When Natalie Chanin left Florence, Alabama at the age of 18, she headed first to New York, then to Europe, working as a costume designer and stylist for the fashion and entertainment industries. Twenty-two years later she returned to Florence to make hand-stitched T-shirts with the help of local seamstresses.

“We are not solving the economic problems of the region,” Chanin concedes. But her company, Alabama Chanin, is based on a cottage industry model in which local sewers essentially own their own businesses and set their own hours.

Determined to create an environment where “everybody in the company has to win,” Chanin is as passionate about protecting the environment as she is about local labor, heirloom sewing techniques, and great design.

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