Looking back on 2015, it’s clear that this was the year of collaboration for Alabama Chanin. We expanded upon work that we have been creating with others for many years, added major new initiatives with new partners, and built upon our partnerships across all parts of our business. Partnership has always meant growth for Alabama Chanin—physical, fiscal, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional. As always, we want to thank each of you who made 2015 one of profound development—with more to come.
We introduced our Collection #29 that features brand new garment styles and stencils. Our design team drew inspiration from vintage books, patterns, and textiles to create unique silhouettes and colorways. The collection saw an extension of our hand painting technique—which we experimented with as part of our indigo dyeing processes. It also allowed us to introduce new techniques—like our triple-layered technique, new styles—like the versatile Half Skirt, and a new organic textile—French Terry.
We also updated and expanded on our line of Wardrobe Essentials, which includes a selection of both hand- and machine-sewn items that can be mixed and matched in a number of colors and classic silhouettes to fit your personal style and lifestyle. Use these as the basis for building your own sustainable wardrobe that will last you for many years.
In July, Natalie and Maggie took a cross-country train trip on the California Zephyr to San Francisco as they traveled to the Alabama on Alabama exhibit hosted by Heath Ceramics at their Boiler Room venue. The month-long exhibit featured work from Alabama Chanin, Butch Anthony, John Henry Toney, and Rinne Allen. It also featured one of many pop-up shops that traveled across this country this year, including stops in Austin, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Natalie was honored with an artist fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts that is allowing her to explore the source of creativity—and how each person’s approach may impact the final outcome. She has spoken to a wide range of artists on their creative processes, including Rinne Allen, Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics, Rosanne Cash, and Chef Anne Quatrano—with more to come in this series.
The Factory Café has been working hard to grow its offerings with a diverse menu and a new beer and wine license. The café continues to bring the community inside Alabama Chanin to share meals or to make things at our Sip + Sew (with a new scheduling to come in 2016) and First + Third Tuesday sewing and socializing gatherings. We continued our popular Friends of the Café Dinner Series, which brought in Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier to collaborate on a brunch to benefit Jones Valley Teaching Farm, Rob McDaniel of Springhouse Restaurant as part of a Piggy Bank fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Anne Quatrano as part of the Oxford American/Southern Makers dinner. This series brings nourishment to us in so many ways—sharing meals with old friends and new, and raising money for worthy causes. Look for more events in the coming year with incredible talents like Rodney Scott, Frank Stitt, Sean Brock, and more.
Regionally, we have partnered with Little River Sock Mill to make our custom line of Alabama Chanin socks and DPM Fragrance in Mississippi for our Alabama Chanin Grapefruit + Watercress candles. On a larger scale, we were also able to expand our longest collaboration—with Heath Ceramics—with our Indigo and Bird’s Nest patterns. They allowed us to take our experimentations in our indigo dye house and translate those into our expanding collection. The line includes new designs in many variations of the color indigo and introduced our newest Bird’s Nest etched pattern.
We had a unique opportunity to work with legend (and heroine) Stella Ishii and her company 6397, turning overstock from their production processes into one-of-a-kind throws, unlike anything we have ever made before. Also, Alabama Chanin was honored to continue working with Patagonia on the Truth To Materials project, reclaiming discarded Patagonia jackets into warm patchwork scarves. The Patagonia Worn Wear Repair Truck made a stop at Alabama Chanin back in September to repair well-worn and well-loved garments for free.
Perhaps our most ambitious and wide-spanning collaboration has been with Nest, a non-profit that works with artisans across the world to build sustainable businesses with a positive social impact. Our partnership with Nest, formed under Alabama Chanin’s educational arm, The School of Making, hopes to reverse the trend of outsourced manufacturing that has impacted our region for decades. With Nest’s partnership, we are expanding our Building 14 machine-manufacturing division and implementing training and education at The Factory. As we move forward, we want to create new opportunities for those in our community to learn new techniques and update their skill sets—so that we may once again be a strong force in America’s textile industry.
This year, we launched Alabama Studio Sewing + Patterns, which allows us to offer more new patterns than ever to home sewers. It provides instructions and suggestions on how to customize Alabama Chanin garments to fit your personal style or fit needs. We developed new and improved ways of delivering patterns to our DIY customers and have begun offering patterns never before sold to the public, like our Unisex T-Shirt and Natalie’s Apron.
All of this brings us back to our growing and evolving partnership through The School of Making with makers in the global community. As we have grown the educational arm of our business, we have seized as many opportunities as possible to broaden the circle of participants in the making process. This year, that includes the introduction of Host a Party. Anyone who wants to gather 6 or more friends can organize their own Alabama Chanin-style sewing party. Guests get a 20% discount off of their DIY kit and the host receives a kit for free, in exchange for providing sewing instructions and hospitality.
As we move into the New Year, join us for our upcoming Build a Wardrobe series, which will build upon the format we established with Swatch of the Month—but will help you customize one (or more) garments in each quarter of 2016. We also have a full slate of workshops planned, including one at Chateau Dumas in France, as well as new products for Cook + Dine and A. Chanin. New collaborations are in the works, and the possibility of working on a new book is on the calendar in the coming months.
Keep up with us throughout the year by following the Journal and signing up for our mailing list and monthly Newsletter—and here’s to a prosperous New Year for all.
Thank you for following along with us,
Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
P.S. – The grids shown above are a gallery of all of the promotional postcards our team made for The Factory and various events and programs over the course of the year. We’re proud of the beautiful year we’ve had and are excited about what the new year holds.
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