Tag Archives: Design

ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

Last fall, as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. The series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and the elevation of craft. Our conversation in January explored William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.

From Natalie:

When I started the company that Alabama Chanin has become today, I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish. At the time, I wouldn’t have identified that vision as a business model—but as the company expanded, I understood that I wanted to design and grow the business in a sustainable way. In a world of fast fashion, mass production, and machines, I wanted to design slowly and thoughtfully. I also wanted to promote skills that seemed to be vanishing, particularly hand-sewing skills—like those used by quilters.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ON DESIGN: WILLIAM MORRIS + ARTS AND CRAFTS

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: BEADED FACETS COAT

ALABAMA CHANIN – FROM THE ARCHIVES: BEADED FACETS COAT

This week, we take another look at the lives our clothes have led and the memories forever linked with them. For some reason, we associate memories with objects—or in this case, clothing. Every time I look inside, I think that my closet is, in a small way, some sort of prism through which I see the world.

Project Alabama Garment #17821
Built in September 2005
Pattern:  A-359 Long Coat
Stencil: Facets
Fabric: 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Outer layer color: Sapphire
Backing layer color: Black
Thread: Navy
Beads: Black bugle and chop
Sequins: Gun Metal
Seams: Inside felled
Knots: Inside
Size: Medium
Owner: Natalie Chanin

The Beaded Facets Coat was originally created for the Project Alabama Spring/Summer 2006 Collection, as you can see in the picture above left. It was presented in the first and only runway show we ever produced (thank you Gail Dizon, Jennifer Venditti, Lori Goldstein, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ruby Jane, and to UPS—who sponsored the show). I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that show made the cover of Women’s Wear Daily the next morning. I had to look three times to realize that it was actually the cover and not from the interior of the magazine. There were eventually 14 of these coats produced in both the Amber and Sapphire colorways shown above for Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey Atlanta, and a few special clients.

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DESIGN: PATRICK KELLY

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN: PATRICK KELLY

Last July, we explored Alabama’s fashion design history and, in our studio conversations about that post, we started asking one another about other designers that have emerged from the South. Dana Buchman, Pat Kerr, Johnny Talbot, and Wes Gordon all hail from states neighboring our own. When searching my brain for designers from Mississippi, the first that came to mind was Patrick Kelly.

Patrick stands out so significantly in my memory because he emerged as a designer of note in the 1980s and during my time in design school. He is, in many ways, a designer with sensibilities completely different from my own; he created body conscious garments with flamboyant embellishments. In other respects, we have a certain kinship, as he found ways to repurpose and recycle clothing into new garments. He also found inspiration in his community and neighbors, once telling People Magazine, “At the black Baptist church on Sunday, the ladies are just as fierce as the ladies at the Yves Saint Laurent haute couture shows.”

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN: PATRICK KELLY

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DIY COLLECTION: NEW T-SHIRTS

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY COLLECTION: NEW T-SHIRTS

We wrote earlier this week about scale and patterns, and how we reduced and enlarged our New Leaves stencil artwork to create graphic variations of the design. One of our projects that looks at scale is a series of  DIY Unisex T-shirts. The shirts feature our New Leaves stencil in five different sizes and can be worked in a variety of techniques including quilting, reverse appliqué, backstitch reverse appliqué, and negative reverse appliqué. We used a chain stitch for the DIY Mori and DIY Novus T-shirts, the first time this technique example has been shown in our DIY Sewing Kits.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY COLLECTION: NEW T-SHIRTS

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DESIGN + SCALE

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN + SCALE

I’ve been toying with the idea of scale and pattern recently. This thought arose because of a presentation I gave in March on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group. The talk was part of the monthly On Design Lecture Series that we host in our studio as staff development but is also open to our community as part of The School of Making educational programming. (It’s on hiatus for the summer, but we’ll let you know as soon as we start back.) Many of our young in-house designers are fascinated by the 1980s and wanted to know more about the design influences that fueled this era. I went to design school from 1983 to 1987, so this concept of 1980s design seemed appropriate and very exciting to revisit.

While unearthing my thoughts on the 80s, I realized that the most prominent design trend in my memory was Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group—the Italian design collective during the 80s who challenged the “established” rules of design. Their playful use of scale and pattern remain strong influences in design today (and my personal design aesthetic as well). While putting together the talk, I realized it had been such a long time since I played with scale. So, I pulled two gorgeous books on from my library: Ettore Sottsass Metaphors and Ettore Sottsass (which we also sell in the design section of our store as it is one of my all-time favorite books). Ettore Sottsass Metaphors sets the stage for playing with shapes in nature and Ettore Sottsass is incredibly inspiring for its illustration of scale, pattern, and color in design—aside from being one of the most beautiful books I own.

