Alabama Chanin: 21 Years of Sustainability

Alabama Chanin - 10-Year Vision, 2013

10-Year Vision, 2013

In early 2013, the Alabama Chanin team completes a 10-year vision for the company inspired by Ari Weinzewig and the team at Zingerman’s and ZingTrain—a community of businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, known for their progressive business model. The vision statement includes a store, a café, and a machine-manufacturing facility—which come to fruition before the end of the year. 

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Alabama Chanin - Building 14 Founded, 2013

Building 14 Founded, 2013

In 2013, Building 14 is founded as the machine-manufacturing arm of Alabama Chanin’s headquarters at The Factory.  A natural expansion of Alabama Chanin’s hand-sewn ethos, the concept is inspired by the community’s history of manufacturing. Companies like local t-shirt manufacturer Tee Jays, and others, employed thousands in the northwest Alabama region throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Building 14 seeks to honor that history and community, while reintroducing machine innovation in a new and sustainable way and looking to the future of manufacturing. 

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Alabama Chanin - Cathy Bailey, 2011

Cathy Bailey, 2011

Cathy Bailey and Natalie first meet in 2009 through a group of creative friends whose work was rooted in responsible design and sustainable production. Shortly after their initial meeting, Natalie and Cathy begin a dialogue about their respective businesses, both of which produce hand-crafted goods locally and by hand, and about collaboration.

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Alabama Chanin - Roman Alonso with Lisa Eisner and Wyatt Troll, 2010

Roman Alonso with Lisa Eisner and Wyatt Troll, 2010

As a culmination of the 10 year celebration, creative director Roman Alonso of Commune Design, photographer Lisa Eisner, and cinematographer Wyatt Troll travel to The Shoals to capture the Alabama Chanin collection.

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Alabama Chanin - Rinne Allen, 2012

Rinne Allen, 2012

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.

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Alabama Chanin - Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, 2012

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, 2012

Alabama Studio Sewing + Design launches in 2012 as an encyclopedic compilation of appliqué and reverse appliqué variations. The book includes sewing, stenciling, and fabric design techniques. 

To celebrate 10 years of publication in 2022, the book will be re-released with an updated cover and introduction. 

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Alabama Chanin - The River & the Thread, 2012

The River & the Thread, 2012

Natalie and Rosanne Cash first meet in 2009 through their friend Ann Tenenbaum. Rosanne’s passionate embrace of her life’s work, her poetic gifts of language and song, and her innate creativity have long been a source of inspiration and joy for Natalie. The two soul sisters have visited, traveled, sipped tea, dyed fabric—and hair—and enjoyed one another’s company for over a decade.

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Alabama Chanin - Jessamyn Hatcher, 2012

Jessamyn Hatcher, 2012

Natalie and Jessamyn meet in the fall of 2010, through mutual friend Sally Singer, when Jessamyn is preparing to teach a yearlong course at New York University on the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. For the course study, Jessamyn, professor of Global Liberal Studies, chooses—from anywhere in the world—to travel to Florence, Alabama, with her students. They take a sewing workshop at The Factory with Natalie and see firsthand how things are made. 

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Alabama Chanin - The Organic Cotton Project, 2012

The Organic Cotton Project, 2012

After years working to establish an organic and sustainable supply chain, Alabama Chanin partners with designer Billy Reid to produce grown-to-sewn, organic cotton garments in northwest Alabama. Organic cottonseed is sourced with assistance from Kelly Pepper of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative; seven acres of land is acquired with assistance from K.P. and Katy McNeill, then-partners at Billy Reid; and local farmers, Lisa and Jimmy Lentz, oversee the project. Volunteers from the community and from Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ restaurant come together for a “picking party,” in the fall of 2012, yielding 746 pounds of organic cotton. The cotton is ginned locally in Lauderdale County and goes to a 100-year-old mill in North Carolina for spinning and knitting in the summer of 2013 before being sewn into limited-edition items at The Factory. The collaboration launches in fall of 2014.

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Alabama Chanin - Makeshift - Design Week 2012, 2012

Makeshift - Design Week 2012, 2012

Natalie and Alabama Chanin partner with Zoe Turnbull and Krista Freibaum, co-founders of Serious Business digital media and PR agency, to host a series of events called Makeshift for New York Design Week. Beginning in 2012, the series occurs each May during New York Design Week for three consecutive years. The Makeshift conversations and events invite a dynamic group of participants to explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are linked to the world of craft and DIY. Participants consider how each of these worlds elevates the others and can be used as an agent of change in the world.

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