A big “thank you” to Laird Borrelli-Persson and Vogue for sharing a preview of our upcoming Collection. They recently spoke with Natalie about her work and 20 years of defining sustainability.
“We’ve worked our row and we’re still here,” said Alabama Chanin at her presentation in New York. As her brand approaches the 20-year mark, the designer and her team have been cataloging their archive for a future donation. “It felt like an interesting time to peek back at some of that work that came early on,” said Chanin. “I think we will continue to look back and forward at the same time.”
Whatever direction Chanin takes, she’ll always come out in the lead. The truth is that the industry is just beginning to wake up to issues this designer, a pioneer of slow fashion, has been addressing for decades. A good chunk of Fashionopolis, Dana Thomas’s book on the state of fashion in relation to sustainability, is devoted to Alabama Chanin. The designer and businesswoman looks at the subject from the angles of material, culture, and community.
The fall 2020 collection was signature Chanin, with some new twists, like hand-painted fabrics that had sheen and a firm hand. Though the silhouettes were simple and would fit easily into different wardrobes, these were pieces for individualists with an eye for detail and an appreciation for the craftwork that went into a hand-pieced and topstitched trench coat, say, or a cotton top with foliate embroidery. These are trend-resistant items that are about materials, skill, and the hands that made them. “Maybe it’s not enough to be sustainable just in terms of your material,” mused Chanin, who believes in the value of quality-keeper clothes.
As 80 percent of the Alabama Chanin line is made in the United States through a completely unbroken chain, and it’s possible to read a homespun quality into some of the pieces, it’s worth asking Chanin if there is anything particularly American about her brand. “That’s an interesting question,” she said. “When we were selling at Barneys, we were always hanging in the Japanese area, so it would be like: Undercover, Issey Miyake, Alabama Chanin, Comme des Garçons. I definitely think there is an American influence, but I also think there’s something about it that doesn’t feel American.” Good design has nothing to do with borders, and really there’s no need to fly the flag when you are busy enacting change. That Chanin, she’s true blue.