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Spotlight On: Alabama Chanin

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Natalie Chanin is a mother, designer, writer, manufacturer; a soulful woman to whom quality of life comes first, as in living, loving, laughing. It comes as no surprise that Natalie has created a coveted lifestyle brand Alabama Chanin, which focuses on slow design and sustainability. Chanin created her first American couture label Project Alabama in 2000, which to much dismay shuttered it’s doors in ’06. Project Alabama came from a cut up t-shirt Natalie manipulated and hand-sewed herself. “That hand-sewn shirt hatched a company, a concept, a clothing line and ultimately brought me back to my family, childhood home and community.”

Natalie was kind enough to answer some of my questions, this is Part 1 of our conversation:

You have been creating garments in the Upcycling vein ever since your first line, “Project Alabama” came to light. These garments, which are literally “passed from hand to hand, and generation to generation” represent something very unique. How did it all begin?

The old story of me cutting apart a t-shirt and sewing it back together again for a party is really the basis of the company I own and run today. I sewed that t-shirt because I wanted something special to wear. What I found out was that it had been a very long time since I had made something with my own two hands. That process of making rather than buying excited me. I got up the next morning and started making another shirt, then the next day another, and the next day another. Those upcycled shirts became a t-shirt line, then a collection and today what I would consider to be a lifestyle.

I remember when “Project Alabama” was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers in America/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2005 while shortly after the couture line closed its doors. What happened?

Yes, that was a year of highs and lows. We were nominated for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and were finalists for the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. Then in September of 2005, had our first fashion show and wound up on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily. One year later, almost to the day, we closed Project Alabama.

As happens, things change, people, companies and concepts grow and take on their own lives. The Project Alabama that I started closed in September of 2006 and the company that I loved grew into what is now Alabama Chanin.

Project Alabama still exists; however, it is no longer produced here in Alabama, as was my original intention (I understand that the total production is now housed in India); the offices are no longer housed in Alabama, as my original vision of community dictated and the line is not designed by me, as many people still believe.

At the time Project Alabama closed, it felt to me like the end of the world; however, sitting here today, it feels that the world is just beginning.

Click here to see the behind-the-scenes slideshow, trust me, it is not worth missing!

You can view Natalie’s book Alabama Stitch Book in our A-Store.

Read on with part 2 of the series.

Featured Member: Jem1022

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1. Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I live in New Jersey, in a little town or actually a borough called Riverdale. It’s cute but very quiet.

2. What was the 1st thing you made? How did you start sewing?

The very first thing I made was a sweater that was this gray cashmere with black buttons , which took some time to get the sewing done just right, since it was my first project. After I had finished it , I wore it to work the next day and everyone loved it, but when I got home I accidentally put in the dryer after the washing machine and it shrunk . A couple of years ago, I started sewing certain things that I wore that were either getting torn or worn out from use and started to fix them by hand until later my sewing developed to a point where I can make my own clothes. My aunt had such a profound influence on me because she knew how to sew and would fix and sometimes make clothes for me.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

At this point in my life, sewing is a necessity because I rarely go out to buy clothes because its too expensive especially now and would rather make it with fabric I can buy to make shirts and pants that’s less than the retail price in certain stores. Since I have a sewing machine, it is probably the best investment I have ever made.

4. What is your favorite and what is your least favorite thing about sewing?

My favorite thing about sewing is the process of making the pattern and actually sewing the pieces together. Its like solving a puzzle with great results at the end once it fits perfectly. The least favorite thing about sewing is that I sometimes brake the needle which is a pain to replace, especially if it’s late at night and you want to wear that garment the next day.

5. If you could make something for anyone who would it be and what would you make?

I would love to make an outfit for my aunt because she was the one who got me into sewing and right now she is in Iraq for her second tour. I would love to make a cute dress for her so she can wear it to work or to parties because she deserves it and she would be thrilled to receive a gift from her nephew.

