I always forget that I know an honest-to-goodness bona fide famous fashion designer. Actually, I know two. These are normal-looking regular people whom you can see any day walking around my small Alabama town, yet they’ve got fashion awards and magazine and newspaper spreads from around the world. And they know the Vogue folks by first names. Cool! I usually just think of these two as extra-nice people who are so sweet to always say “hello,” but when New York’s Fashion Week rolls around, I remember how special they really are.
The first is Natalie Chanin. She’s the owner and designer of Alabama Chanin, a company in Florence, Alabama that creates handmade one-of-a-kind clothing and home decor. Under Natalie’s direction, local artisans — many of them former textile workers who lost their jobs as the mills closed — use recycled and organic as well as new materials to make these breathtakingly whimsical works of fiber art. Natalie has the soul of an artist combined with the practical good sense of a business owner. And she’s not greedy — she shares! She’s written a lovely and inspiring book with instructions for several of her signature projects (“Alabama Stitch Book”) and regularly holds hands-on workshops where she passes on her secrets. She’s a vibrant part of the community and throws an everybody’s-invited picnic and open house every year. Go to her Web site, http://ad.dev.alabamachanin.com, where you can see more photos from her latest collection, learn more of her story and even order your own Alabama Chanin original.
Tomorrow: Who’s the other famous fashion designer living in Florence, Alabama? Come back and find out!