Maria Cornejo, 2005

Maria Cornejo, 2005

Maria Cornejo and Natalie meet in 2005 during the Cooper Hewitt National Design awards and remain lifelong friends.

The conversation below between Maria and Kimry Blackwelder took place via Zoom on April 7th, 2021 in New York City.

Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie or Alabama Chanin as a brand, but I would imagine it would be Natalie for you?

Maria Cornejo: Oh, I remember reading about Project Alabama and Natalie. She's so stunning and she's got such an amazing energy that you can't miss her. I think it was either a CFDA event or at the White House. Something to do with Cooper Hewitt? I can't remember exactly. I just love her; she's amazing.

KB: The White House?

MC: I can't remember exactly but Laura Bush was there. I don’t remember all the times we crossed paths. And then, I went to visit her at her place, which is amazing.

KB: Oh, you’ve been down there?

MC: Yes, that was the highlight. It is incredible.

KB: I'm jealous. I have to go soon.

How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?

MC: I think she was one of the first people to start. I think, you know, she's getting the credit finally; I saw there was a credit in Vogue. But she is just doing it very quietly, very humbly and gorgeously, so what else can you say? She’s been very influential.

KB: Yeah. Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, collaboration? If so, why? And I have a feeling I know your answer. There you go.

MC: I have it on right now and it’s this Patagonia collaboration. It is one of my favorite pieces. And then the apron, since I'm learning to cook.

KB: I think you touched a fond memory or experience during which you've encountered or had experience with the brand. And I know you've actually been down there. So...

MC: Yeah, I mean, to actually go down to Alabama and be shown around by Natalie and eat in her restaurant with her son, and being shown around The Factory. And I took Lauren, our design director with me, and we had such a beautiful time. We went to Nashville and drove down there. And it was just really special and inspiring. All that she's doing.

KB: Oh, that's amazing. What do you feel is Natalie’s or Alabama Chanin's most enduring quality?

MC: I would say her integrity.

KB: As the industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in that vision?

MC: As the leader.

KB: I love that. Finally, is there anything you'd like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?

MC: Like a total fan...?

KB: Yeah, exactly! You can fangirl.

MC: Natalie, you are just such a total inspiration. Incredible work, and so much love for you, your craft, and your team.

KB: That's beautiful. Thank you. I think we put Alabama on a girl's trip.

KB: Yeah, we do. Big kiss. Lots of love.

Explore the Zero Maria Cornejo collection, and follow along @zeromcornejo.


Slide 1: Maria Cornejo at the Zero + Maria Cornejo store on Bleecker Street in New York, photograph by Peter Stanglmayr; Maria is wearing the Alabama Chanin Reclaimed Down Vest with her Luca Bubble Top and Takeo Pant in Eco Denim from the Zero + Maria Cornejo Spring/Summer 2021 collection

Slide 2: Collections by National Design Award finalists Project Alabama, Isabel Toledo, and Zero Maria Cornejo are shown in the windows of Barneys New York, October, 2005

Slide 3: First Lady Laura Bush hosts National Design Award finalists at the White House, Washington, D.C., 2005, photograph by Robert Rausch