SOUTH OF THE CITY: After a nine-year break from New York Fashion Week, Alabama Chanin will be back on the scene with a private showing Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 at the Bowery Hotel.
The label’s namesake, Natalie Chanin, has been quietly building the sustainable-focused business in Florence, Ala. Committed to cultivating craftsmanship via the artisans and seamstresses that help to produce the collection, the company has been rooted in sustainable production for nearly 20 years. Its offerings are a combination of hand-sewn and machine-made garments. Chanin said, “It feels like our latest designs really stand out from work we’ve done in recent years, so it was important to us to join NYFW again. We’ve worked for many years now to build our manufacturing facility, improve our U.S.-based organic supply chain and develop these new designs.”
Chanin consults with other designers and brands such as Patagonia. For more than four years, the label has been working on a line of upcycled products using down jackets from Patagonia’s recycling program. Recently, Alabama Chanin has been exploring “the future of craft” with a major athletic company. “As our manufacturing capabilities have grown, so have the opportunities to work closely with established brands,” Chanin said.
As for why more major brands haven’t committed to a sustainable supply chain in a significant way, she said that, as well as a circular design philosophy, it “takes time, a financial and ethical commitment and resources. It helps when consumers demand that from a brand. It can be very daunting, especially if a business isn’t founded on the tenets of sustainability.”
From Chanin’s point of view, a broader range of people from all over the world are committing to organic and sustainably produced goods and larger organizations are looking for ways to be more ethical. She said, “Consumers, especially younger shoppers, are beginning to make the connection between ethics, quality, and price per wear. They’re shopping smarter, asking questions, and wanting to know the story behind the pieces they are investing in — the how, where and why.”
While the Southern-based brand faces similar challenges that other companies do in terms of brand-building, one of the greatest is “creating meaningful relationships with consumers and industry folk in such an immediate society,” Chanin added, “Our business model does not lend itself much to the instant gratification mind-set that many have become accustomed to. We as a society have almost everything we could want at our fingertips, via technology, and that creates challenges between the desire and expectations for immediacy and instant gratification and pace of slow fashion. Good things take time.”