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Project_alabama_1 Project Alabama runway show

From producing in the U.S. to relying entirely on skilled artisans & sewers from Alabama, Project Alabama seemed to beat the odds. However, after six years - just as in Vegas - the house inevitably won. "Manufacturing in America is a bit going against the stream," co-founder Natalie Chanin recently told WWD – as one of the very slim minority still manufacturing clothing stateside. "We tried really hard to make it work. It just became very difficult, as anyone in the textiles industry knows. Made in America is almost a misnomer at the moment."

Launched with the sale of 200 t-shirts – all made by hand –at the Chelsea Hotel during Fashionweek in 2000, retail heavyweights like Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey, and Ikram all picked the line up, and it blossomed and grew to include embellished red carpet gowns with 5-figure price tags, and even home decor.

While critically lauded with placement among the top 3 finalists for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion, and one of the top 10 contenders for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2005, the company fell victim to growth without the commensurate cash flow necessary to hire the additional help needed to grow. Rumor has it operations could start up again if financing were to magically appear. "It's all still open right now,” says Chanin. "It depends what offers come our way."

Companies like Target, Walmart and H&M deliver high style at low prices, which benefits consumers, but has also made shoppers not in the top end of the market extremely price sensitive. As a result, it’s virtually impossible to survive in the middle section of the market – between mass retail & designer – without competing on price. And unfortunately, companies that produce abroad in much larger quantities and have much larger marketing budgets can make it virtually impossible for an indie designer like Project Alabama to succeed…which bodes ill for the future of independent, truly unique fashion design.

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- Lesley Scott


September 21, 2006 in Design, Fashion, Fashiontribes Daily Podcast, PODCAST, Podcaster News Shows, Trend Alert, Weblogs | Permalink


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