6. What are you looking for on our site? What do you think should be improved and what do you really like?

When I first looked at this site several months ago, I really liked how everyone posted everything they created for others to see and it was very unique for a site to show handmade clothes or how to’s. This is what intrigued me into looking for other people who can be creative and make a plethora of garments just like me. I love the how to’s and wish it came with like a video or like a youtube- like instruction guide to make certain clothes. Other than that, I think the site is one of a kind because there really is no other site like this.

7. What is your motto?

My motto is to live your life to the fullest because you have only shot at this and you can’t exchange for another one.

Jem1022‘s wonderful creations are so imaginative and unique that it’s nearly impossible not to feature them. As you can see, he has an amazing eye for design and style that just draws the viewer in. Check out his favorite top ten creations on BurdaStyle and keep up the great work!

Always a Bridesmaid

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This past weekend my dear friend Stacey, whom I’ve known since we were 6 years old, was married. A few months ago I got the inevitable phone call, well after the save-the-dates and invitations went out, Stacey asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Sigh of relief. I said, “I was wondering when you’d get around to asking, we’ve been planning this your whole life”! This was the third time I was to be a bridesmaid. The first question was “what are we wearing?”. Stacey brought me through J-Crew online’s wedding section and showed me the dress she’d chosen for us, I was thrilled! The tea-length fuchsia chiffon frocks worked on a variety of bodies and we all were convinced we’d wear them again (seeing I have 5 wedding to go to this year)! For a convenient and casually chic look, J-Crew offers their signature classical looks in a variety of colors and styles, many of them not exceeding $200. You get a sense that you are customizing your wedding party and the process becomes quite personal.

For my friend Julia’s September wedding she found our black & white cotton embroidered Flamenco-feeling dresses at Filene’s Basement for a steal.

For my sister’s wedding I was asked and honored to design the dresses; her’s, the bridesmaid’s, my mother’s, and the flower girl’s! This was quite a lofty endeavor but the final composition looked so lovely and flattered the variety of body types. Materials: Celadon cotton jersey, boning, fusible interfacing. Have you made any bridesmaid’s dresses?

Prom Mini Blog: Pimp My Prom Dress

I looked in all the prom mags and found some cute dresses; but, I kept saying to myself, ‘Gee, I wish this bodice were on that skirt,’ or ’Wouldn’t it be great if I could put the straps from that Vivien Leigh gown on this bodice?’ So, the answer, of course, was to do all the custom work myself – that’s right, just like those dudes who trick out ordinary cars, I had to put a basic dress “up on the lift” and pimp it out.

Biggest goal: Look killer in my dress. I’ve been working out with hand weights for months so I can show off my “First Lady arms.” So I know I want a thin shoulder strap. I need a little more, um, shall we say, “filling out” along the bustline, so I know I need a structured element there. I’m pretty tall and thin, so I can afford to have some drama going on in the back of the dress – a keyhole, maybe, or even a fall.

If you watch Project Runway, you know the designers all start by “draping” on a dress form. My mom taught my sister, Chanel, how to make her own (super cheap!) dress form out of duct tape and old pillows. You can watch this episode for free on her website: Jane’s Sew and So: Dress Form.

I sewed a muslin out of a fabric remnant, fit it on my own dress form and started pinning, altering and tailoring the dress until it looked exactly how I wanted it to look. Some of my original ideas went out the window because they just didn’t translate off the page, but as I tweaked and fiddled, the dress came together in my hands to satisfy my designer’s eye.

Don’t think you have to dress like the models in the magazines. Here are few links to help you figure out your own body type:

THIS JUST IN: My mom and dad gave me an early graduation present! A new sewing machine! It’s gorgeous and has embroidery!

Just for fun – check out my “Timeless Prom” radio station on <a href= http://www.pandora.com/?sc=sh135282592226723717&quot; target="_blank">Pandora.com.

-Grace

Online Sewing Inspiration and Publications

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It doesn’t seem like the economic situation around the world has gotten any better – so sometimes it’s difficult to shell out hard-earned money on magazines that might provide fashion inspiration. Compound that with the fact that so many periodicals are ceasing publication and one might wonder where we’ll turn to for the latest fashion trends. Why not start with the internet? Of course, popular style magazines such as Vogue, Elle, and Bazarr continue to move their content to the web. However, there are several free, Indy online magazines that can be a great source of inspiration! Need a couple of sites that can get you started? Try VivaLaModa – a bimonthly magazine that showcases handmade items, product reviews, and green products or N.E.E.T Magazine – a quarterly, online publication that showcases grassroots creativity from around the globe. Have a favorite online magazine source? Be sure to list them here!

