Natalie “Alabama” Chanin is the founder and creative director of Alabama Chanin. She was born and raised in Florence, Alabama, where her company is based. Natalie has a degree in Environmental Design with a focus on industrial and craft-based textiles from North Carolina State University. After graduation, Natalie worked in the junior sportswear industry on New York’s Seventh Avenue, before moving abroad. For over a decade, Natalie worked as a stylist and costume designer, traveling the globe.
Natalie returned to her Southern home in 2001 with the intention of producing a line of hand-sewn t-shirts. In the process of creating that project, she also produced a short documentary. That film, Stitch, focused on traditional quilt-making in the South, with stories told by those who stitched and were warmed by those quilts. Each “character” in the film had a unique story. Each quilt told the tale of the joys and hardships, and the friendships and family bonds of a specific time and place.
While producing the film and collection of t-shirts, Natalie met many women who were former seamstresses or textile workers from the 1980s, when her hometown’s former title was “T-Shirt Capital of the World.” The signing of NAFTA left many women and men unemployed as Alabama’s textile industry moved south of the border. This perfect storm of circumstances inspired Alabama Chanin.
Natalie strives to achieve complete sustainability at every stage of the manufacturing process – from materials and processes, to cultural sustainability in the form of preserving hand-sewing skills. Over the years, Alabama Chanin has organically expanded, establishing a family of businesses that includes the Alabama Chanin collection, The School of Making, The Factory Store + Cafe, and Building 14 Design + Manufacturing Services. In 2013, Chanin won the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge, an award competition that identifies and celebrates the greatest American designers working in the realm of sustainable fashion. Natalie continues to learn and to teach craft traditions, or “living arts,” using them to bridge generational, economic, and cultural gaps.