Tag Archives: Sustainability

ALABAMA CHANIN – PATAGONIA WORN WEAR

PATAGONIA WORN WEAR

Early on in the life of Alabama Chanin, Natalie had the opportunity to visit the Ventura, California offices of Patagonia. That visit, along with a copy of founder Yvon Chouinard’s manifesto, Let My People Go Surfing, opened all of our eyes to the fact that it is possible to create a healthy workplace, make products responsibly, produce things that are meant to last, and still stay in business. (Or, at any rate, that is certainly our goal…) Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles shows the origins of Patagonia products and materials. Their supply chain is completely transparent, and directly inspired Alabama Chanin to document and publish our own supply chain.

Another Patagonia program that we’ve loved is Worn Wear, which documents stories of garments used, reused, repaired, and recycled. (You can read stories of individuals and their garments at the Worn Wear blog.) The Worn Wear program helps garment owners maintain their gear for as long as possible through product care and repair services. It also provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments that are beyond repair.

ALABAMA CHANIN – PATAGONIA WORN WEAR

As the Patagonia team puts it, the biggest step we can take to reduce our impact is to do more with what we have. Repeated laundering, ironing, and drying can shorten a garment’s life, just as much as wearing them—so they offer tips for cleaning and care to extend the garment’s life cycle. But, if a garment gets excessively worn, Patagonia urges owners not to toss it, but instead repair it—or send it to them for repair. You can find easy-to-read repair guides on their website. Or, you can ship an item back to Patagonia to be repaired. The company employs 45 full-time repair technicians at their service center in Reno, Nevada. It’s the largest repair facility in North America—completing about 30,000 repairs per year.

Garments that are not salvageable can be returned to Patagonia (postage paid) to be recycled into new fiber, or repurposed. Since 2005, they have taken back over 82 tons of clothing for recycling. Our collaboration with Patagonia used just these cast-offs to create scarves from repurposed material.

ALABAMA CHANIN – PATAGONIA WORN WEAR

Patagonia’s Worn Wear Repair Truck is currently on its fall tour (and upcoming stops can be tracked here). The truck and the Patagonia repair crew will be at The Factory for a special two-day event. On Friday, September 18 from 9:00am – 5:00pm and Saturday, September 19 from 10:00am – 4:00pm, we invite you to bring your well worn, well loved garments—of any brand—to be repaired for free by the Patagonia team. As they say, “If it’s broke, we fix it.”

We will offer regular lunch service at The Factory Café on Friday and a brunch taco stand with other sweet and savory items on Saturday. Alabama Chanin’s School of Making will sponsor a DIY mending station with thread and cotton jersey fabric scraps. Patagonia will also have DIY garments that if you can fix, you can take them home. Click here for more information on the event or visit the Worn Wear site for information on Patagonia.

ALABAMA CHANIN – PATAGONIA WORN WEAR

*All images Courtesy of Patagonia

ALABAMA ON ALABAMA

ALABAMA TO CALIFORNIA

THE STORY
Alabama on Alabama is a month-long journey to the soul of the Modern South, held in the Boiler Room and showroom at Heath in San Francisco. Refined, raw and radical, the Modern South connects place, people, process, and tradition in a way that cuts across geography and time. From July 24, 2015, the Boiler Room will exhibit the work of the widely acclaimed and celebrated textile artist, designer, and slow design pioneer Natalie Chanin. It will also include work by Butch Anthony, best known for his “intertwangled” paintings and creations using found objects and materials, and works on paper by outsider artist Mr. John Henry Toney. Alabama on Alabama will also feature the work of frequent Natalie Chanin collaborator and photographer Rinne Allen. Visit boilerroomsf.com to learn more.

Home---Blue-Plates---One-of-a-Kind-Indigo---Robert-Rausch-(16)
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SUPPLY CHAINS: A COMMITMENT TO COTTON

SUPPLY CHAINS: A COMMITMENT TO COTTON

According to Wikipedia, supply chain is defined as “a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.” At Alabama Chanin we strive to responsibly produce quality, sustainable products—at every level of the supply chain. We believe that responsibility means transparency and understanding where each material comes from and whose hands it touches before it arrives to the end consumer. For over a decade, we have worked tirelessly to secure a supply chain that is, as much as is humanly possible, Made in the USA.

With events like the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, consumers are asking questions about how and where their clothes are made. We’ve noticed an increase in emails, phone calls, and questions about our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric—and we welcome those questions. In response, we have compiled all the information here. Each time we take a closer look into our supply chain, we discover something new. This is the projected course of our supply chain in the best case scenario, which is often altered by Mother Nature. Unfortunately, there are always circumstances out of our control, so we share this information with that in mind. As of 2015, this is every step of the supply chain for our medium-weight cotton jersey—from Texas, to the Carolinas, to Alabama. Look for more posts on supply chain for threads, beads, and our other notions coming soon.

SUPPLY CHAINS: A COMMITMENT TO COTTON

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ALABAMA CHANIN – FROM THE ARCHIVES: BLUE STARBURST DRESS

FROM THE ARCHIVES: STARBURST DRESS

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
Thread: Navy
Knots: Inside
Size: Medium
Owner: Natalie Chanin

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ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

I first heard of Jones Valley Teaching Farm around 2003. The farm was still a small plot of land located close to The Garage, in Birmingham, Alabama. I drove down one cold winter day to have lunch with (then director) Edwin Marty. There was one hoop house, and running water, and not much else—yet. It was ambitious, and it felt like the beginning of something special.

Later, I heard much more from Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis and chef Drew Robinson. Those two so fully believe in the farm’s mission and methods that they back up their beliefs with fundraisers and hands-on support. I am also convinced that the organization can make real difference in the community.

