Connecting Love and Raw Materials at Makeshift

Connecting Love and Raw Materials at Makeshift |

The fashion and design industries have a lot to learn from the successes of the slow food movement. "As sustainability and DIY emerge as THE design stories of the 21st century, the fashion and design communities are following the playbook written ahead of the millennium by 'foodies'." Makeshift follows that playbook with a series of events, talks, workshops, and gatherings that explore the ways in which the fashion, art, and design worlds are inextricably linked to the world of craft/DIY and how each of these worlds elevate the others. 

The event was held at The Standard Hotel in the East Village and the weather and views were gorgeous! 

The Makeshift conversations are conducted by Natalie Chanin, sustainable lifestyle designer and founder of Alabama Chanin. Natalie promotes a “slow design” lifestyle brand and sustainable business practices from the Alabama Chanin headquarters in Florence, Alabama. Such is her dedication to creativity and craftsmanship, we were given tote bags (organic cotton, of course) and craft supplies and encouraged to DIY during the discussion. The finished creations will be added to the Makeshift Image Quilt.

Ashley Christensen, a chef-restauranteur in Raleigh, NC and winner of a 2014 James Beard Award, was the guest speaker. As the conversation between Natalie and Ashley unfolded, the nexus of sustainable food and fashion practices emerged. Whether fashion or food, producers, raw materials, design, and consumers are connected and integral to the process. The integrity and story bestowed upon each are what's truly important.

Photo Credit:  Jesse Untracht-Oakner

Photo Credit: Jesse Untracht-Oakner

Ashley understands her responsibilities as an employer, chef, and community leader. Being an employer first requires care, support, and trust which can then be shared with the community at large. Feeding patrons isn't just about feeding their hunger, but about sharing stories and traditions with them. 

My responsibility is to define value and represent growers with integrity, and to help people understand why they need to pay more for it. —Ashley Christensen

Just as the stories of the growers are shared through Ashley's dishes, so should the stories of workers in fashion be shared through our clothing. The question,"Who made your clothes?" is just as relevant as "Who made your food?" Every question foodies ask about the production and geography of food, ask about your fashion. Ask about the miners who produced the raw materials for your jewelry. Ask about the cotton growers, the textile workers, the sewers. They all had a hand in making the clothes you wear.

Ashley is taking the history and nostalgia associated with food and elevating it to a new level.  Using those existing connections help people recognize and value what they are eating. This is an important lesson for fashion; find those existing values and draw on them to strengthen our connection to clothing.  In response, the perceived value of craftsmanship, details, and quality will increase, just as they have in the food industry. Natalie's brand, Alabama Chanin, is a great example of the power of storytelling and personal connections to clothing.

The event was also a great excuse to hang out with a creative and compassionate bunch of people including Lauren, Juliette, Emma, and Alden. These ladies just keep challenging and engaging me in new and exciting ways. I am grateful to have been part of this event and to have met so many people who want to bring back community and simplicity for us all. 

The evening ended with a spectacular sunset. And what's more simple and communal than that?

Photo Credit:  Alden Wicker

Photo Credit: Alden Wicker




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