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Ibu Stories

    Kantha Stitching from Bangladesh

    Kantha Stitching from Bangladesh
    When I see the crumpled face of our production manager, Jamie, I know we've hit a brick wall. Around her are piles of scarlet tunics hemorrhaging all over our studio. A large shipment we've awaited for two years has arrived.

    Woven Bags Made by Syrian Refugees

    Woven Bags Made by Syrian Refugees
    She didn't have to, but she did. Rania Kinge went back to her homeland of Syria, despite her thriving career in Switzerland, despite her family of diplomats which allowed her access to the US, her perfect English, her endless possible lives. Rania returned to the place she came by because of the six and a half million people displaced by war in the proud country she calls home.

    Gold Flora Jewelry

    Gold Flora Jewelry

    Her lover gave her a splendid orchid blossom. It splurged; it faded. Still cherishing, she tucked it in a drawer. A month later, forgetting, she opened and found the blossom still there - dried but alive with memory. A jeweler, she dreamt of turning it into gold. She consulted teachers, experts; no one could tell her how to perform this alchemy. So she set out - by trying and trying again - to find her own way. 

    Hand Painted Dress from India

    Hand Painted Dress from India
    When a man knocked on her door, Anita Reddy invited him in and offered him food, thinking him a beggar. Though starving, he refused, offering her instead one of his hand-painted textiles, and told of how kalamkari artisans like himself were being crushed by middle men exploiting their skills for very little pay. Organize! she thought.

    Susan's Trip to Medellin, Colombia

    Susan's Trip to Medellin, Colombia
    Juan Sebastián walked into the Ibu Pop-up Shop in Palm Beach, having driven from Miami for this reason alone, to look and see for himself what Ibu is about. I work with artisans in Colombia, he said gently with an accent and with such humility and excitement that I had to lean in to get the story. You must come. And he said it with a kind of quiet conviction such that I knew my bags were already packed.  

    Hand Embroidered Cocktail Napkins from Rwanda

    Hand Embroidered Cocktail Napkins from Rwanda
    In the daily work of Ibu, I sometimes see the heavy arm of war sweep over our projects. Our production team faces questions like how to get materials to stranded artisans in Gaza, and how to get design training safely to the women in South Sudan. We've had products buried under the rubble of a suicide bomb in the Kabul airport. 

    Handwoven Ikat from Uzbekistan

    Handwoven Ikat from Uzbekistan
    Entering a small pink room without windows, I can hardly find a place to stand - large tables fill the whole of it and on them is an ocean of green leaves and rolling white foam. No, wait, those are silk worms surfing over the green waves, munching with such enthusiasm they are almost drunk with nutrients; some are heading to sleep to weave their dream of silk.

    Beading by the Maasai Tribe in Kenya

    Beading by the Maasai Tribe in Kenya
    Shauna Mistretta was no novice. She'd been working in Africa for years to expand markets for women. But in 2010, when she agreed to help a group of 200 Maasai women beaders at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, she didn't know that her life was about to change. She didn't know that their one room thatched roof school would grow to an 8 classroom educational center with over 600 children. She didn't know that female genital mutilation, the accepted rite of passage when she began, would be completely eradicated, and the wounding that accompanies it.

    Indigo Dyes in El Salvador

    Indigo Dyes in El Salvador
    As one who gravitates toward a spectrum of warmth: the light of gold and fiery red and hot fuchsia, I battle with blue. Blue recedes, even as your eye tries to take it in; coy, that way, and complicated. Hard to get to know, if you ask me. And yet, we in the west say overwhelmingly that blue is our favorite color. So, I return to blue again and again to try and understand this elusive shade which doesn't so much evoke a certain feeling but rather stills them all.

    Traditional Felting in Kyrgyzstan

    Traditional Felting in Kyrgyzstan
    I'm pouring through piles of remnants, samples, scraps . . . treasure hunting. I pull out a long strip of something I have never seen before - felted squares on gauzy silk and pull it around me like a robe. It's dramatic and sweeping and glamorous . . . it is instant love. This is what I didn't know I was coming for, and found.  

    Embroiderers in Pakistan

    Embroiderers in Pakistan
    In the courtyard of Tasleem Bibi's home, women huddle around stretched white linen to keep alive the fine embroidery that is their Punjab heritage . . . and their only hope of livelihood. Azra, Aleeza, Sobia, Kalsom, and Usma; Naheed, Nadia, Munaza, Shumaila and Sumera; Rabia, Khatija and Rafia all shown here, are working on a dress for Ibu. They are among 2700 women in Pakistan registered with Project Rang, though many more want to work should work be found.

