‘Alabama Chanin’ fashion designer brings sustainability message to Brenau April 14

May 4, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Natalie “Alabama” Chanin, owner and designer of the American couture line that specializes in hand-sewn couture garments constructed using quilting and stitching techniques from the rural South and “repurposed” fabric will appear at a public forum at Brenau University April 14.Alabama Chanin

The 10:30 a.m. public event in Hosch Theater of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts on the Gainesville campus is the keynote in the university’s celebration of Earth Day. She will also meet with fashion design and merchandising students in a master class laboratory before a 5 p.m. reception in Lockett-Mitchell Parlour in Yonah Hall, where Chanin will also sign copies of her books. She is author of Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style and the upcoming Alabama Studio Design. These books will be for sale at the event.

She bills herself as “designer, manufacturer, stylist, filmmaker, mother, artisan, cook and collector of stories” – all apparently contributing to the attraction for Brenau.

“Rarely do business and sustainability interact so fluidly,” said Lori Gann-Smith, Brenau’s fashion design program director, “and Brenau is proud to host such a fierce talent.”


Chanin’s work, which employs quilting and stitching techniques from the rural South, has been lauded both for appearance and for sustainability. Made from 100 percent organic cotton and “up-cycled and re-purposed materials by artisans located near Chanin’s home in Florence, Ala., her designs have earned accolades from peers and critics. She was a finalist for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion in 2005. In 2009, Chanin was chosen as one of the finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and her work will appear in the 2010 Cooper Hewitt Global Triennial.

Since 2000 Chanin has made her Alabama Chanin clothing line in the community, where her employees range in age from their early 20s to late 70s. In addition to using local labor, Alabama Chanin also strives to be a zero-waste company. These two factors alone make Chanin stand out from the rest of the fashion industry.

Chanin, who has a degree in environmental design from North Carolina State University, began working in New York City’s fashion district in 1988 in junior sportswear industry. In 1990, however, she moved to Europe, where for the next decade she was a stylist and costume designer for film and photography.

However, she says her true life work began in 2000 with Project Alabama in which produced a collection of 200 one-of-a-kind, up-cycled t-shirts and the 22-minute documentary film Stitch about old-time quilting circles in her community.

Originally published on 4/13/11