archives: Sustainable Design

THE JANE TANK

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The Jane Tank was added to our Basics section as part of our most recent Alabama Chanin collection, inspired by Maxine Payne’s Making Pictures: Three For a Dime. The silhouette is classic and unquestionably feminine. This tank is best worn when you want to bare your arms and shoulders, as the tied straps draw attention to the upper body and face. It is beautiful paired with pants or a long skirt, though I love how it looks when worn with our Patchwork Skirt.

The tank is fitted at the bust and flares at the waist. It measures 25 inches in length, and the straps are secured with long ties at the shoulder. Select either lightweight or medium-weight organic jersey fabric.

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SUSTAINABLE COLLABORATION: HEATH CERAMICS

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It’s no secret that we at Alabama Chanin have long been admirers of Heath Ceramics – their work, their approach to responsible manufacturing, and their embrace of beautiful, sustainable design sets them apart from so many companies today. We have also been honored (and excited) to collaborate with them on several projects, including a line of dinnerware, the MAKESHIFT conversations, and most recently, two clocks designed to celebrate the 10 year ownership of the company by friends Cathy Bailey and Robin Petrovic.

Edith Heath originally founded Heath Ceramics in Sausalito, California, in 1948. She was an accomplished ceramist who cared deeply for the craft and believed in the importance of using quality materials. She grew up in rural Iowa during the Great Depression, which made her a natural conservator. In the late 1930s she worked with Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, which influenced her design aesthetic. Heath searched constantly to source the right materials and experimented for years to find the best techniques and glazes; she was once quoted as saying that she wanted to use clay that had “character” and “guts”.

Edith’s attempts to adapt her hand-thrown techniques using industrial production methods were met with controversy. She was told that machine-produced items didn’t qualify as “craft,” which prompted her to respond, “The machine doesn’t decide what the shape is going to be; a human being has to decide that… Just because you make it by hand doesn’t make it good, or a work of art.”

Alabama Chanin - The Factory Store + Cafe - Photographer Rinne Allen (63)

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A. CHANIN RACERBACK TUNIC

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The A. Chanin Racerback Tunic is our newest addition to our Basics collection. While we believe that all Alabama Chanin pieces are versatile enough to wear almost anywhere and anytime, the Racerback Tunic is particularly well suited for daytime and night. We also recommend wearing on those days that you want some (sunblock protected) sunshine on your shoulders. I personally like to style this garment as a double layer over my (uniform) long skirts.

The top has a feminine silhouette, is fitted at the bust, and flares from the waist. It is 29 inches in length, features side vents at the hem, and is slightly longer in the back. Layer it with our A. Chanin V-Neck Tank or top with a Long Sleeve Raglan when you need a little more coverage.

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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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IN PROCESS: OUR NATURAL DYE HOUSE

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The process of starting our own dye house began with an exploration into the materials and methods that involve the chemistry of dyeing. That exploration began with indigo.

In its natural form, indigo is a tropical, leafy shrub and a member of the legume family, and a version of the plant is native to our own Alabama climate. The wide range of blue shades that this ancient plant can produce as a dye has made it one of the most popular (and successful) dye plants throughout history (and present day).

Alabama Chanin has experimented with indigo and other natural dyes for years, and recently set up two dye vats in-house, that we can better produce our classic Indigo colors here at The Factory. Diane, our head seamstress (and now head dye master), is overseeing the project with the assistance of Maggie, one of our studio team members. The vats were set up with the help of Zee Boudreaux — a friend we met during our time at Penland — who has spent time studying indigo and other natural dyes.

Zee worked here in our studio with Diane and Maggie during our beginning phase and generously answered a few questions for us about indigo and his experiences with natural dyeing.

AC: How did you first become involved with natural dyes?

ZB: In 1995, I was traveling and met a weaver/dyer who introduced me to textiles; she wasn’t using natural dyes, but my established environmental awareness and love for traditional processes led me to look for a natural dye class. I found natural dyer Cheryl Kolander and attended one of her workshops. I even apprenticed with Cheryl after the workshop. Seeing natural color come out of the dye pot for the first time was all it took to lead me down this path.

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ALABAMA A-LINE TUNIC

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The Alabama A-Line Tunic is a popular summertime selection from our Basics collection. The classic design—part of Natalie’s daily “uniform”—is both feminine and forgiving and allows for a range of styling options.

The silhouette is fitted through the bust with an empire-style flare that falls just below the hip. The tunic measures 31 ½” from the shoulder. Choose from multiple color options in either lightweight or medium-weight cotton jersey. Shown here in Navy. Wear it with jeans or layer it under our A. Chanin Long Sleeve Cardigan.

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STYLING A SARONG (FOR SUMMER)

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Made with our 100% lightweight cotton jersey and painted with our Small Polka Dots design, the Alabama Chanin Sarong can be worn for a variety of occasions.

Here, we share some of our favorite ways to style a sarong (for summer). While this isn’t a step-by-step guide, it should inspire you to create your own unique look.

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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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THE PANEL TANK

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The Alabama Chanin Panel Tank is one of the most popular and versatile pieces from our current collection. The pull-on tank is flattering for all body types as it provides a secure fit at the bust and flares at the waist. This shape flatters and floats easily along natural curves, but can also create a curvier look for those with a naturally straight silhouette.

The top measures 26” from shoulder to hem. Select from medium-weight or lightweight cotton jersey fabric (shown here in medium-weight Natural). Pair it with our Magdalena Wrap Skirt – or layer it underneath a corset for added length and coverage. The Panel Tank will quickly make its way into regular rotation in your everyday wardrobe.

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