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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.