A latter-day alchemist, American designer Natalie Chanin constructs rich pieces from the most basic of materials - cotton jersey. Its movement and ease make jersey 'the perfect modern fabric' to Chanin, a former costume designer, who began working with it to create new garments from old T-shirts. “I liked its feel, the way it looked, the way it came together,” she recalls.
In her refined approach to jersey, Chanin also honours the textile traditions of her native Florence, Alabama. “Growing up, I knew our area was rich in cotton,” she says, but it was not until she returned home to complete Stitch, a documentary on Southern quilt making traditions, that she learned Florence's output of cotton jersey made it 'T-Shirt Capital of the World' in the 1980s. Global outsourcing has left the town's textile industry largely defunct but Chanin is proud to produce her line locally. In fact she moved on from her first couture line, Project Alabama, when its production facilities moved overseas in 2006.
Today, every piece in the Alabama Chanin line is stitched, embroidered, and otherwise embellished by hand in a studio based in one of Florence's former textile factories. “I'm inspired by my community,” Chanin says. This local sensibility is felt in the running stitches along her garments' seams that evoke Southern American quilt making traditions and in the vegetal motifs that sprawl like wildflowers across them. In addition to using non-toxic paints and low-impact processes, Chanin has worked from the beginning with recycled cotton jersey, a knit fabric 'upcycling' it to meet her couture sensibilities. To mark 4th July this year, Chanin has released a pattern for your very own American Flag quilt.Celebrate this year's Independence day with 17.76% off subscriptions from the US - Making a one year subscription just $109. Use the code INDEPENDENCE at checkout. This is an extract from Cindy Frost's article in the Urban issue of Selvedge.