Prom Mini Blog : My Total John Hughes Moment

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You know those movie moments that make your heart beat really fast? They can be so cheesy, but they get you going immediately – tears in your eyes, goosebumps, goony grins on your face? Well, I’m a sucker for those moments, and I’m not afraid to admit it!

I mean, come on! John Cusack with the boombox over his head, cranking Peter Gabriel? Julia Roberts, a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her? Nobody puts Baby in a corner!? You had me at ‘hello?!’ Stellaaaaaa!!!!

I was sitting in homeroom listening to morning announcements. All of a sudden, our School President, Robbie, calls my name over the loudspeaker. “Grace Samson, Grace Samson, please report to the principal’s office…” (Gulp!) “…if you want to go to prom with me.” I thought I was in trouble, but, no – I was smack-dab in the middle of a real John Hughes movie moment. I walked out and saw Robbie saunter toward me. I called him a freak. He smiled. I half-expected someone in the back row to stand up and start clapping, really slowly…

So, now I’m going to prom with the School President. We’re good friends already – we just starred in the school play together and he’s been a guest star on my mom’s TV show, too.<a href= “http://www.janessewandso.com&#8221;&gt; Jane’s Sew and So But this is the stuff of legends, baby!

The pressure is really on to have a killer prom dress. I’ve done all my research and now it’s time to start sketching. I’ve definitely decided on a classy, 30’s silhouette, so now I have to “Frankenstein” a pattern together that suits my designer’s eye and compliments MY body. I’m going to create an “Every Body Bodice” that can be tailored to compliment anybody’s shape – and I’m going to share it here on BurdaStyle! Now I just have to make my design decisions about neckline, straps, the back and skirt style – that’s all (wow!). I have to make red carpet impact when I walk into that ballroom, right? Nobody puts Gracie in a corner!

-Grace

"It's that damn Hansel. He's so hot right now!" -Zoolander

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…and ruffles are so hot right now too. Yes, I am seriously mad about ruffles. You can add them to an existing piece of clothing or to an accessory which you don’t use anymore, or design a new piece inspired by ruffles, like our Kristen dress.
This week we are not only bringing you this darling Curved Ruffle Clutch tutorial, we have also created a Ruffle Overview Extravaganza for those who want to be in the know on how to pucker and purse your way into any fabric.

I would LOVE to see how Burdastylers ruffle their way into these projects. Enjoy.

Happy Birthday Nikkishell!

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She has been with us since the beginning and we just wanted to take this opportunity to wish one of our fabulous bloggers a wonderful Happy Birthday!

Worthy Wool

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If I write about silk silk and cotton I cannot but have to tell you something about Cashmere too! When the icy winter wind whips the farthest corner of the Himalaya’s at temperatures where even looking out the window makes you catch a cold, (-40 degrees Celsius!) this sensationally soft wool will keep you warm, after all, it insulates the Himalayan mountain goat that roam the mountain ranges of China, Mongolia and India at 4,000 meters above the sea. Today we also find them in other places, like Scotland where quite a thriving Cashmere industry has developed since the 19th century.

The hair is six times finer than a human hair, so fine that it has to be woven by hand in a painstakingly laborious process (just think how difficult it is to get a thread into a needle hole). But before we get to the weaving we first have to collect the hair. For that the fine undercoat of the hopefully patient goat is combed out to extract the fine white hair also called pashm from which Cashmere is made. Even if the goat is patient, there isn’t much wool coming out or in other words, there may be plenty of wool but each goat only produces about 150 grams of pashm; no wonder that one single scarf for example requires the wool of three goats!

