Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?

Natalie "Alabama" Chanin (Photo by Robert Rausch)

Natalie Chanin, owner and designer of Alabama Chanin

Contemporary dialogues regarding sustainability often focus on chemicals, materials, improved design, and manufacturing processes—and how these impact the environment. Without question, these are significant concerns. Looking closer into the depths and complexities of these materials, however, leads us to realize that sustainability also relies on the human skills necessary to manipulate materials into usable objects.

Alabama Chanin Spring/Summer 2010 Collection, Alabama Chanin, Natalie Chanin, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, organic fashion, organic clothing


In striving to build truly sustainable communities, we must learn to respect and honor the relationships between materials, products, and individuals—skilled workers and artisans, who keep our traditions, manufacturing processes, and “Living Arts” alive.

The Living Arts consist of crafts and traditions that have been maintained and developed since the beginning of time. Couture garments have always been made by hand. In our more developed countries of the world today, the mechanization of growing, building, and making has markedly pushed the need and demand for handmade to the side-lines.

In the search for cost-efficiency, modern society has forgotten basic skills.

Modern society has, in many cultures, forgotten and neglected the underlying importance of these basic skills in the search for cost-efficiency. Growing our own food, making a dress or table, or fashioning a tool for ourselves and our communities is commonly a mystery.

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6 Responses to “Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?”

  1. glennis says:

    While it might be true in a very upscale shop or couture marketplace, I doubt people will be having conversations with retail clerks about “why does this product exist?” on any regular basis any time soon. It’s a lofty goal and as a maker of handmade I would like to live in that idealized society. Education of course is key but so is affordability on a larger scale. For makers, building relationships with customers one on one is essential but in a shopping mall situation-even in the better department stores, sometimes getting basic help or the attention of a sales clerk is like striking gold these days.

    I would agree that basic skills have suffered greatly in exchange for cost efficiency. But how to broadly rebuild that base of knowledge (and the interest in it) in our current economic times seems to be the challenge.

  2. jeanece says:

    I recently emroidered tea towel flour sacks for a friend who had bought a home and my two college student sons. Each one loved the gift. Alex 21 asked, did you sew these? These were from an iron on transfer, but the stitching was mine. In the future, I’d like to make my own designs. While these where not haute coutre, they were appreciated. My nine year old daughter is learning how to embroider, something I learned from my grandmother. If you get a chance to try hand embroidering, please do.

  3. […] From a slightly different angle, our own Natalie Chanin shares her thoughts in a recent interview, “Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?“ […]

  4. Substance783 says:

    I am the owner of a boutique that specializes in eco-friendly and socially responsible fashion and accessories. When I opened the store, I made the choice to incorporate hand made product into the assortment. In fact we make the product in a design studio space that is open to the public in the front window of our store. In this new normal where affordability is critical to our success, our customers get to see the inherent value in product made by human beings that they can shake hands with and talk to about design inspiration. From being on the front lines with this unique business model for the last few challenging years I’ve learned that YES handmade matters but so does having a dialogue with those individuals for whom we craft. The result is fabulous fashion that’s affordable because its inspired by the individuals who are shopping for handmade fashion.

  5. […] Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion? […]

  6. sunaina says:

    i have a boutique in delhi, india and over the years i have just been focusing on handmade textiles and embellishments. i meet lots of people who are very interested in the process behind the garment on the rack and then again those who just don’t care.

    handmade textiles are magic !

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