NEW YORK — Project Alabama is about to expand its scope with a new partnership with the Italian manufacturer, Gibo SpA.
The quirky two-year-old collection has made waves with its homespun appeal, but has had a limited distribution because the entire collection is handmade by about 120 “stitchers,” a group of women based across Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia who use skills passed down through generations of ladies’ sewing and quilting circles. The collection’s growth has been limited by the capacity of its sewers to meet the demands of about 60 stores that carry the line, including Barneys New York, Jeffrey and Brown’s in London.
Natalie Chanin, a native of Florence, Ala., where the collection is based, started the line in 2001 after working as a stylist in the film industry. Her business partner, Enrico Marone-Cinzano, said Wednesday that Project Alabama had developed a partnership with Gibo to produce a new line that is machine-made in its factories in Italy, but the exact details of the deal had not yet been determined.
“We’re in the initial stages of creating a scenario where we can work together,” Marone-Cinzano said. “Gibo is probably one of the best manufacturers in Italy. They can make a product by machine that is very intricate. Since we have a lot of potential clients we cannot satisfy because everything is handmade here, we’re looking to be able to meet that demand with some machine production, but a high level of quality.”
Chanin started the collection in the South because she couldn’t find an affordable manufacturer in Manhattan. After researching local craftsmanship for an independent film project, she decided to set up shop in Alabama, creating original T-shirts layered with cutaway details, patchwork and appliqués, including a corset style that retails for $280. The line has since expanded to include coats and custom pieces that can cost as much as $2,000.
Project Alabama has been shown previously in New York with a financial award from the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, and has grown to reach sales of about $1 million.
In recent years, Gibo has held production licenses with several top designers, including Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith, Helmut Lang, Michael Kors, Joseph, Jean Colonna and Viktor & Rolf.
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