Natalie Chanin has launched her newest endeavor, Alabama Chanin, which produces a small collection of housewares, jewelry, and apparel. True to her attention to community, one of the first products she created benefits post-Katrina reconstruction. All of the profits from the organic cotton, US-made Alabama Builds Shirt go to benefit Architecture for Humanity in their work with the Gulf Coast Region projects, mixing sustainable style with real social responsibility.
Chanin is best known for her Project Alabama label that folded last year. Leaving the New York fashion world, she founded the label in her hometown of Florence, Alabama, in 2000 with her partner Enrico Marone-Cinzano. Project Alabama incorporated age-old production techniques and recycled materials into new designs, and its 150 women artisans worked in sewing circles to produce the company’s handmade garments. Chanin hoped that by infusing money and employment into her hometown, she could restore the region’s once-thriving textile industry. In fact, Project Alabama’s heirloom-quality garments earned major accolades, placing the company in the finals of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion Design and leading to its selection as one of 10 fashion companies for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2005. However, Project Alabama found it very difficult to sustain its US production and announced a year ago that it would be closing.
Although Project Alabama shut its doors in late 2006, there is talk that the brand has been bought and production is outsourced to India, but Chanin remains rooted in Alabama. Her new project, Alabama Chanin, continues to specialize in limited-edition, hand-rendered jewelry, clothing, home furnishings, and textiles, often using recycled and organic materials and local talent. Each collection emphasizes quality of cut, detail, craftsmanship, and style, giving modern context to techniques that have been passed down through generations of women and men.