Natalie and Laura Vinroot Poole meet in 2003 when Laura purchases the Project Alabama collection for her store Capitol.
The conversation below with Laura Vinroot Poole and Kimry Blackwelder occurred via email on April 28th, 2021. We’re grateful to Kimry and Laura for taking the time—during a global pandemic—to talk about the history of Alabama Chanin and Natalie’s work across the past 21 years.
Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin?
Laura Vinroot Poole: I first met Natalie in the room where Oscar Wilde allegedly died in Paris so to say that it was memorable would be an understatement. There are not many southerners in fashion and meeting Natalie felt just like being home. My grandmother is Alabama-born, and Natalie’s grace and kindness was familiar and felt like a gift in the often short-tempered and cold world of fashion. The clothes absolutely blew me away...I had never considered that the exquisite handcraft that I had grown up with in quilts and my handmade clothes could be considered fashion and I (and my clients) fell deeply in love from the first collection that Natalie produced.
KB: How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?
LVP: The idea of a community of women, not only in America, but in Natalie’s own community, creating works of art to sell to the luxury fashion community was as mind blowing at the time as it is now. Natalie directly impacted her hometown with the work that she and her team produced and in turn gave back and continued to invest in her community. To say that what she did was original and revolutionary and industry changing would not be enough praise. Natalie wrote the book on what sustainability should mean and how one person can completely change and impact her community for the better.
KB: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, or collaboration? If so, why does this stand out to you?
LVP: I loved Alabama Chanin’s original corset dresses the most...they were flattering and modest and made you feel like a movie star. :)
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.
LVP: I think Natalie’s most enduring quality is the way that she completely revolutionized what the idea of Made in America meant and brought a reverence and respect for Southern and woman-made handcraft to the forefront of luxury fashion. It was a Herculean effort that she never wavered upon, and something that brought great pride to a long history of humble handcraft that had never been respected in such a way. I have never been more proud to support a designer’s vision and mission as I was to support Natalie and Alabama Chanin.
KB: As our industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in this vision?
LVP: I’d love for Natalie’s vision to seep into other areas of American handcraft in order for these often fledgling skills to live on and be appreciated in different arenas.
KB: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
LVP: Thank you from the bottom of my heart...how lucky we’ve been to learn from you and to experience your grace and kindness and ingenuity in your love for your beloved Alabama.
Learn more about Capitol here.
Read more about the Oscar Wilde Suite at L'Hotel in Paris here.
Slide 2: Photos from Fall/Winter 2003 Project Alabama collection taken at the Oscar Wilde Suite, L’Hotel, Paris, France, photos by Les Deux Garçons; Laura Vinroot Poole wearing an Alabama Chanin Chandler Jacket, taken at her shop, Capitol, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in April 2021, photo by the Shop Capitol team.