Gael Towey is a storyteller, director, and creative whose passion lies in the process. She is the founder of Gael Towey & Co., an organization that celebrates and explores the power, beauty, and enigmatic nature of creativity. Gael is the producer and director of Portraits in Creativity, a series of short-form documentaries that share and preserve artists’ stories—tales of bravery, inspiration, loss, strength, fear, and finding the spark. We are continually inspired by her curiosity of spirit, ingenuity, and thoughtful creative voice.
Natalie and Gael meet in 2009, through their mutual friend Rosanne Cash. The conversation below between Gael Towey and Kimry Blackwelder was conducted via email on June 11th, 2021.
Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin?
Gael Towey: I think I met Natalie at Lisa Fox’s house at a shopping event. Or it’s also possible that l learned about Natalie from Rosanne Cash, who suggested that I do a video about Natalie, and who introduced me to her. And Rosanne, Lisa, Kay, and Maira all came together to form a sewing club, the Stitch and Bitches and we got together to sew with our AC kits. We all also went to France one summer for a workshop! So Natalie has been a pied piper for us.
KB: How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?
GT: Alabama Chanin has shown us that it is possible to make local, home grown, hand made clothing that is not about fashion and will last forever- the absolute opposite of the fashion industry. And Natalie does it with great style and incredible craftsmanship, these pieces are heirlooms. Natalie has also had to be inventive about creating a way for the clothes to be made by local women at home on their own schedule. This flexibility for these women gives them a lot of freedom.
I also think that the AC kits are a great invention. To be able to have help making something beautiful and affordable with your own hands and the pride that comes with that accomplishment is no small thing. And as a business, I have a lot of respect for utilizing the same resources- fabrics, designs, teaching skills to accomplish this.
The other thing that is so highly unusual is how comfortable the clothes are and how easy they are to care for.
KB: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, or collaboration? If so, why does this stand out to you?
GT: Every new piece is a favorite, but I continue to love the Alabama Chanin “fur.” I have a white fur skirt that I love—but I do love it all.
KB: What do you feel is Alabama Chanin’s most enduring quality? We want to know what comes to mind first and what resonates with you?
GT: Uniqueness comes to mind—whenever I am wearing an AC piece—I am the only one. Also I value the craftsmanship, the amazing details, the loving attention, the fact that the clothes are made by women by hand. It is very soulful.
KB: As our industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in this vision?
GT: I continue to love the hand made courtier line but I also really hope that the small batch machine made clothes are successful because I like them and because I love the story of putting the factory back to work.
KB: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
GT: I love you guys and miss you.
Explore Gael’s Portraits in Creativity series here.
Watch Gael’s portrait about Alabama Chanin here.
Slide 2 (from left): Kay Gardiner, Gael Towey, Lisa Fox, Rosanne Cash, and Maira Kalman of the “Stitch and Bitch” group at Lisa’s home in the East Village, New York City, from New York Magazine, “My Sewing Circle,” 2018, photograph by Dina Litovsky
Slide 4: “Rosanne Cash: The River & The Thread” from Gael Towey’s Portraits in Creativity series, photograph courtesy of Gael Towey & Co. (read an entry about Rosanne and her album, The River & The Thread, here)