From top left: Luna Rae Top in White Gold Palm; The Willie Top in Blue Slate; Waffle Caftan in Natural; Lightweight Organic Cotton Face Mask in Black; Left and bottom right: Lee Dress, 2017; Top right: Chandler Jacket and Austin Skirt, 2018 by Natalie Chanin for Alabama Chanin from The Women who Revolutionized Fashion: 250 Years of Design, 2020 by Peabody Essex Museum in collaboration with Kunstmuseum Den Haag and Rizzoli Electa, edited by Petra Slinkard (pages 128–129); Hable Suns Apron collaboration with Hable Construction; The Slip Dress in Black; Lee Bontecou in her studio from Lee Bontecou, 2017 by Benno Tempel, Laura Stamps, Jeremy Melius, and Joan Banach (pages 4–5); Venus + Palm Top in Wax/Watercolor; “Buckeye Light Drawing” by Rinne Allen; “Natalie wearing a Sapphire Luna Rae Top in her kitchen with Heath Ceramics”, 2019 by Rinne Allen; The Sloane Top in Blue Slate, The Polo in Natural, and Elle Skirt in Blue Slate; Left: “Untitled (Big Sea #1)“; Right: “Untitled (Big Sea #2)“, 1969 by Vija Celmins from Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory, 2018 by Ian Alteveer for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Yale University Press (pages 82–83); Reusable Non-Medical Grade Face Mask; The Jogger in Black; Venus + Palm Top in Navy/Watercolor and The Gilded Pant in Nickel; Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas (pages 90–91); Virginia Top in Black/Gilded Black; The Waffle Sweatshirt and The Jogger in Concrete; Ruth Asawa, 2018 by Robert Storr and Tiffany Bell; The Florence Collection fabric detail in Concrete.
We’ve been publishing a yearly review on the Journal since 2011. This annual celebration has allowed us to recap the year, acknowledge our accomplishments, and give thanks to the friends, family, community, collaborators, and guests who helped us make it all possible. This year, we especially want to acknowledge our team who showed up in so many ways and showed us what it truly means to be committed.
Our business was fortunate this year to keep our operations running during the COVID-19 pandemic. We often refer to Alabama Chanin a “design build” company. This means we design and produce, or manufacture, our own garments and goods. At the onset of the pandemic, we pivoted our Building 14 manufacturing division to produce face masks which allowed us to stay in operation, and we continue to offer those mask designs today. Throughout the year, we have prioritized the safety of our team and guests, and we continue to take extra measures to maintain a healthy workspace.
Every day our team has worked in service to one another, our suppliers and partners, and our guests. Building 14 and our entire team powered through the influx of mask orders we received early in the pandemic, working diligently and thoughtfully to fulfill orders as quickly as possible, while our guest experience team created meaningful relationships in the midst of this devastating year.
In 2020, as every year, we looked at who we are as a company and committed ourselves to our existing mission statement while also starting our next 10-year vision, setting goals for the next decade in sustainability and community. Through our benefit initiatives, we were able to support community-building organizations like Equal Justice Initiative and Project Say Something. We also partnered with basic., a Birmingham-based shop committed to socially responsibility, to create a limited-edition Rosa Parks Tee that benefited the Equal Justice Initiative.
As a company, our response to this year has been to continue living our mission more deeply, being stewards of sustainability, seeking inspiration in the work of others while sharing our own, listening honestly with open eyes and hearts to every story, and coming together to support those in need in every way we can with the resources we have available.
At the beginning of 2020, we set out to celebrate 20 years of sustainable design. This anniversary marks 20 years since Natalie first cut apart and stitched together a jersey t-shirt that brought her home to her community of Florence, Alabama. This work and move led to Alabama Chanin’s founding. Our celebration will continue into 2021 (more to come), but right now we are recognizing our collections and designs from this year.
We focused on self-care early in 2020—sharing about Enneagram, yoga and retreat, and yes, even coffee. This theme of self-care became a mantra for us all year. The pandemic and work-from-home movement changed the way we shop, and we focused on style paired with comfort at home. Our Leisure Collection, which is now a part of the Alabama Chanin Collection and Core Essentials, drew inspiration from artists Vija Celmins, Lee Bontecou, and Rinne Allen.
Our Watercolor Collection of specialty painted fabrics introduced a light and airiness at the beginning of the summer. To follow was our Summer of Color Collection, which celebrated diversity along with stories on the Journal about The Stonewall Uprising and We Are Everywhere.
