August 24, 2012

Gael Towey's Guest Blog About Alabama Chanin

Gael Towey, our Chief Integration and Creative Director, visited Alabama recently and shares this blog with all of you.

You may have heard of Natalie Chanin.  She is the designer and founder of Alabama Chanin, the southern couture dressmaker.  She has become known for using local artisans and quilters to make highly detailed, exquisitely embellished clothing, all by hand, including the seams!  Everything is made in America, using organic materials.  Over the past ten years, she has pioneered a new-age cottage industry.  I met Natalie through my friend, the singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, who often wears Natalie’s clothes in concert.  Rosanne and I decided that Natalie had to meet a mutual friend, Maira Kalman - artist, illustrator and author.  We had tea together in Maira's Greenwich Village apartment, and the idea of an all-girls road trip was born.  The really amazing thing is that with our busy lives, we actually set aside time, and we did it!  We also decided to bring our daughters.  We all met in Florence, Alabama for two days of learning to sew with Natalie.

Natalie is originally from Florence, which was formerly the T-shirt manufacturing capitol of most of the South.  Natalie was a fashion stylist in Europe, prior to moving back to the States.  She moved to New York City with an idea to make quilted embroidered T-shirts, which she made herself and previewed for department stores at the Chelsea Hotel.  Barneys took the collection, so Natalie visited manufacturers in New York to see if they could do the work she envisioned.  That’s when she realized she was thinking about the women who made the beautiful quilts she grew up with in Alabama.  Natalie moved home to Florence, arriving just as many of the local T-shirt factories were going out of business and she created Alabama Chanin.  The business she started more than 10 years ago has pioneered in the local and sustainable movement.  The studio is in a former factory building, nondescript and industrial on the outside, but when you walk inside, you are in the world of Natalie.  Everything is beautiful and artistic.  The vibe of the studio is quiet and respectful, with art found everywhere.  To view Natalie's sewing kits, click here.  And if you'd like to sew with Natalie and her wonderful team, click here.