Building 14 is Alabama Chanin’s machine-made design and manufacturing division. It is a callback to the early days of our region within the history of American textile manufacturing.
Building 14 machine manufacturing, officially born in 2013, is a natural expansion of our hand-sewn ethos and part of the Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses. The concept is inspired by our community’s history of manufacturing, led by companies like t-shirt manufacturer Tee Jays and others which, throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, employed thousands in our region. As those companies were forced to close as a result of the NAFTA legislation, an entire skillset began to fade away, and we wanted to both honor those skills and adapt them for the future.
Tee Jays is well-known in our community for creating a family atmosphere and that is something we always aspire to at Alabama Chanin. The building where the entirety of The Factory lives was once part of the Tee Jays facility (their plant #14) – one of the largest, thriving manufacturing locations in the region. It is an honor for us to turn the machines on each morning and hear their productive humming.
Our goal in creating Building 14 is to honor our history and our community, but also to once again bring about machine innovation – in a new and sustainable way as we look to the future of manufacturing.
The pieces of our collections that are produced here, and the masks that are currently being sewn, one at a time, are part of this long tradition of manufacturing. There is as much craft and skill behind every machine-sewn piece that leaves The Factory as there is with each of our handmade items. During this time of great distress, know that each of our items is made in a sanitary, safe environment with many precautions in place to ensure the highest measures of safety.
For two decades, we have carefully balanced our supply chain with lean method manufacturing to produce each piece one at a time, made to order. This ensures we deliver the best possible product to our guests and utilize our raw materials in the most sustainable and effective way. Every day we look for better ways to reduce and eliminate waste in our production process for both hand and machine-made. This helps us operate our business in a lean, sustainable manner as we continually search for ways to utilize every fabric scrap and only produce what is needed.
The Alabama Chanin design team develops both our hand- and machine-made styles and has collaborated with companies and designers like Patagonia, Billy Reid, Stella Ishii, Heath Ceramics, and Elizabeth Suzann to make products in Building 14. Each of our team members at The Factory has been integral to our manufacturing growth, particularly now that we have pivoted our manufacturing capabilities to serve in the fight against COVID-19. It is with great pride that we sew face masks as well as all of our Alabama Chanin products at this time.
Our face mask production progress is being documented on ProjectThreadways.org. Founded in 2019 as a 501(c)(3), Project Threadways records, studies, and explores the history of the textiles. The organization utilizes Alabama Chanin’s experience and Natalie’s vision through academic partnerships and programing where the findings are shared with the public. There is a critical need for PPE manufacturing at this moment and for the documentation of this time. Both Alabama Chanin and Project Threadways are actively addressing these important subjects.