Behind the Curtain
I’ve been a very big fan of Natalie Chanin since she began Project Alabama in 2000 (and of which she is no longer a part). I can’t remember now how exactly I found out about her, but it was probably in a magazine article. She is now the force of nature behind Alabama Chanin.
With Alabama Chanin, in developing her line and her marketing stragegy, Ms. Chanin has given everyone involved, from designer to maker to client, an incredible gift – one that keeps giving back. The gift of information. She has resurrected the educated clothing consumer.
Alabama Chanin is beautiful, distinctive clothing and home dec made from organic American grown cotton. Fabric is dyed in small lots, patterns individually cut, stencilled, hand embellished, hand sewn. This work is performed by people close enough to the Alabama Chanin studio, located in a retired t-shirt factory in Florence, Alabama, to drive in, pick it up, and take it home to finish, as it is quite time consuming.
Perhaps increasingly frustrated by the comments on how expensive her clothing is – everyone I know who makes anything by hand hears these rather constantly! – Ms. Chanin began to educate. Today it is entirely possible to purchase her patterns, her stencils, her fabrics, her paints. She sells the thread. She has published four books elucidating exactly how one would go about the process of making any given item in her line. I suppose some people thought she was giving it away.
But exactly the opposite of what you’d think would happen did happen – her line began to sell even more. Sales increased in both her custom and DIY lines. Ms. Chanin now has factory tours, makers’ days, workshops. She teaches an absolutely incredibly in-depth Craftsy class (I signed up!). Her workshops and tours are so popular they have even added a factory eatery and evening events including speakers.
Exactly what happened here? And how does this directly benefit you and me?
Knowledge. Now everyone knew exactly what went into every single garment. Material costs. Skill set. What kind of labor. And more importantly, how many hours. Hours and hours and hours.
No more instant disposable clothing that “magically” appears in stores! And there aren’t rows and rows of identical items – most everything is made to order.