Since my first visit in 2003, Jones Valley Teaching Farm has grown and moved to downtown Birmingham. Since 2007, the organization has expanded their farm and their scope with a focus on educating students, visitors, and community gardeners on how to grow real, healthy food. Today, the farm is a hub of downtown green. The farmers on site use both established sustainable and experimental practices, with the goal of developing a flourishing ecosystem in the heart of a bustling city. They currently grow over 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowers and offer their produce for sale on-site and at local farmers’ markets—generating over $45,000 in sales in 2014 alone.

ALABAMA CHANIN – JONES VALLEY TEACHING FARM

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CANNING CALENDAR

CANNING CALENDAR

The process of canning and preserving is just one of the “living arts” that we are thrilled to see making a comeback. This year at The Factory Café, we have set ourselves the goal to “put-up” as much of the bounty of summer as we possibly can. (Not to mention my plans for my own backyard.) Our kitchen staff is constantly searching for ways to further source organic and local ingredients. Part of that solution means growing herbs, tomatoes, and other vegetables on-site; canning as much locally grown produce is another.

Last summer we made my Gram Perkins’ recipe for 14-Day Pickles for our café Egg Salad and, unfortunately, ran out of pickles by November. This coming summer we plan to, well, make better plans.

We are starting with the canning calendar below to save our harvest at its peak and preserve only the freshest garden fare. (Please note, the calendar below is tailored for the Southeastern U.S., but you can look for more specific information on your region or zone on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website.)

Find more information and resources on home canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. We also recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for further inspiration.

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THE FATBACK PIG PROJECT

THE FATBACK PIG PROJECT

Being intimate with the obstacles of implementing Slow Design, we are inspired by how the Slow Food movement has successfully encouraged us to pay attention to the food we eat, where it comes from, and how it is produced. And, it’s beautiful—and even more inspiring—how the conversation has quickly moved beyond the concepts of sustainable farming and organic produce to sustainable livestock farming and animal husbandry. Will Harris of White Oak Pastures has been a leader in the crusade to raise livestock using traditional, multi-species grazing rotation, with no hormones and antibiotics since the mid-1990s.

It’s been said that it is not necessary to be a “pig” in order to raise one. These days, our friends at the Fatback Pig Project are proving just that by producing sustainable pork right here in the state of Alabama. This initiative, initially formed as a collaboration among Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q co-founder Nick Pihakis, chef Donald Link, John Michael Bodnar, and Mike Bodnar, is working to create a network of Fatback Farms—farms that produce heritage breeds of pigs.

THE FATBACK PIG PROJECT

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BLUEWATER CREEK FARM

BLUEWATER CREEK FARM

Each week, as the Factory Café staff puts together our menu, they take into consideration the produce and meats available to them from our local farms and merchants. We have developed long-time relationships with growers like Jack-O-Lantern Farms, who provide us with homegrown, seasonal vegetables—using no pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic nutrients. In recent months, we have also begun working with Bluewater Creek Farm, a family-owned sustainable farm in nearby Killen, Alabama.

BLUEWATER CREEK FARM

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ASANTE SANA

In March of this year, we unexpectedly received an email with the subject line, “Asante Sana (Thank You) from Kenya!” It was sent by a woman named Nirvana, who is part of a team working to empower rural Kenyans with life and entrepreneurial skills. It seems that their goal is to inspire people to challenge the current social and cultural systems that tend to keep rural Kenyans impoverished. Read part of Nirvana’s first email to us:

Dear Alabama Chanin,  

You inspired 39 rural Kenyan women and men to start a tailoring class to learn hand sewing! They thought they had to have a sewing machine to learn tailoring. They also thought only poor people sewed by hand!

My American team and I are living in rural Kenya to teach Kenyans how to move beyond survival entrepreneurship. When so many community members said they wanted a tailoring class, I had to get creative. I knew there had to be a way to empower these youth without having to buy or find at least 20 sewing machines. So I Googled “hand sewing.” Of course, that led me to Natalie and Alabama Chanin!

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ALABAMA COTTON REVISITED

ALABAMA COTTON REVISITED

A warm “thank you” to Debbie Elliott and everyone at National Public Radio for their story about our collaboration with Billy Reid on Alabama grown cotton.

And, thank you to K.P. and Katy McNeill, Erin Dailey, and Lisa and Jimmy Lenz—they all know how to dream big (and work hard to get there).

If you haven’t heard this piece yet, you can listen online here.

REVIVING A SOUTHERN INDUSTRY, FROM COTTON FIELD TO CLOTHING RACK
National Public Radio, October 10, 2014

You’ve probably heard of “farm to table,” but how about “field to garment”? In Alabama, acclaimed fashion houses Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid have a new line of organic cotton clothing made from their own cotton field.

It’s not just an experiment in keeping production local; it’s an attempt to revive the long tradition of apparel-making in the Deep South. North Alabama was once a hub for textile manufacturing, with readily available cotton and access to cheap labor. But the industry all but disappeared after NAFTA became law, as operations moved overseas.

Now, Sue Hanback is again working a sewing machine in a cavernous building that was once part of the biggest cut-and-sew operation in Florence, Ala.

“I’m gonna five-thread this shirt,” she explains, stitching cuffs onto an organic-cotton sweatshirt.

Hanback was last laid off in 2006 when this was a T-shirt factory. Her husband worked in the dye house. She’s been a seamstress all her life.

“Ever since I was 18 years old,” Hanback says. “So that was like, 48 years.”

ALABAMA COTTON REVISITED

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