Alabama Chanin: 21 Years of Sustainability

Alabama Chanin - Maira Kalman, 2013

Maira Kalman, 2013

Maira Kalman is an author, illustrator, and visionary who is ensorcelled by the small moments and experiences that occur not during, but between, the landmarks of one's day or life. Through her unique approach to storytelling, she imbues people, objects, and mundane facets of the human condition with knowing wit and humanity. Maira has long been an inspiration, and has become a dear friend of Natalie’s since a fateful visit to The Factory for a sewing workshop. She has published over thirty books, beloved by adults, children, and everyone in between, and is a frequent contributor to publications including The New York Times and The New Yorker. 

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Alabama Chanin - Little River Sock Mill Collaboration, 2013

Little River Sock Mill Collaboration, 2013

Natalie and Alabama Chanin partner with fellow Alabamian Gina Locklear of sister brands zkano and Little River Sock Mill to create a line of Made in the USA, organic cotton socks. Little River Sock Mill is located in Fort Payne, a northern Alabama town that once held the title of Sock Capital of The World. The sock business has been in Gina’s family for three decades.

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Alabama Chanin - The Factory Store, 2013

The Factory Store, 2013

In November 2013, Alabama Chanin officially opens its doors to the local community and public at large through The Factory Store and Café. The flagship location houses Alabama Chanin’s collection, design and production studio at Building 14, The School of Making, and a Café.  Daily tours as well as frequent community events take place in the comfortable, creatively-energized interior space, which pays respect to the building and region’s history.

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Alabama Chanin - Yewande Komolafe, 2013

Yewande Komolafe, 2013

Two weeks before the opening of The Factory, recipe developer, food scientist, stylist, chef, and writer Yewande Komolafe moves to Florence to help set up and open The Factory Café. What was to be a six-week collaboration of pie and coffee, turns into a year-long adventure and lifelong friendship. Yewande’s beloved recipes remain the cornerstone of the café cuisine: Quiche, Pimento Cheese with Apples, Biscuits, House Made Granola, Lane Cake, Lemon Dressing, and a list too long to elaborate.

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Alabama Chanin - The Factory Café, 2013

The Factory Café, 2013

In 2013, The Factory Café opens with farm tables suited to family-style dining and a full chef’s kitchen with Yewande Komolafe at the helm. Over the next six years, the team at The Factory Café feeds staff, workshop guests, community members, and visitors from near and far—serving up local and sustainably sourced ingredients for weekday lunch, Saturday brunch, catering, meals to-go, and a Supper Club series. In addition to regular service, this space becomes home to Alabama Chanin’s Friends of the Café Dinner Series (entry coming soon) benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance and a range of other organizations. 

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Alabama Chanin - The School of Making, 2013

The School of Making, 2013

In 2014, The School of Making officially launches as the educational arm of Alabama Chanin to incorporate the best of fashion, design, and craft under one roof. What began as the Studio Book Series—open-sourcing and documenting sewing techniques and processes—expands into a variety of workshops, factory experiences and tours, community engagement, DIY kits and organic materials for hand-sewn projects, and opportunities for learning. Natalie’s work through The School of Making makes living arts accessible to all consumers, ultimately supporting sustainable ideals and a community of makers.

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Alabama Chanin - Kerry Diamond, 2013

Kerry Diamond, 2013

Kerry Diamond is an advocate for community, storytelling, sustainability, and uplifting women’s voices and work. She is the founder of Cherry Bombe, a media organization centered around women within and adjacent to the culinary world. She also hosts Radio Cherry Bombe, a chart-topping podcast that celebrates and hosts conversations with trailblazing women within the industry.

Natalie and Kerry meet first in 2005, as Natalie was preparing for her first (and only) runway show during New York Fashion Week [link to entry]. The discussion below between Kimry Blackwelder and Kerry Diamond was conducted via email on March 24th, 2021.

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Alabama Chanin - The Camellia Pattern, 2013

The Camellia Pattern, 2013

Alabama Chanin and Heath Ceramics collaborate again—this “point of intersection between stitch and clay”—releasing  the Camellia pattern. Inspired by Alabama's state flower, the eponymous Camellia pattern is hand-etched by Heath Ceramics artisans in Opaque White and becomes an instant classic.

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Alabama Chanin - Eileen Fisher - Women-Owned Business Grant, 2013

Eileen Fisher - Women-Owned Business Grant, 2013

Natalie is awarded the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant. Founded in 2004 by designer and activist Eileen Fisher, the program’s mission is to support and empower women who share the organization's commitment to ethical, responsible, forward-thinking operations, and who are using their voices to make a positive impact in business and life.

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Alabama Chanin - CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge, 2013

CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge, 2013

The CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge is created to celebrate designers who are also industry leaders in sustainable design. Competing designers are judged on their commitment to sustainability and responsible production, ethical sourcing of materials, transparent practices, as well as style. At the 2013 ceremony, held at New York’s ABC Kitchen, Natalie is awarded the $75,000 grand prize, while runners-up Mark Davis and SVILU’s Britt Cosgrove and Marina Polo are each awarded $5,000.

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