By the way, traditionally the word “Pashmina” (a Persian word for “finest wool fiber”) referred to pashm (the wool) once spun into yarn, while the word Cashmere was used to describe the traditional shawl. Why Cashmere? Because originally in the 15th century only Kashmiri weavers had the skills to weave the pashm into scarves that the Mughal, the then rulers of India, were so fond of. Since Napoleon’s time (he gave a Cashmere shawl to his wife Josephine and triggered a Cashmere craze in Europe) the definitions have changed, at least in Europe: Pashmina refers to the scarf and Cashmere to the fiber.

While fashion designers discovered the wonderful properties of cashmere in the 1920s, it was only in the 1990s, that the Pashmina, although having been worn by Indian aristocracy and even Napoleon’s wife long time ago, suddenly became a must-have in a woman’s wardrobe after fashion designers featured them on Western catwalks (although now of course not made from pure Cashmere but mixed with silk and other fibres).

Of course BurdaStyle members have already found their very own original uses for Pashminas and Cashmere: check out stepanka’s cashmere bolero and ParaNoire’s Cashmere and Silk Blazer.


Try making these out of cashmere:

Talea

Talea 2

Cape Dracula

Coat Elizabeth

photo from MÂnestrÂle.

Featured Member: Allie31991

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1. Where are you from and/or where do you live?

I have lived in Portland , OR my entire life and love this city! Next year, though, I am heading off to college in a smaller town south of here, go beavers!

2. What was the 1st thing you made? How did you start sewing?

The first thing that I can remember making is a pair of pajama pants, though if I remember correctly my mom did most of the sewing. My mom always used to sew me dresses and doll clothes, since I wished to be just like her I decided I too wanted to sew and thus my obsession began. Following this I attempted to make halter tops and other similar pieces (items which my mother would never buy me) during elementary school with little success but by the end of middle school I was much more competent and began sewing more wearable garments.

3. What role does sewing play in your life?

Sewing plays an important roll in my life as a creative outlet, I love math and science and am planning on studying engineering in college, so a little sewing on the weekends is a wonderful way for me to channel my creativity. Though, I would say the same part of my brain which works out physics problems enjoys figuring out how to make a garment, both activities take creativity in problem solving.

4. What is your favorite and what is your least favorite thing about sewing?

My least favorite part of sewing is the finishing aspects (hems etc.), it is just too tedious, and thus many projects sit around a few steps away from being done. My favorite part about sewing is wearing the item the first time; it is so gratifying knowing that I made it myself.

5. If you could make something for anyone who would it be and what would you make?

Currently, if I could make something for anyone it would be Michelle Obama, I think she is so beautiful and graceful!

6. What are you looking for on our site? What do you think should be improved and what do you really like?

On Burdastyle I am looking for a space to share my creations and get inspiration for more. I really like the new picture album function of the site. Honestly, I really love this site, but one thing I would suggest is making things more interconnected, like if someone adds another member as a favorite maybe they are notified when they add a new creation or how-to.

7. What is your motto?

Don’t take anything too seriously; it can only end in stress.

Allie31991 has so many wonderful creations (as you can see from her picture.) I think her Ruby Pants are to die for! Check out her top ten favorite creations and keep up the great work!

Caress Me

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Yesterday I went to Cosmopolitan magazine’s headquarters for a photo-shoot of the looks I have designed for Caress soap’s fashion forward Fall ad campaign. Daily Silk, Glowing Touch and Evenly Gorgeous are the products I set about bringing to life through fashion and to life they came. There is something so rewarding about seeing your final look on a model, posing for the camera all done up in hair and make-up. I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the shoot as well. To create an ad, or any fashion editorial spread in fact, you need a team of creative individuals to make it happen. There were the 3 models, photographer (he was amazing) and 2 assistants, 3 hair & make-up folks (they work as a team) Caress’ media people, Cosmo’s art director, Cosmo’s PR people who created the partnership with me and Caress, and a handful of Cosmo’s movers & shakers. And the designer/stylist, moi.

In order to produce a good photograph I feel there needs to be some buzz in the room. I’ve been on shoots before where there was no music playing and the models were having a hard time warming up. I found yesterday that the photographer caressed the models with words of praise, which helped them loosen up, while music charged the air. I must say it’s quite difficult to pose for the camera with, like, 15 people in the room watching. I had to pose for my head shot towards the end and I felt shy trying to “look natural” and “smile!” while my face was blown up in 20" screens. Though when it was all done, I certainly was smiling.

