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
Fabric: 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Outer layer color: Sapphire
Backing layer color: Black
Beads: Black bugle and chop
Sequins: Gun Metal
Seams: Inside felled
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.
Once our garments are born and leave the nest, they have rich lives. At least that is what we hope—what we believe. We work hard to design and construct pieces that will last for many years and become heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. For owners of Alabama Chanin garments, it’s common that the garments are integrated into their lives for years and years. In celebration of this sentiment, we decided to highlight garments from our archives—and, where possible, to follow their journeys and see where they have landed.
My closet seemed the natural place to start, and so we begin with a very personal dress from my life:
Project Alabama Garment #5387
Built in August 2002
Pattern: A-67 Slip Dress (18 pattern pieces)
Stencil: 116 Star Flower
Fabric: Recycled T-shirts in shades of Navy
Seams: Outside Felled
Owner: Natalie Chanin
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.”
Love this shot of the Peasant Top from our last shoot with Rinne Allen. Be on the lookout for new additions to our current collection in the coming month…
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).
Over the years, and despite the fact that public speaking doesn’t come to me naturally, I’ve lectured at conferences and universities across the country and around the world. Invariably, during the question and answer section at the end of each talk, someone raises their hand and says, “I want to have a collection. What should I do?”
My answer has always been the same, “Get a copy of QuickBooks (or any accounting system) and a good accountant; make them both your friends.” You see, the truth is that you will spend much more time working on cash flow, and projections, and working in your business than you will designing and working on your business. (Unless you have a really good partner that runs the business for you.)
But, in the future, when I am asked that question, I will answer, read The Business of Fashion series “How To Set Up A Fashion Business.”
Pewter: a malleable metal alloy of tin, copper, antimony, bismuth and sometimes, silver or lead.
Early civilizations like the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans are known to have used this soft metal in jewelry and tableware.
It is a rich shade of gray that has remarkable depth and presence.
A commonly used material in the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts periods.
Molten and cast
Polished or tarnished
A lustrous silvery-grey with purple and umber highlights
For a limited time our A. Chanin Long Sleeve Scoopneck and A. Chanin Fitted Rib Tank are available in Pewter. Today only, enjoy 20% off all available colors of each style.
And visit our Collection for a range of styles in our color Pewter.
P.S.: Click for more inspiration: pewter table ware and decor from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s extensive online collection and Christie’s Auction House
“From a scientific point of view, it can be said he [Thoreau] documented for the first time how ecological succession works … The mechanism was animals and weather. Squirrels carry acorns so oak trees replace pine when the pines are cut down. And pine seeds blow over to replace the oak.” – Richard T. Forman
I started writing this piece about two weeks ago. I was talking about succession over trend with a colleague and she asked me to put down my thoughts about how that worked. And so I started…and as I was writing, the question of trend began to appear in the press and this story seems on one hand less important and on the other hand more important. I’ll let you be the judge. In any case, thank you for coming here. Thank you for reading:
There is a small stop at milepost 330.2 on the Natchez Trace Parkway called Rock Spring Nature Trail. I’ve been going to this spot on the Natchez Trace since I was a little girl. Perk, my maternal grandfather, used to take me (and all of the cousins) there en route to Colbert Ferry park on the “other side” of the Tennessee River from our home. From there, we would launch his small fishing boat and run the trotline of baited hooks for catfish (more on this boat and Perk’s trotline coming soon).
Rock Spring is a natural aquifer that merges with Colbert Creek where this nature trail now stands. The creek is a small, meandering stream of rare beauty (see the photo above)—named after George Colbert—who ran the Ferry that crossed the Tennessee River along the Trace before the days of a bridge.
I’ve been thinking a lot about trends recently. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about them a lot—for a very long time. Quite some time ago, I read a plaque in a National Park about ecological succession that changed the way I looked at trends forever (more on this next Tuesday).
You see, ecological (or biological) succession is the process by which a community (or a business) slowly evolves over time. The opposite of trend.
Recently, The Business of Fashion published an article titled, “Do Fashion Trends Still Exist?” and I started thinking more.
And then, on the cover of the newest T Magazine’s Spring Women’s Fashion 2015—which was issued this past Sunday—there is a title that reads, “& the Post-Trend World of Fashion.”
On page 96, Deborah Needleman’s Editor’s Letter is titled, “The End of Trend.” She writes, “We live in what appears to be a post-trend fashion world — with no clear guidelines for our sartorial choices and an endless array of options. New shows and collections seem to be springing up constantly throughout the year, consumed hungrily and instantaneously around the world on a variety of platforms before the editors have even filed out the doors. So inundated are we with images that we’d be bored to tears with any single trend by the time it hit stores.”
She continues: “The solution is to rely on our own instincts, which is something that many of the women featured in this issue — musicians, writers, artists, Bjork! — have in common: an ability to filter myriad influences to create an unmistakable personal voice.”
“…an ability to filter myriad influences to create an unmistakable personal voice.”
The choice of style over trend.
The choice of your own voice over the voice of an authority.
The voice of the individual.
And so my thoughts on succession and how a collection—a style—should grow slowly over time emerge again.
Today is Tuesday. Today I’m inspired.
Today there are new pieces added to Collection #26 (and more coming next week).
Today I will ______ (fill in your blank).
Today—by Mary Oliver
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.