Natalie meets Robert and Jennifer Rauch in the fall of 2000. Robert becomes a decades-long collaborator with Project Alabama and Alabama Chanin, photographing collections and books, and designing graphics, posters, and catalogs. Natalie and Jennifer become lifelong friends and part-time colleagues. Jennifer’s Whole Wheat Cracker recipe is included on page 94 of Alabama Stitch Book, and later works in both The Factory Store and The Factory Café.
The following conversation with Jennifer Rausch was recorded at The Factory on December 6th, 2021.
Alabama Chanin: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin?
Jennifer Rausch: My first memory of Natalie is reading an article about her in the newspaper when she was just getting started in the early 2000s. I soon ran into her at Ricatoni’s, a local Italian restaurant, just by happenstance. Robert was kind of whining about the fact that he didn’t have any artist friends in town with whom he had a lot in common, and I said “there’s that lady that was in the newspaper. Why don’t you go meet her?” And so that’s how we met her. She quickly became one of my dearest friends.
AC: How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?
JR: Within our community alone, she has definitely brought awareness to people who otherwise might not know much about sustainability or have a chance to see the benefits at work firsthand… Anyone who has had a chance to experience Natalie and Alabama Chanin can see the real life, practical applications and be inspired to find ways to adopt sustainable practices into their day-to-day lives.
AC: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, collaboration? If so, why?
JR: I have this Alabama Chanin skirt that I particularly adore, and have worn and worn throughout the years. It’s probably my favorite. It amazes me how many different new pieces she releases every year. Just when you think “That’s it, she’s done it all”, there’s a new color or pattern or hand-sewn detail… It’s just unbelievable because I know how much care and ingenuity goes into the design process.
I also have a few DIY pieces that are not particularly stunning, but I was able to learn how to sew them for myself, which was a very fulfilling experience. I loved joining the workshops and learning these new techniques, but also getting to sew with all of the incredible and talented people who had traveled from all over to be there. It was really special to hear all of their stories.
AC: What do you feel is Alabama Chanin’s most endearing quality? What we want to know is what comes to mind first, and what resonates with you?
JR: It’s a cliché but, for me, they simply practice what they preach. As long as I’ve known Natalie, she has believed in sustainability. She’s lived it and practiced it. And there isn’t a thing that she incorporates into the business that she wouldn’t also do at home.
AC: Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
JR: Natalie, I appreciate you and your generosity of spirit. From working with you throughout the years, to learning about different aspects of our culture and the business model through your careful and thoughtful approach to work and life. It is not an easy task to start a company from the ground up, much less in fashion and in Alabama, and to be consistent every step of the way. I had the privilege of working with this amazing staff during my time at the company, and I still value all those friendships. It was an incredible group of people.
Thank you for your friendship, Natalie. All my love.
Slide 1: Framed polaroid of Natalie and Jennifer Rausch from the early 2000s, photograph by Robert Rausch; Today, this photo hangs in The Factory Store where Jennifer spent many hours across her years with Alabama Chanin