The name Alabama might not immediately suggest innovation and future-oriented ideas, but Alabama Chanin is pretty much unsurpassed when it comes to ecological and ethical business practices. Known for creating folk-inspired, detail-rich collections, the label’s designer/owner Natalie Chanin has now added wedding couture to her lifestyle brand, which, in addition to clothes, already includes home furnishings.
The 50 piece wedding collection consists of V-neck gowns, relaxed, tunic-inspired dresses, as well as skirts and tanks. “On your wedding day you need to be comfortable, not only beautiful,” Chanin says, explaining why the feel and uncomplicated fit of the pieces were a high priority.
As with her ready-to-wear collections, this new line is all about the details: each gown is hand-sewn by artisans living in her local community of Florence, Alabama, using quilting and stitching techniques that originated in the Depression era South. The materials are a combination of certified organic cotton and recycled materials, to keep the “footprint” of a dress as minimal as possible. Every part of the production of the dress is done in-house: from the creation and manufacturing of the fabric to the last detail of the sewing. To minimize waste, no manufacturing is begun until an order is confirmed, and the left-over fabric scraps are used for pillows, trims and bedding.
But it doesn’t stop there—whatever can’t be used for home furnishings is incorporated into upcycled furniture items like farm chairs and wardrobes, and, should there still be even a little square of fabric left over, it’s used to create special projects like exhibition design or landscape architecture. Fabric designs that are not used up during a given season are archived and offered to clients for their custom-made garments, adding an enduring touch of personalization. Unsurprisingly, the company is very close to reaching its goal of becoming a Zero Waste manufacturer.
In addition to all these environmentally friendly features, the company is also economically viable. Chanin makes her fabrics accessible to the customer and sells books (Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style) and special project kits that enable her fans to sew the intricate pieces themselves.
—Christina von Messling