We transitioned into fall with the Liminal Collection, representing fresh and modern hand-crafted designs. The Florence Collection debuted on the CFDA’s Runway360 platform in September. This collection, which is our current Collection, pays homage to Natalie’s 20 years of sustainable design and her roots in our community. The holiday season re-introduced our Reclaimed Down Scarf collaboration with Patagonia and a new collaboration with Hable Construction. Our Building 14 team worked on the production of these designs along with the Alabama Chanin collection designs and face masks. Our artisans supported hand-sewing and embroidering the garments in each collection this year.
Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, featured Natalie and Alabama Chanin in her book, which explores the heart of the modern fashion world. Natalie spoke about our sustainable business practices on the American Fashion Podcast, The Good Dirt Podcast, and American Podcasts. And currently, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is hosting the exhibition Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion until March 14, 2021. Alabama Chanin is featured in both the exhibit and the accompanying book, The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion: 250 Years of Design.
In our #ThoseWhoInspireUs series, we looked to artists Emma Amos and Ruth Asawa, designer and activist Ruth Clement Bond, activists Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and Jo Ann Robinson for inspiration throughout the year.
From top left: The Shirt Bundle in Natural; Color Palette Bundle #4; “Original Corset” from the Alabama Chanin archives; Color Blocked A-Line Dress Bundle; Left: “Group IV The Ten Largest, No. y, Adulthood”; Right: “Group IV The Ten Largest, No. 8, Adulthood” from The Untitled Series, 1907 by Hilma af Klint. Photograph from Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, 2018 by Tracey Baskhoff for The Guggenheim (pages 112–113); Abstract Gold Organic Cotton Swatch; Abstract Peacock A-Line Tunic Kit; Color card from Little Green Paint & Paper from 2020: The Year of Color; The Trench Bundle in Black; The Shirt Bundle in Natural and The Pencil Skirt Kit in Abstract Forest/Forest; Color Palette Bundle #2; Swatch of the Month 2021 subscription program; Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, 2015 by Natalie Chanin; Abstract Ballet/White Fabric Swatch in Reverse Appliqué from the Cropped Car Jacket Kit; Bead Mix #1; Embroidery Floss in assorted colors; Inspiration for Color Palette Bundle #4; Workshops from The School of Making; Color Palette Bundle #3; Vitamin T: Threads and Textiles in Contemporary Art by Jenelle Porter; Abstract Peacock Fabric Swatch from The Embroidered Swing Skirt Kit.
The School of Making
The School of Making celebrated a Year of Color, our year-long exploration of creativity and color, with quarterly Color Palette Bundles inspired by creatives and artists like Li Edelkoort, Josef Albers, and Alma Thomas. This extensive programming offered endless possibilities for design experimentation with colors, techniques, and projects.
The A-Line Dress and Corset were released as their own stand-alone patterns, and The School of Making team created projects like the Color Blocked A-Line Dress, Baby Doll Corset Top, and DIY Sister Shirts from each design.
We paired our organic fabrics with patterns and notions to create bundles that provided the resources to complete a hand-sewn garment: the popular The Shirt Bundle, The Trench and Peacoat Bundles, and the T-Shirt Top and Swing Skirt Bundles featuring our printed organic cotton jersey fabric.
Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns received a new cover and fresh look early in the year as we continue working with Abrams books to update the Studio Book Series.
The online subscription learning platform, Bluprint, is now Craftsy, its original moniker. Natalie teaches three sewing classes here: Swing Skirt Techniques & Construction, Creative Embellishments, and The New Embroidery. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we sought out inspiration from talented artists and designers, sewed #togetherapart, and created new learning experiences in the form of Virtual Workshops. (Find new dates for 2021 here.)
Our guest services team created virtual connections with many of you this year while The Factory Store was closed. Communication and experiences may have looked different, but we are always committed to providing exceptional service. In November, The Factory Store safely opened to our visitors and community, and we hosted a holiday artisan market featuring artists and artisans and a wine tasting. We are planning more events safely in 2021. Stay tuned.
Project Threadways had planned to host their annual symposium at The Factory in April 2020, but chose to postpone it to 2021. The team is planning a virtual experience on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Save the date and look to projectthreadways.org for future announcements and registration opportunities coming soon.
As we create meaningful work with intention that honors who we are as a company, we are grateful for each of you for being on this journey with us. Here’s to looking ahead…