Image: Rinne Allen
Natalie Chanin, founder of Alabama Chanin has won this year’s Positive Impact Award for Preserving Heritage & Craft.
Alabama Chanin is a lifestyle company producing well-designed and thoughtfully made goods for the person and the home. The company uses 100% organic cotton fabric in their designs, sourced sustainably from seed to fabric—along with repurposed and reclaimed materials. While Natalie has worked to make sure the materials she uses are thoughtful, she has also worked hard to preserve heritage and crafting techniques from her hometown of Florence, Alabama that are becoming lost in the shuffle of a fast-paced fashion industry. Basing her company’s strong foundation in community employing local workers to hand stitch garments, publishing five books that combine her love of making food and fashion, launching a Factory Cafe, hosting making workshops all over the U.S., and collaborating with key responsible fashion players like Patagonia and Billy Reid has made her brand accessible from a number of angles.
How did a hand sewn garment business like Alabama Chanin that started in 2000 with cotton jersey fabric, become an empire and a name that falls so easily off the lips of many? Lots of hard work and perseverance, not to mention a whole town that loves you.
We caught up with Natalie to talk about her award as well as how Alabama Chanin is navigating the sustainable fashion map here in 2017.
You have long been labeled one of the greatest pioneers in sustainable fashion. How has that label changed for you over the years in terms of your approach to it?
If anything, it has provided the highest standard for me and for the company. To continue to always strive to be as transparent as possible, to keep the materials that we use as organic and local as possible – and to strive to inspire as many people as I can to do the same.
You’ve won the Positive Impact Award for Preserving Heritage & Craft, how important is it to reconnect people to knowing where things come from and how are you keeping your followers excited to keep learning?
Reconnecting people to acts of making and growing and learning is the only way to preserve heritage and craft. If we lose that, we lose the very skills that have allowed us to survive. There are so many other amazing businesses that have joined Alabama Chanin in this fight, educating individuals about how they can help is paramount.
Image: Rinne Allen
Of all the rabbit holes you could dive down in sustainable fashion and ethical fashion, what seems the one most important for you to explore right now? Why?
Repeatedly, we come back to materials and labor. These are the key components in creating any product and have such an extreme impact on planet and people.
When we interviewed you three years ago and asked what the mantra was that guides you, you said “Life is in the details. Every choice you make will impact the final product. Every step is meaningful, in your life and your business.”
Does this still hold true?
Absolutely. Alabama Chanin’s success is directly linked with the details of the business and its daily operations.