ALABAMA CHANIN – DESIGN + SCALE

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ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

ALABAMA CHANIN – ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

“I am a designer and I want to design things.”  – Ettore Sottsass

When Alabama Chanin started our MAKESHIFT conversation nearly three years ago, inspiration came from several places and sources. The core idea was, and still is, that through the gathering of like-minded folks (writers, designers, thinkers, artisans, creators) we could elaborate on the simple act of making—and find the point where design, craft, art, fashion, food, and DIY intersect.

The conversation at the first MAKESHIFT event in 2012 began with the study and discussion of an essay by Ettore Sottsass, titled “When I Was a Very Small Boy.” The essay (which was brought to our attention by Andrew Wagner) is about the act of making and embraces the idea that when we are young, we don’t have preconceived notions about what or how to make; we just do. And by doing, we learn. During MAKESHIFT, in keeping with the Sottsass essay, we embraced the act of working outside out of our comfort zones to try something new. By doing so, we can evolve together—by exploring, not thinking or judging.

Our On Design series allows us to have MAKESHIFT-based discussions on a local, community-based level—translated here. March’s On Design lecture was titled “1980 + The Memphis Group” and focused heavily on the work of Sottsass and his partner and fellow Memphis member, Barbara Radice. During my own design training, I began to study and follow the work of Sottsass—including his achievements with the Memphis Group during the 1980s. Sottsass founded the design collaborative in Milan, Italy. Barbara Radice elaborates on the group’s beginnings in this interview with Phaidon.com:

You should not imagine that we would sit around and actually talk about “the future of design”. There was a necessity of updating figurative language because what was around, as Ettore used to say, after a while felt like chewing cardboard. So you need a little mustard, don’t you? We were talking about life, and design was part of it. That is why they (the designs) were so intense and bright.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

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AGATHA WHITECHAPEL: PATCHWORK PHOTOS

Agatha WhitechapelFor many of us who call ourselves “mother”, there are two types of children in our lives: those that are born to us and those that come into our lives and become “ours” for life. For me, this was the case with Agatha Whitechapel, daughter of my dear friend (who I commonly refer to as, simply, “Whitechapel.”) I think of her as a version of her collages, fully realized – a lifelike composition of images pasted together to create a portrait. Adopted daughter to me; young girl grown up; mother of Elijah; photographer; and, finally, friend. Agatha cut her teeth in Europe of the 1990s, traversing between London and Vienna. Agatha’s school was the keen eye of her mother, music video film-sets, and the world of skateboards. When I met her, she was a 12-year-old girl, fascinated with hearing and telling elaborate stories. According to Agatha, she has taken her “childhood obsessions with fantasy and storytelling and turned them into visual explosions with as much colour, pop and pomp” as she can possibly fit into one picture.

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#FASHION

ALABAMA CHANIN – #FASHION

Like the rest of the world, the fashion industry has widely utilized Instagram (the photo sharing app with over 300 million users) to share insider glimpses into brands and lives, highlight the creative process, and find simple ways to connect to followers. Brands and consumers are sharing personal, visual “moments” in their lives (of course, perfectly oriented and filtered). In celebration of this relationship between the fashion industry and social media users, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) released their newest book, titled Designers on Instagram: #Fashion.

The book includes photos from CFDA designers (including Alabama Chanin), hand selected by the council and separated into five chapters, categorized by hashtags: #BehindtheSeams, #Selfies, #Inspiration, #Fashion, and #TBT (aka “Throwback Thursday,” for the uninitiated).

The colorful hardbound release is appropriately square shaped, like all Instagram photos. We think it’s a beautiful volume; the photos make you feel like a fashion insider, even if you are on your couch eating popcorn in your pajamas (no comment) or dressing a seven-year-old for school (or at least trying to dress a seven-year-old).

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LAUNCHING ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

LAUNCHING ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

Last Thursday we started shipping our newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns.  Stacks of books around the office moved quickly into boxes and off into the hands of readers.  Thank you for all your sweet notes of praise and excitement.  We find it equally exciting to move on to this next chapter.

Look for our post tomorrow on “How To Print a Pattern,” fresh DIY Kits—inspired by the new book—launch on Thursday, Friday our updated Resources page arrives with a new downloadable garment pattern and improved stencil design PDFs, and look for our (first-round) blog tour over the coming weeks, featuring Heather Ross, Anna Maria HornerKristine Vejar, Amy Herzog, Joelle Hoverson, and Amy Butler (in no particular order).

Once you’ve had the chance to open your box and digest the contents, let us know what you think. Looking forward to hearing from each and every one of you…

xoNatalie

LAUNCHING ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS