Alabama Chanin was born a decade ago with just three employees. From the beginning, we were committed to a few central ideals, among them the importance of producing ethically and responsibly and the value of community. We were embraced by our community and we grew – opening The Factory in 2008.
That same year, Natalie published the first of four (and counting) Studio Books, Alabama Stitch Book. Our DIY arm – Alabama Studio Style D.I.Y. emerged organically from the response to that book and those that followed: Alabama Studio Style, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, and Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. Our maker community continues to grow and it inspired us to launch The School of Making in 2014, which oversees Alabama Chanin’s ever-evolving educational programming.
In November 2013, we opened The Factory Café and slowly developed it into the sustainable dining space it is today, featuring a menu that evolves with the seasons and what our local purveyors have to offer. The café is home to our Friends of the Café Dinner Series, which allows us to bring nationally-recognized chefs and food experts into our community. Around the same time we opened our café, we also opened our Alabama Chanin flagship store here in The Factory – which has also grown and expanded over time.
After a few years of experimentation and steady growth, we launched our machine-made line in 2014. This collection of garments and home goods has expanded each year, and is part of our long-term plan for creating sustainable goods at a lower price point. This year, that line will fold into the Alabama Chanin collection as we’ve learned what it means to make things by machine, by hand, and in keeping with the tenets of Slow Fashion. We have also worked diligently to secure a supply chain that we can trust. As a way to assist other designers who need help in those same areas, we established Building 14 Design + Manufacturing Services. We use the breadth of our production to facilitate collaboration and work with a range of other designers who believe in community, sustainable supply chains, and quality production.
As we developed the Building 14 arm of our Family of Businesses, we created a partnership between The School of Making and Nest, the non-profit organization that partners with artisans across the world to help establish and grow businesses that have social and economic impact. Central to this partnership was the plan to educate our local community in modern manufacturing techniques, in our best effort to reverse the trend of outsourced manufacturing.
The first joint action we took with Nest was hiring a Production Coordinator Trainer to work in the Building 14 facility and educate machine operators and production facilitators to work at state-of-the-art production facilities and to train future workers in the same skills. This is how Deborah Palmer Keiser came into our lives.
Deborah has been involved in the business of fashion at almost every level and has seen its inner workings from many viewpoints: fashion publishing, modeling, design, manufacturing, product development, sales, distribution, and consulting; she has designed her own line of garments and has managed production and vertical retailing at major label and big box retailers. She understands the steps involved in creating and leading on both a small and large scale, which gives her a unique and valuable perspective on how to grow and advance – in relationship building, production processes, and in product quality.
And so we are over-the-moon to introduce Deborah as the new president of Alabama Chanin. She will be assuming some of the company’s day-to-day operations and will help prepare the company, and our entire family of businesses, for sustainable growth—allowing Natalie more time to focus on designing and leading the company as creative director. “I see the opportunity for Alabama Chanin to grow in size, but more importantly, to grow in influence and presence,” she says. “It is a brand that has established itself, its principles, and practices and that has fully engaged people – customers and employees – by offering them a product and a vision that they want.” We are thrilled to add Deborah to our organization and excited for the future. Look for more on Deborah soon and welcome her to the growing Alabama Chanin family.