Alabama Chanin: 21 Years of Sustainability

Alabama Chanin - Laura Vinroot Poole, 2003

Laura Vinroot Poole, 2003

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...

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Alabama Chanin - Paris and Oscar Wilde, 2003

Paris and Oscar Wilde, 2003

Twice a year, the Oscar Wilde Suite at L’Hotel becomes the collection showroom. Natalie meets with stores from around the world, and the stocklist grows from the original eight stores to over thirty global locations. From the early hand-sewn t-shirts, the collection has grown to include skirts, dresses, jackets, coats, and accessories. Approximately sixty artisans continue to embroider and construct every garment by hand.  The Oscar Wilde Suite is not only a showroom; but transforms into a photo studio, hotel room, and gathering spot for buyers and press who visit Paris during Fashion Week.  Each season, Natalie shares many moments...

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Alabama Chanin - Stenciling and Lean Method, 2002

Stenciling and Lean Method, 2002

With the creation of the first t-shirts, Natalie develops stenciling as a cornerstone of the company’s design process and business model. The first stencils used are simple, block numbers made out of brown kraft paper—the kind of numbers sold at hardware stores to spray-paint addresses on curbs. Through the decades, thousands of stencil patterns are developed, from simple to elaborate, and from geometric to floral motifs. The stencils are used as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto collection garments, and act as “maps” for sewing methods—appliqué, reverse appliqué, and even intricate beading. Fabric pieces are cut and stenciled in the...

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Alabama Chanin - Picnic, 2002

Picnic, 2002

The first annual company picnic is held at the Lovelace Crossroads house and production office. 

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Alabama Chanin - Orders, 2001

Orders, 2001

At the Chelsea Hotel show, orders are taken from a handful of stores around the world that include stores like Barneys NY, Barneys Tokyo, Fred Segal/Ron Herman LA, and Browns in London. Natalie returns to Lovelace Crossroads, and with a team of artisans, patternmakers, friends, and family produces the first round of shirts to be delivered in the late spring and summer.   Slide 1: Early hand-sewn “Sister Shirt” from the Alabama collection, 2001, photograph by Natalie Chanin Slide 2: Alabama collection catalog cover, featuring a photo by Natalie Chanin entitled “From the Back Door,” 2001, photograph by Robert Rausch...

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Alabama Chanin - The Corset, 2001

The Corset, 2001

Alabama Chanin Corset Hand Embroidery Hand Sewing Organic Cotton Vogue

Lionel Roudaut, a patternmaker and cutter, formerly with Jeremy Scott in Paris, arrives in Alabama to help with pattern development and production. Over the course of the summer, Natalie and Lionel design and develop the Corset. This pattern and style of dressing becomes one of the defining garment patterns of Project Alabama, Alabama Chanin, and, eventually, The School of Making.    From Lionel: When I arrived the first time in Florence Alabama, I felt I was catapulted into a Tom Sawyer novel. The look of the place was just as I'd imagined it, reading or watching about this region of...

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Alabama Chanin - Alabama Collection, 2000

Alabama Collection, 2000

Natalie arrives in Alabama to a three-bedroom, ranch-style house rented from her maternal aunt, located in a small community immediately outside of Florence, Alabama, called Lovelace Crossroads, with a population of just over 200 people.

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Alabama Chanin - Brooklyn to Chelsea, 2000

Brooklyn to Chelsea, 2000

After extending her sabbatical and beginning work as a stylist in New York City, Natalie moves from Brooklyn to an apartment in the Chelsea Hotel.

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Alabama Chanin - Venezuela To Brooklyn, 1999 - 2000

Venezuela To Brooklyn, 1999 - 2000

On a snowy night, Natalie arrives, with just a backpack, in Brooklyn Heights for the final leg of her sabbatical. She begins a self-portrait project exploring photography and writing across the boroughs of New York City.

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Alabama Chanin - Photography and Film, 1990 - 1999

Photography and Film, 1990 - 1999

Natalie works as a fashion stylist and costume designer for photography, television commercials, music videos, and film. With photographer Sissi Farassat, she directs her first short documentary film, “Fertility,” a seven-minute exploration of the relationship between women and fertility.

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