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Mary Embry
Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010

Natalie Chanin, leader in sustainable fashion, to speak at IU as part of Themester 2010

Oct. 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's a "slow design" revolution, and sustainable couture designer Natalie Chanin is at the leading edge with her home grown line Alabama Chanin.

Natalie Chanin

Natalie Chanin

Chanin, whose designs have been featured in Vogue, the New York Times and on CBS News, will present a free, public lecture Monday, Oct. 25, from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. at Indiana University's Whittenberger Auditorium.

The lecture is hosted by the IU Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and was made possible by support from the IU College of Arts and Sciences' Themester 2010 "sustain•ability: Thriving on a Small Planet" and the Friends of the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design.

Described as a "small company with big ideas," Alabama Chanin produces custom ready-to-wear couture and bridal wear using organic, sustainable materials, all made in the United States.

Chanin said she draws inspiration from farmers who strive to achieve zero waste, using one production process to feed another -- in her case, in a farmer-to fiber-to artisan-to home model. She hires Alabama-based artisans to apply a modernized version of hand-stitching techniques that have been handed down for generations. The unique, made-to-order pieces are created in the artistans' own homes, resurrecting a little-used cottage industry model of clothing design. As a proponent of the "slow design" movement, Chanin emphasizes lean manufacturing with a goal of becoming a zero waste manufacturer. She calls the artisans who sew the clothing the core of her business.

"I have learned so much from the people of my community," Chanin said. "Our artisans have helped me to know the kind of business I want to run -- as well as to become a better textile designer."

Chanin's techniques and garment patterns are on display in Alabama Studio Style and the Alabama Stitch Book, both which will be available for signing after the lecture, in the Presidents Room of the University Club.

"Natalie Chanin represents a leading innovator in the fashion industry," said Mary Embry, lecturer in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design. "Alabama Chanin breaks new ground constantly by proving how fashion and sustainability, two diametrically opposed concepts, can work together brilliantly."

Chanin's lecture is part of the Bill Blass Fashion Design Seminar Series. Established in 2002 with a bequest from fashion designer Bill Blass, a native Hoosier and friend of Indiana University, the Bill Blass Fashion Design Seminar Series is presented and hosted by the department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design and the College of Arts and Sciences.

For more information about IU's Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior design, see