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From Cotton Field to Clothing Rack….

October 10, 2014

You’ve probably heard of “farm to table,” but how about “field to garment”? In Alabama, acclaimed fashion houses Alabama Chanin and Billy Reid have a new line of organic cotton clothing made from their own cotton field.

It’s not just an experiment in keeping production local; it’s an attempt to revive the long tradition of apparel-making in the Deep South. North Alabama was once a hub for textile manufacturing, with readily available cotton and access to cheap labor. But the industry all but disappeared after NAFTA became law, as operations moved overseas.

Now, Sue Hanback is again working a sewing machine in a cavernous building that was once part of the biggest cut-and-sew operation in Florence, Ala.

“I’m gonna five-thread this shirt,” she explains, stitching cuffs onto an organic-cotton sweatshirt.

Hanback was last laid off in 2006 when this was a T-shirt factory. Her husband worked in the dye house. She’s been a seamstress all her life.

“Ever since I was 18 years old,” Hanback says. “So that was like, 48 years.”

Keeping Cotton Local

Hanback is one of about 30 people who work at The Factory, home to Alabama Chanin, the fashion and lifestyle company founded by Natalie Chanin. The site includes a cafe, workshop and the company’s flagship store.

Chanin is best known for her flowing, made-to-order organic garments, entirely hand-stitched and inspired by the rural South of the 1930s and ’40s.

Read the rest of the story at NPR.org

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