2021 marks the tenth year of our annual review, looking back on the highlights, and accomplishments, of the past year.
We are grateful for the opportunity to do what we love for another year—being stewards of sustainability, sharing inspiration, creating designs and experiences with our family, friends, colleagues, and guests. We recognize that many of the trials and challenges of 2020 did not end at the turn of the year and that 2021 has brought a range of experiences to all of us.
We’ve learned the value of community from over twenty years of business. And while we are deeply rooted in the history of and work that takes place in our community in northwest Alabama, we believe that community is much more than a physical place. Community creates meaningful connections and a sense of belonging across all borders. We express our deepest gratitude to all who have joined along and supported our journey for the past 21 years. None of this would be possible without our generous, and growing, community. We cannot thank you enough.
We’ve set some big goals for the next year in sustainability (and community) and can’t wait to share them with you in 2022.
Here’s a look back at 2021.
2021 ushered in updates and announcements for the Alabama Chanin collections. Throughout the first half of the year, we offered a new Core Club, new size offerings to our guest-favorite Waffle Sweatshirt, and showed a lot of love for our popular Love Tee. Under Natalie’s creative direction, the Alabama Chanin production, design, and media teams spent the better half of nine months conceptualizing and developing a new website that launched in March, coinciding with a new Collection. The Soften Collection offered a preview of modern silhouettes and classic embroideries from our archives.
Throughout the second half of the year, we collaborated on capsule collections with a handful of artists and designers from whom we have found endless inspiration.
In May, we created a collection of naturally dyed garments with Botanical Colors and their founder Kathy Hattori. (Find these styles in our Core Essentials.) Our Summer of Color collection also featured these designs alongside vibrant and limited-edition colorways for the summer months.
Introduced in August, the Permission to Wander Collection was a collaboration with our friend and muse, Rinne Allen and featured hand-painted designs and artisan-made objects to inspire (and carry along for) the journey. Read the story, written by Rinne, for The Bitter Southerner, that inspired the collection here. The styles in the collection were hand-painted with a botanical-inspired stencil. The colorways evolved and two designs—the Flora Waffle Sweatshirt and Flora Waffle Skirt —can now be found in the 21 Year Collection.
Our biggest and most proud piece of work was (and still is) the 21 Years Celebration. On September 21, 2021—twenty-one years to the day—we began a celebration of Natalie’s journey in sustainable design. Over three months, we’ve released interviews, archival photography, and stories from Natalie’s friends and colleagues that span her career. This celebration honors our collaborators, team, friends, community, artisans, and those that have inspired Natalie and Alabama Chanin through their work and partnerships over the decades.
The month of September also included Natalie’s 60th birthday, and to commemorate the occasion, Natalie created a design scholarship at her alma mater, North Carolina State University. With the help of a similar scholarship, received at a critical time in her studies, Natalie was able to successfully complete her design education and graduate with honors in 1987. In gratitude, the Natalie Chanin Design Scholarship provides need-based scholarships for students pursuing an undergraduate degree in the College of Design at North Carolina State University. Preference will be given to students with a demonstrated interest in textile design who have overcome specific challenges including, but not limited to, being from the first generation in their family to attend college and/or being in or from a single-parent household. Donate to the Natalie Chanin Design Scholarship here.
Coinciding with the 21 Years Celebration was the launch of the 21 Year Collection, featuring designs from the archives that are symbolic of Natalie’s journey. View the designs here.
We released a Zero Waste Collection crafted from organic fabric scraps and reclaimed down. Each garment is stitched together with unique, one-of-a-kind variations that cannot be recreated. These styles are a testament to our sustainable practices.
Also inspired by 21 Years Celebration, we collaborated with Diane Weymar of Tiny Pricks Project to create 21 one-of-a-kind jackets. Each jacket is embroidered with 21 verses that reflect on Natalie’s 21 year journey and tell a story of creative pursuit and the art of making. The hand-inscribed verses adorn each jacket in a unique configuration. Read the verses here and explore the collection.
More company-wide news included updates to our supply chain. In June, in addition to our American-grown, organic fabrics, we began offering an extra-long staple cotton fabric—also American-grown—which supports additional growers at Supima®. Learn more about those supply chain updates and how to find them on our website.
The School of Making
In January, The School of Making relaunched Swatch of the Month, the popular sewing subscription program for design explorations and embroidery technique practice and development. Collaborations with creatives, making brands, artists, and organizations were featured throughout the year with exclusive newsletter content and DIY kits released each month. Collaborators included Purl Soho, Named Clothing, Rosanne Cash + Dan Rizzie, A Verb for Keeping Warm, Lady Farmer, Madelinetosh, Hambidge Center for Creative Arts, Fancy Tiger Crafts, and FABSCRAP.
In addition to creating over 25 new DIY kits, the development team curated new Studio Bundles. These fabric color palettes with accompanying notions were designed to help with color experimentation and to pair with Swatch of the Month designs.
We were able to again safely meet in person to host our sewing workshops at The Factory. Building on the virtual learning experiences we created in 2020, we continued to offer these workshop options throughout the year to connect with even more makers. (Look ahead to our 2022 schedule here.)
We also partnered with Crafter (previously known as The Crafter’s Box) to bring a new project that teaches our fundamental hand-sewing techniques. The Hand-Stitched Appliqué Workshop led by our founder and creative director, Natalie, is an exploration in hand-sewing, teaching the techniques and stitches that we use each day in our work at The School of Making.
Last holiday season, The Factory reopened and continued to safely provide experiences to our visitors and community throughout 2021. Our committed guest services team worked with many of you building relationships and offering support in the decision-making process by providing guidance on custom garments, fit, styling, and alterations. We began to offer a complimentary service of adjusting hemlines along the sleeve and body up to 3” to allow for a more customized fit.
In partnership with Alabama Chanin and the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, Project Threadways hosted their annual symposium in April. The virtual experience allowed participants and guests from across the world to gather and discuss “textiles across time and place.” Save the date on April 21-23, 2022 for the next Project Threadways Symposium and look for future announcements and registration opportunities coming soon at projectthreadways.org.
We are proud and privileged to meet, learn from, and work with our wonderful community. Thank you again.