Vivian Howard and Natalie first meet at the 2011 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. They go on to share and cook many meals together, including a Friends of the Café Dinner at The Factory in the summer of 2014.
The discussion below between Kimry Blackwelder and Vivian occurred via email on May 16th, 2021.
Kimrey Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin?
Vivian Howard: It was about a decade ago at a Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. One of Natalie's stitched dresses was presented on a mannequin as art. I stopped to admire the austere yet elaborate jersey piece and someone whispered in my ear that this was the type of thing I might wear if I ever won a James Beard Award. :)
KB: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, or collaboration? If so, why does this stand out to you?
VH: It doesn't get any more dedicated than growing, harvesting, and processing the cotton you're going to make clothes with. The Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid collaboration where they did just that was next level.
KB: Can you describe your most memorable encounter or experience with the Alabama Chanin brand?
VH: I cooked at the Factory about six years ago. Until then I really didn't understand what Natalie and her brand were all about, and frankly, I thought all designers and high-end clothing were cut from the same cloth. My experience there highlighted the fact that Alabama Chanin stands for community, craft, and girl power. It was the opposite of what the name "factory" suggests.
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.
VH: Almost more than any other designer, you can look at Alabama Chanin's delicate, precise stitching and know EXACTLY where it came from.
KB: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
VH: I love the example Alabama Chanin sets that location does not have to limit the quality and reach of your work, and that in many cases, creating outside the epicenter of an industry can give you perspective that pushes your work and reach further.
Learn more about mother, cook, author, TV host, restaurateur, and storyteller Vivian Howard here.
Follow her adventures @chefandthef.