Rinne and Natalie meet in 2005 during Alabama Adventure Weekend. Rinne photographs the Alabama Chanin collection for over a decade and the two go on to travel, work, and collaborate on multitudes of projects. The discussion below between Kimry Blackwelder and Rinne was conducted via email in July of 2021.
Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie or Alabama Chanin?
Rinne Allen: I actually remember the first time I saw one of Natalie's garments. It was back in the Project Alabama days, and I was in Barneys New York with my sister. The garments literally caught my eye from across the room; it was their construction, their materials that drew me in. I remember reading the label and being excited that they were made in Alabama, since I am from Georgia. I was happy to know that someone in the South was doing something so new and progressive. It felt radical, and also homespun and rooted in tradition, all at the same time. I started following Natalie's work from that point on.
I also remember the first time I met Natalie; it was during one of the Alabama Adventure Weekends that she hosted in Florence with Billy Reid and Robert Rausch. Our mutual friend, Angie Mosier, had told me about it and encouraged me to come. A bunch of us from Athens piled in a car and drove to Florence for the weekend. The studio was at Lovelace Crossroads at the time. I remember seeing Natalie at one of the parties—her daughter Maggie, (now 15) was a baby and Natalie had her with her the whole time. Natalie was such a striking persona, the embodiment of so much feminine energy and beauty!
KB: How do you think AC has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?
RA: Wow, I am not sure how to quantify it! Seriously, it is hard to think of a time when sustainability wasn't part of the discussion since Natalie's work came on my radar, and on anyone else's radar. Since I discovered her work, the conversation around sustainability has always been there. It has gone hand-in-hand with Alabama Chanin, and, therefore, anyone who has followed their work has grown to be part of that conversation and shared that philosophy. Or, at least they have been introduced to the concept of sustainability by association. Over the last 21 years, Alabama Chanin has consistently shown that there is another way to manufacture, another way to work.
KB: Do you have a favorite AC piece, collection, or collaboration?
RA: No, I don't have a favorite! I am in an unusual position in that I see many collections in development and the behind the scenes of a collection coming together. Since I am photographing the process and, eventually, the finished product, I see a lot. I will say that because of my deep exposure to so much of Alabama Chanin's archive of work, every once in a while there will be a piece that really stands out for its craftsmanship. I see it all as a manifestation of many years of work, a culmination of time and ideas…
KB: What do you feel is AC's most enduring quality? we want to know what comes to mind first and what resonates with you?
RA: What comes to mind first when I think of Natalie and Alabama Chanin is the word “commitment.” It comes across in all that they do: from their vision, to their sourcing, to their quality, to their steadfastness to their mission, and the people who support their work. Add to this the reciprocal layer of commitment each time they purchase something, helping to create a circle.
KB: As our industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in this vision?
RA: I hope to see people buy less, but buy better. I hope to see people paying attention to where things come from, how they are made, and who makes them. Over the last 20 years, Alabama Chanin has helped to weave this information into the fabric of the industry as a whole, into its lexicon, even when not everyone in the industry is on board yet.
KB: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
RA: Natalie and everyone at Alabama Chanin knows how I love them . :) But, I will also add that photographing for Alabama Chanin has been one of the true pleasures of my life. I have learned so much from working alongside them over the years, and I treasure the inspiration their work has given me. It has made me a better photographer. Thank you.
Learn more about Rinne Allen’s work here.
Slide 1: Self portrait of Rinne Allen, taken at her home and studio in Athens, Georgia
Slide 2: Two coats in the Victoria design with wool yarn embroidery, wool yarns in collaboration with Swan’s Island, from Alabama Chanin’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection, photograph by Rinne Allen
Slide 3: Chandler Jacket in Tweed and wedding dress in Vitae with hand-embroiderd appliqué from Alabama Chanin’s Spring/Summer 2018 Bridal collection, photograph by Rinne Allen
Slide 4: Chandler Jacket in Tweed from the Alabama Chanin Spring/Summer 2018 Bridal collection, photograph by Rinne Allen
Slide 6: Anna’s Garden cardigan and dress from the 2009 Alabama Chanin Bridal collection, photograph by Rinne Allen
Slide 7: Garments from Alabama Chanin’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection as seen in The Factory Store, photograph by Rinne Allen
Slide 8: Chambray dress from Alabama Chanin’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection; Striped Gina Smock, Chandler Jacket, and Austin Skirt from Alabama Chanin’s Spring/Summer 2018 Bridal collection, photographs by Rinne Allen
Slide 9: Striped Gina Smock, Chandler Jacket, and Austin Skirt from Alabama Chanin’s Spring/Summer 2018 Bridal collection; Organic cotton Bees Knees bonnet and kimono set from Alabama Chanin’s collaboration with Burt’s Bees Baby, 2018, photographs by Rinne AllenSlide 10: Reclaimed Down Scarf from Alabama Chanin’s 21 Year Collection, 2021, photograph by Rinne Allen