Friday, April 18, 2008

Design in Alabama: Alabama Chanin

Always up for learning new things, our local Birmingham paper sometimes has very interesting articles and this one caught my attention one recent Saturday. It's about Florence, Alabama native Natalie Chanin's company, Alabama Chanin. I had never heard of this company or Natalie, but found the article extremely enlightening on what is going on right here in Alabama with regards to design. She even has a blog called Alabama Studio Style!

From the paper, "Natalie Chanin didn't set out to be a trailblazer. The laid-back, internationally known Florence designer is considered a pioneer in the "slow" design movement, which emphasizes quality and social and ecological responsibility over speed and low cost."

That was a new one on me, "slow" design, but apparently it's all about hand-made, fair-trade practices and is an off-shoot of the "slow movement" which began in the 1980's. She's an increasingly popular speaker on the slow design lecture circuit, including upcoming events at Florida State University and the NC State University College of Design. Somewhere along the way, she realized that traditions, such as hand-sewing and quilting, using recycled and organic fabrics are good for communities and good for the planet. Last year, when her partners decided to shift production to India, she re-invented her company as Alabama Chanin, so she could continue to support jobs in her community and stay true to her ideals, she says.

She's expanded her line to include jewelry, fabrics and home furnishings, which she creates in collaboration with another native AL artist, Butch Anthony. An old farm chair (above), is upholstered with cast-off neckties and an aged chandelier is re-invented with cow bones and sticks from river beds. Her latest book Alabama Stitch Book, is for people who want to wear her clothes, which retail for $300 to $11,000, but can't afford them. The book includes step-by-step instructions, including a stencil and reusable patterns, for T-shirts, skirts & corsets sold in chic shops around the world. Her clothing is made from recycled or organic cotton. Chanin started her Project Alabama line, made by Muscle Shoals-area artisans about seven years ago. Her signature look is a double-layered garment, made from recycled T-shirts or organic cotton, featuring cut-outs outlined with exaggerated quilting stitches. You can see some of these on the website.

Says Chanin, "Everybody in the world is outsourcing, so yes, we're like salmon swimming upstream, bless our hearts."

Spoken like a true Southern woman. Hope you found all of these ideas from Ms. Chanin as interesting as I did. I thought it was very refreshing, as outsourcing continues to be a common, but detrimental practice in our country.

I'll be home soon and have LOTS of pics to download! Hope you enjoyed this post about design in Alabama. It's been a fun-filled week, in spite of being by myself most of the time during the day, I managed to keep pretty busy and have some really great things to share with you next week. The first half of the Jazz concert was fantastic Friday night and we can't wait until Saturday for the rest of it, but the morning calls for some beach time. I've taken so many pics that I'm going to post every day next week and share something different about my Florida trip, so come back on Monday for the first topic!

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Beverly said...

Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating post. I truly enjoyed reading this, and I agree with her perspective. It definitely gets you to thinking about things differently.

OKGardners said...

Can't wait to see your new pictures and lots of posts!

Betty in Oklahoma

Diana Lyn said...
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Donna Lynn said...

Hi Rhoda, loved this post, I think shes got it with the slow down ideas! I believe the same things...can't wait till your home and have more pictures and posts.
Blessings, Donna Lynn

Deb said...

Hi Rhoda I'd never heard of her either but her story was very interesting. I'm glad you're having a terrific trip and looking forward to your post. Deb

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Tori said...

Hey I just found your blog and it's lovely. Looks like I have lots of reading to do! Looking forward to it! °Ü°

Tonja said...

this is very interesting. I have heard of the Alabama Project, but this seems to be a new twist to it!