Natalie and Zoe Turbnull meet in 2003 and develop a strong working relationship and professional and friendly admiration for each other. The two would later collaborate with Krista Freibaum to create the Makeshift series of events during New York Design Week.
The following conversation between Zoe Turnbull and Kimry Blackwelder occurred virtually in New York City on September 3rd, 2021.
Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin?
Zoe Turnbull: I think when she won the Ecco Domani award?
KB: How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?
ZT: OMG there was such buzz Project Alabama - it was like their values crystalized this previously felt but almost verboten side of fashion. It takes real balls to be 20 years ahead of the curve.
KB: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, or collaboration? If so, why does this stand out to you?
ZT: I still have a reverse appliqué skull lavender t-shirt with long, contrast sleeves. So well made - I must have run it through the hot washer and dryer a few hundred times and never a stitch loose.
KB: Do you have any fond memories or experiences during which you recall wearing Alabama Chanin?
ZT: That t-shirt was my favorite thing in my late twenties… Alabama’s designs are usually era-agnostic but the skulls became such a symbol of the aughties. She was ahead of the curve on that though.
KB: Can you describe your most memorable encounter or experience with the Alabama Chanin brand?
ZT: For three years, my agency Serious Business worked to concept and produce a multi-day event series on handmade craftsmanship as a reaction to a digital everything world and align the Alabama Chanin brand alongside furniture makers and designers - a world we felt Alabama was more closely aligned than the fashion industry.
Produced on a shoestring, it nearly killed us all but we loved doing it and I think it showed as it received such an outpouring of love and positive attention. My favorite was a chair up-cycling workshop we did with discarded chairs found on NYC street corners.
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.
ZT: Reintroducing ppl to the quality of handmade clothing is something I’ll never forget.
KB: As our industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in this vision?
ZT: Everyone wants to buy more thoughtfully and multi-year/multi-seasonally and the only way I think we’ll get there is if we all consume less media (which creates such demand). Hoping we all get so sick of our media addictions that we quit our phones and our ravenous consumer habits go out with them.
KB: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?
ZT: Krista Freibaum and I have such respect for anyone—especially creative women—who are content to let the fickle world of fashion move in and out around them and stick to their visions. Natalie is up there with Agnes B or Anna Sui IMO.
Learn more about Serious Business here.
Learn More about Makeshift and New York Design Week here.
Slide 1: Zoe Turnbull and her dog during the DIY Tote Bag workshop at The Standard penthouse, Makeshift 2013, photograph by Peter Stanglmayr; “Make It” tote bag by Zoe Turnbull, Makeshift 2013, photograph by Abraham Rowe