Barbecue CoutureOctober 17, 2012
Florence, Alabama-based clothing designer Natalie Chanin's garments never cease to amaze us. From wedding gowns to winter coats, her clothing manages to be as cozy as a decades old quilt, and yet sophisticated enough for Bergdorf Goodman. Still, we never could have predicted this.
In honor of the fifteenth Southern Foodways Symposium—titled Barbecue: An Exploration of Pitmasters, Places, Smoke, and Sauce— being held this weekend in Oxford, MS, Natalie was asked by her friend, G&G contributor John T. Edge, to create clothing inspired by barbecue. She had the garments smoked in Jim 'N Nicks' barbecue pit.
Needless to say, we were pretty pumped about this marriage of Southern food and fashion. Below, we asked Natalie a few questions about her latest experiment.
MK: Barbecue-inspired clothing is one thing. Clothing actually smoked in a barbecue pit is another. Explain.
NC: I really didn’t know what would happen when I came up with the idea. However, Drew at Jim ‘N Nick’s was so patient and brought so much knowledge about his craft that it always felt like we were in good hands. We did a little pre-test on a couple of pieces which in no way reflected how beautiful the pieces actually turned out.
MK: What effect did the smoker have on the clothes?
NC: There is a patina (and a smoked smell) that coats the fabrics. The parts of the fabric that were hidden in folds colored less, so you have this wide variety of color within each piece. The beading took to the smoke in an especially beautiful way. Parts of them look like gold.
MK: What images from your own barbecue past did you reference in preparation for this design process?
NC: When I first started talking with John T. Edge and the Southern Foodways Alliance about this project, I definitely had some biases and images of barbeque from my “barbeque past,” as you so beautifully call it. Those red checkered tablecloths that graced most Southern tables at one time or another immediately came to mind, plus aprons and, for some reason, ruffled skirts? Perhaps this is a nod to my early 1960's upbringing and the decor of barbeque joints from that era? Barbeque is unavoidable when you live in the South.
MK: Why was it important for you to be a part of this Symposium?
NC: I believe so strongly in what the Southern Foodways Alliance is doing. In fact, there have been times when I have tried to model my business (in some ways) like the Southern Foodways Alliance models theirs. Mostly, I find the people, the presenters, and all the passion flying around the weekend completely inspiring. Add to all that the respect and love surrounding 18 delicious meals, wine (and spirit) pairings, and hilarious conversation and you will never want to miss another Symposium in your life.
MK: What do you hope people come away with after seeing—and smelling—the clothing?