The Fall ad campaign will hit magazine stands this September. I will keep you posted;)

Sneak Peak: Learning Section

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The fourth sneak peak is about Learning. Under this navigation point we folded the content of the original how to and sewpedia sections.

This new learning section is an optimized place to enhance your knowledge of sewing by picking up a new technique or discovering a new definition. It provides a platform for the step by step instructions of the techniques which refer directly to the terms. The filtering system is optimized for you to find easier the techniques you have been looking for.

Because How Tos associated with projects have been separated from those that are teaching a technique, this section is truly devoted to learning. When clicking through the steps on a technique, you will be able to comment on each step, which allows you to ask questions about a particular step, not just about the how to in general.

There will also be a listing of related terms on each Technique. Having the related terms will help if you aren’t sure of a definition in a technique. At the same time you can browse alphabetically for a term. The Terms, just like the sewpedia, will have a photo and definition associated with it, to help correctly illustrate the definition.

We are excited to have the Learning section, making the teaching aspect of BurdaStyle much more streamlined and user friendly.

Bow Ties Sold on Etsy for the American Cancer Society

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You all sent in so many wonderful and fabulous bow ties that everyone could hardly stop themselves from ogling over them the entire night! We are selling the wonderful remaining bow ties (a few at a time) from the Pink and Black Tie Gala on our Etsy store. All the proceeds from sales of the Bow Ties will be donated to the American Cancer Society, so buy yourself or a friend a fabulous handmade bow tie for a great cause.

Fabric Pattern Kits

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Whether I’m putting it in my house, toting it on my arm in the form of a bag, or wearing it as an article of clothing, I have to admit, I adore fun and funky prints. However, it’s sometimes difficult to find unusual materials that are on a scale that will work with clothing – that’s where Clothkits and Minimoderns come in! I stumbled across these sites while reading True Up and was very impressed with the kits they have available – not only do they cater to women and children’s fashions but Mini Moderns sells some of their home decor fabric by the yard!

Prom Mini Blog : Queens of the Silver Screen

Some of my favorite classic movies are “All About Eve”, “Gone with the Wind” and “Rear Window.” The stars of these three films – Vivien Leigh, Grace Kelly and Bette Davis – are all enduring, timeless fashion icons. I took inspiration from each of these queens of the silver screen to create a one-of-a-kind design for my prom dress.

Vivien Leigh! There’s such a fiery personality under that glamorous face. She takes command of any room she enters and that confidence is reflected in her fashion. I want my dress to be bold and make a statement just like Vivien Leigh.

Grace Kelly is everything her name says she is. Her look is angelic and she carries herself with such elegance. She made the perfect real-life princess! I want my dress to be feminine and have a gathered front like Grace Kelly’s.

Bette Davis’s dresses make a statement just like her eyes do. The plunging back and jewel accents in her dress really jazz it up. I decided to make the straps of my dress out of vintage jewelry. Jewels add glamour to any dress. And we all know that girls love sparkles !!!

My mom, Jane Samson, hosts a sewing show for teens on TV. She went to design school in Switzerland in the 70’s and bought up all the vintage patterns she could get her hands on. I am going to dig through those patterns like buried treasure to find pattern elements I can use to construct my unique prom dress design.

You can start your own fashion treasure hunt using these links:


  • Coco Chanel
  • Going Vintage
  • Edith Head
  • Gowns Inspired by Grace Kelly
  • So Vintage Patterns

    More recently, a film that showed the kind of 1930’s glamour I want in my prom dress was “Atonement”. Keira Knightly is so lucky that she gets to wear all of these beautiful dresses in the films she’s in. She and Anne Hathaway have become some of my generation’s super classy Hollywood style icons. My dress will be green silk like Keira’s. I love how silk hugs the body – it’s easy to strike a pose and look like a movie star, and I want my entrance into prom to be memorable!


    -Grace

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