05 Sep 113: How Slow Fashion Pioneer Natalie Chanin Built Alabama Chanin + Where She’s Going Next
Natalie Chanin didn’t set out to build one of the most recognizable and beloved (not to mention multi-faceted) sustainable fashion brands out there today. In the beginning, all she wanted to do was produce 200 handsewn t-shirts. Soon, the longtime stylist was orchestrating a multimedia project that led her away from her career in New York and back home to Florence, Alabama to create the 2001 documentary Stitch and, next, her eponymous brand Alabama Chanin – and she’s been there ever since.
What began largely as an experiment in handmade clothing became a establishment-busting reaction to modern apparel production. Starting first with her supply chain, Natalie has built a company from the ground up that has gained respect for its US cotton sourcing and ethical employment practices in an industry nearly wiped out during the 1980’s. But she didn’t stop there. Today Alabama Chanin not only turns heads with its apparel, but draws fans to its Southern home base with its industrial-meets-ethereal retail showroom, maker workshops, factory tours and an organic cafe.
Listen to this week’s show for Natalie’s story, and I’m sure you’ll be as enamored of what she’s built as I am.
What you’ll learn
- How Natalie Chanin went from small town Alabama to build an international career in fashion and what brought her back again
- Why this slow fashion pioneer has decided machine made clothing isn’t the enemy after all
- What on earth possessed her to launch a restaurant (one of the toughest businesses to sustain) alongside a sustainable, independent fashion brand (not exactly known as a risk-free entrepreneurship path)
Why you’ll be inspired
Natalie has charted a path that came without a blueprint to create a business that is not only widely respected by fashion industry insiders (she was the winner of the 2013 CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge), but also operates with its own sustainable and transparent supply chain that is bringing jobs back to a community that was once considered the “t-shirt capitol of the world” for its role in textile production. Plus she’s done it all with the creativity and heart of an artist.
The thing you’ll tell your friends
Alabama Chanin isn’t just a place to shop. Visit the company’s Florence, Alabama compound to explore the retail showroom, factory tours, DIY textile workshops and a cafe whose slow food ethos mirrors the values of the brand.
Resource of the week
99% Invisible: Hosted by Roman Mars, Natalie’s favorite podcast is a must-listen for anyone fascinated with design and the untold stories of how it fits into our everyday lives.
Connect with Alabama Chanin
Website: Alabama Chanin
Also mentioned in this episode:
T-shirt motto: Air and Love