Project Alabama re-launches for Spring 2011
The name Project Alabama may conjure up images of the brand started by Natalie Chanin in 2001. The homespun, handcrafted quality and locally made products garnered a lot of attention for the label, but the designer sold her company in 2006 and production ceased. It lay dormant for 5 years, until recently with a Spring 2011 relaunch and a new head designer named Charlotte Greenough -– (Chanin has since started another company called Alabama Chanin, unrelated to Project Alabama.)
We caught up with Greenough and she told us about her new post and balancing eco-conscious clothing while maintaining a stylish aesthetic.
What is your design process in creating clothing that’s environmentally conscious?
I really try and keep the eco and sustainability aspect separate from design. I think that might be the problem with so many eco brands, that the design is so married to it being an eco brand and the result can look a little dull or dowdy. It’s like when you’re eating something healthy and it tastes really good. I’m trying to keep it fresh and fun in terms of design.
Project Alabama is a “low impact” line. Break down for us what that means.
We use small certified factories and local fabrics, so there is no shipping to and from factories. There are all-natural fibers and sustainable fabrics in the clothing and all shipping materials are biodegradable. Also we use organic, herbal dyes.
So was it intimidating to relaunch this brand? What was your inspiration and vision for the first season back?
It was fun because I really got to play with old Project Alabama techniques and add to them. For spring I was inspired by an eco-artist named Patrick Dougherty who makes these amazing twig sculptures. Also, I went to visit a lifelong pen pal of mine who lives in Japan and whose family owns a rice cracker factory. I was there during the Cherry Blossom Festival and I designed the collection around wind, water and blowing blossoms.
How does it look different from the Project Alabama of before?
It looks really different. It was more embellished before and it was mostly T-shirts and jersey. But one thing that’s the same that still really comes through is the emotive quality of the clothing. The shapes are different, but the emotion and narrative still comes through.
The term “eco-friendly” is so ubiquitous now, especially in fashion. What’s your advice to designers who want to actually execute and commit to being low-impact or eco-conscious?
Clothing is consumption and it’s a necessary consumption. Every step you can take is a good step. If you can take three steps, that’s fantastic. You can cut down on fuel and packaging. People need to be honest about how things are eco-conscious. Everything that we do is positive, a little bit is better than nothing.
Project Alabama is available at Em & Co and Picket Fences in Los Angeles.
-- Melissa Magsaysay
Photos: Project Alabama spring-summer 2011 collection