Wednesday, September 19, 2012

DIY Opportunity: Alabama Chanin Workshop and Trunk Show

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 3:53 PM

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There must be something magical in the water in Florence, Ala., because fashion artisans like Billy Reid and Natalie Chanin can't stay away.

After closing his CFDA-winning William Reid menswear line in 2002, Billy Reid moved to Florence, where he launched his eponymous line (which just won another CFDA award) out of downtown Florence in 2004. Chanin, who left Florence at the age of 18 and worked as a designer and stylist in New York and Europe, returned two decades later to create inventive handstitched T-shirts with local seamstresses. She expanded her line, known as Alabama Chanin, to include women's clothing, handmade jewelry, organic textiles, and home furnishings. Chanin, dedicated to "slow design" and sustainability, uses new organic and recycled materials in her pieces and stitches the designs by hand, honoring the tradition of garment making. Learn more about the unique process here.

I mean, this dress.

Her designs, which have been carried at bigwigs Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman, are now available at her website and smaller boutiques, and she still creates the garments out of Florence, working exclusively with artisans in the community. How's that for shopping local?

If you really want to shop local you can be the seamstress. In addition to offering DIY kits on her website, Natalie and her team of designers lead workshops outside of Florence. If you're worried that you're not qualified because your sewing machine is in some remote corner of your basement, rest easy: You'll learn everything you need to know in the workshop, as all stitching is done by hand. A trademark of Chanin's work is her intricately stitched applique process, creating mini works of art on a dress, corset, jacket, skirt or shawl. If you can sew on a button, you're qualified.

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If you'd like to flex your creative muscles under supervision, you can sign up for a one-day retreat at The Hermitage Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You can choose from a variety of projects and color combos — personally, I'd go nuts for the gorgeous swing skirt — and, since nobody wants to sew hungry, the day also includes a catered lunch, which is sure to be delish since it comes from Chef Tyler Brown's kitchen. The $475 workshop fee includes all materials, lunch and promises of laughter and fellowship! Spots are limited, so sign up in advance by emailing office@alabamachanin.com or calling 256-760-1090.

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If you prefer to buy your clothing as opposed to making it, Alabama Chanin will have a trunk show featuring the newest collection at The Hermitage Hotel the same weekend (Friday, Sept. 28, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.). It's free and open to the public, and no appointment is necessary, so definitely make a plan to stop by and see one of the most creative, old-meets-new lines on the Southern fashion scene.

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