The Alabama Chanin Story


A leader in the slow fashion movement. Can you describe what slow fashioned is? How do you think about it? Well you know. We first started talking about slow fashion on of as a derivative of the slow food. Newsman I think you know in many ways that That industry is light years ahead of where fashion so people started really looking at the way things were planted and grown much sooner than we did with textiles also I think a lot of what's being done around. Sustainable sustainable fashion is really taking cues from that movement. What made you start your own act. Actually let's just go back. What's your background in in the fashion business and textiles? Obviously this is a really good question. Well I do. I have a degree in what's called environmental design from North Carolina State University. Which sounds very modern today but really it was Degree that was kind of based on the house education so did a double major that today's called the Anti Albert's programs at a degree in Like design fundamentals and Textile design sort of handmade textiles on. And then I have another degree in industrial textile design so at at North Carolina State University. Water the other degrees other than the environmental design. So if you're doing environmental design where he not doing yes so I think the structure. There's a little bit different now when you were there. When I was there it started out you either. Signed into textile design product design graphic design architecture and landscape so environmental design is really cross disciplinarian. Volvos correct it was sort of modeled after the bow house Wheel of learning You know I think. A lot of people know that when the Bell House designers left Germany some of them settled in the mountains of North Carolina in a place called Black Mountain and that was very influential in the in the school of design which is now called the College of design at NC state income. So so how did you get into the fashion business out after he left school? Well that's a really good question I You know I just imagined when I graduated from. Nc State is that was kind of cradle the textile industry. At that time that I would be have been working in Charlotte or you know somewhere around. North Carolina there quite a few factories In a lot of textiles being made in that area while I was in school and I graduated in eighty seven and it was sort of the beginning of the great migration. Or let's call it the the next migration because excels are pretty migratory It's a pretty migratory industry so when I graduated there really had a really hard time finding a job in North Carolina and I You know I just you know back. In those days you had to go to the library. And there are books that listed all the companies that Were working in textiles in New York. And so a sent-off about sixty letters and you know. I got like five responses and I came up to New York for a week and interviews and at the end of the week I got an offer from a company calls US joint junior sportswear NASC- so third floor with I think that the Tagline was do use use you like a jeans and t shirt company. I started out there just as an assistant designer and went from there. And how did you come to the point where you started your own line? You know. It's kind of a roundabout story. After as you I worked for a company called sub studio. That was doing all the manufacturing and samples and India so spent some time going back and forth between New York and India. And after I Stopped doing that job. I actually sort of changed the focus and became a stylus so working on the other side of the camera you know instead of on the design and manufacturing side. I was Doing costume design and So I did that for a decade and During a sabbatical that I was taking my life as a as a stylist. I wound up. You know cutting apart some t shirts and sewing them back together again by hand and a low down half that eventually became a business very crazy story. And what led you to Florence Alabama to have a headquarters for your business model. Florence is my hometown so You know It took me a while to kind of figure out this when I was sowing the t shirts in the beginning that actually what I was doing looked very much like a quilting stitch and so is living in New York on Twenty Third Street and at the Chelsea Hotel and I started going around the garment. Destroy Looking for. You know embroiderers to help me do this. This vision of having these two hundred. One of a kind t-shirts Buying recycle t shirts from the Salvation Army and goodwill's and You know as the joke. I think some of these places thought of as a bag lady would come in with like these backs of recycled t shirts cut up and I wanted them. To put these elaborate embroideries on them and they're like Oh lady no so I mean I remember very clearly the afternoon I was standing on eight and thirty eight And I looked down at one of the pieces. Just kind of dumbfounded on. Why couldn't figure out of getting these made in New York and you know just sort of hit me like a light. Bulb went off like. Oh these. This is a quilting stretch. And if I want to have these made in this way that him sewing them I need to go home where there is still some ladies who had quoted with my grandmother who had this little quilting circle. That would get together once a way to do this. Quilts and thought will F. I go home I could have this made and so the idea was that it was just going to be a one off project. I was going to have these. T shirts made wanted to make this documentary film about old Tom quilting circles so I went home. And you know the the humor in it. Was that You know the little ladies who'd quilted with my grandmother really weren't interested in New York City fashion or you know doing this work. They were talking about the grandkids and planning collards. And you know all the things that they had to do outside of the They're quilting was kind of community service work and so we just ran added random at a newspaper that said part time. Hand sewing and quilting. We got about Again I think you know there were about fifty sixty responses in about twenty of the ladies stock and started doing the hand sewing and then we presented that first collection of Two hundred t shirts during New York fashion week in February of two thousand and one I had a friend who became a partner and then another partner. So we You know it's gun of history. The first person to come to the door was Julie. Bill Hart from Barneys and

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