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Observer July 2016

The Ultimate Luxury is Time: This 'Slow Fashion' Brand is Rooted in DIY

Natalie Chanin began making t-shirts that New Yorkers wanted to touch over 15 years ago. It started with a hastily refashioned tee for a swanky party. The rural Alabama girl thought it was unusual that the “fancy fashion city folk” handled her creation with wonder. This makeshift shirt opened an opportunity to connect with people from a different world. That’s how the founder and creative director of Alabama Chanin describes the advent of her sustainable slow fashion brand in an episode of storytelling podcast The Moth entitled “200 One-of-a-Kind Shirts,” recorded in April of 2014. She was moved to create more, and it was the quilting tradition of her grandmother’s generation and the pastoral inspiration of her hometown that drew her back to Florence, Alabama to start her business.

Chanin appears to be the embodiment of her brand. She returned to New York City in April of this year to talk about ‘slow fashion,’ sustainable production and consumption with Patagonia’s Director of Environmental Strategy, Jill Dumain. “I was at first taken aback by the crowd of people here,” she says of the cavernous second floor space at Patagonia Soho, although the city is where Alabama Chanin got its start.

Where fast fashion reflects a trend-driven cycle that sees clothing discarded or forgotten after one season, slow fashion is revolutionizing the consumer market. The burgeoning interest in this change was reflected in the room, which was full of the future of the industry; many are educators and students from Parsons and FIT.

Alabama Chanin aims to make “garments that last forever” and don’t necessarily cater to seasonal trends, but flow from season to season. This means a sustainable closet can be built over the course of time and pieces go together regardless of which collection they come from. She insists that figuring out how to build a sustainable closet can replace the satisfaction of retail therapy.