Sweet Home (Made) Alabama

Something about a “Made in the USA” label earns an instant seal of approval. Stitched into homegrown fabrics are threads of American pride, determination and creativity, threads which organic company Alabama Chanin has woven into their story.

Founder and filmmaker, Natalie Chanin, arrived in New York City and received so many compliments on a reconstructed shirt that she decided to make 200 unique tees to sell during Fashion Week circa 1999.  The project reminded Chanin of her tight knit community at home, in Florence, Alabama, and introduced her to the notion of a company centered on handcrafted, recyclable clothing. By 2000, her fledgling company was producing a variety of pieces made 100% from cotton and employing local Alabamian artisans as a means of impacting community industry. Any given product – say the Alabama vest – typically starts as a pocketful of cotton seeds in Texas before arriving in South Carolina for knitting. Yes, everything is really, honest to goodness, hand-made. That same vest could then be dyed in North Carolina or even Tennessee, contributing to an all American aesthetic.

Natalie pictured in Elizabeth DeRamus Photography’s Southern book.

So why cotton? Explains Chanin, the wearer is better off when the product is chemical free, meaning no unhealthy chemicals go into the crop planting or harvesting processes. Her company specializes in clothing but supplies an assortment of home merchandise. If napkins and place mats are getting up close and personal with dining room tables around the country, it seems logical that their roots are green.

Alabama Chanin has also jumped on the open sourcing trend, wanting information to be available to all as a way of encouraging craft based dialogue. Their Mother’s Day DIY skirt project provides a template for extra crafty souls going the extra mile for mom. And that skirt is just one of numerous kits customers can purchase.  Natalie’s design concept is American patriotism at its finest. Thoughtful, responsible manufacturing ultimately leads to thoughtful, responsible consumers who appreciate the feel of organic garments against their skin.

 

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