    Iris Apfel Supports Ibu's Mission

    Iris Apfel Supports Ibu's Mission
    She scoured European villages for weavers - Old World Weavers - and with her husband founded a company by that name. Iris Apfel loves textiles in a deep-down scholarly way. With a sharply discerning eye, she knows the pure quality of old world techniques and designs - and gave her life to preserving them, such that nine presidents of the United States came to Iris to reproduce significant historic textiles for the White House.

    Introducing the Ibu Foundation

    Introducing the Ibu Foundation

    I'm sitting down with Chantha Nguon to discuss designs for our World Dress collection, having admired for years her work with luscious silk. Chantha is a strong, petite woman with a handsome face and eyes that hold a harrowing history. Born in culturally rich Cambodia, Chantha escaped the Khmer Rouge regime when she was nine, living in war-torn Saigon and later for 10 years without family in a Thai refugee camp. When she at last returned to her home in Cambodia, the culture had been extinguished; the women in her village knew nothing of their heritage, nor of hope.

     

     

    A Look Ahead to our March 8th Fashion Show

    A Look Ahead to our March 8th Fashion Show
    Standing behind the curtains during an Audubon Runway Show last week, I am the silent eye in the midst of a storm. Fifteen young women stampede into the dressing room, hot off the runway, frantically throwing off their clothes to allow a well-orchestrated Ibu team to dress them again in trousers and jacket, wrap scarves and style turbans, chunk on cuffs, slip on shoes, clip on earrings; pile on necklaces, change the lip color and throw the hair into a wild top knot - all in 60 seconds or less - and then head my way for a final check.

    Meet the Faces of Ibu

    Meet the Faces of Ibu

    Each week, I celebrate here women of uncommon strength; artisans crafting a new world; Ibu on the move. But there is another kind of Ibu in this movement: women of influence and accomplishment among us who are reaching out to elevate women worldwide.

     

     

    The New Ibu Foundation

    The New Ibu Foundation
    Five years ago, I began to walk into a vision of Ibu. What I wanted was a movement, women around the world clasping one another by the arm, disrupting poverty and shaking down prejudice that censored their incadescent imaginations and together rising into a new self-respect. All this by putting money in the hands of women for the fine skills they carry in their bones - and for which they have rarely been paid.

    Spring 2019 Collection

    Spring 2019 Collection
    Every four years, the best weavers from16 city-states came together with the skills and fibers of their region to weave a new dress for Athena. From the Acropolis, she watched over the weaving and the wars of ancient Greece; this peplos was a stunning thing carried through the streets in a high festival, promoting peace among diverse peoples. Peace through a fine new dress, I'm saying, and by way of the women who wove it.

    Hand Beaded Earrings from South Africa

    Hand Beaded Earrings from South Africa
    Over cocktails in a friend's garden, I am trying to talk with brilliant Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for Fox News in DC, but as our conversation roams over global and women's issues of great significance, I hate to admit I'm seriously distracted by her earrings. Not because they're distracting, but because they are so fresh, so chic, so original - metallic beaded things that looked like they might take off in flight. When we finally take a breath, I jump on the chance.  

    World Famous Mountaineer Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

    World Famous Mountaineer Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita
    Growing up in the shadow of Mount Everest, Pasang wanted to be a mountaineer from an early age, though she had never really heard of another woman doing so. She loved the mountains, that was all. Her parents died by the time she was 15, leaving a 6 year old sister for her to raise. She decided, somehow, in those circumstances, nothing is impossible.

    Hand-Made Jewelry by Brooke Jaron

    Hand-Made Jewelry by Brooke Jaron
    An old silver talisman, rubbed smooth by hands and time . . . that's all I see. It's as though nothing else exists for a brief moment except this rare treasure around a woman's neck, whispering to me. The woman and I have never met; she is gently perusing Ibu inventory in New York at a trunk show last year. The necklace finally introduced us.  

    Nepal's Noble Fibre

    Nepal's Noble Fibre
    Thin air, tattered prayer flags, lonesome wind. Snow leopards, tea houses with yak butter. Temples at 17,000 feet. When I think of the Annapurna mountains of Nepal, I think first of trekkers hoisting backpacks, swinging bridges, random avalanches, cold spectacular. I think maybe I'd like to be one of those trekkers one day.

    Velvet Ikat from Turkey

    Velvet Ikat from Turkey
    Cutting between Istanbul's Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia on the way to work is a bit surreal. The April day is shining and clear and the tourists who would normally throng this area are alarmingly absent - a suicide bombing in the Istanbul airport in 2016 has driven Europeans and Americans away in droves

    Renowned Embroiderer in Uzbekistan

    Renowned Embroiderer in Uzbekistan
    Far across the parking lot, I see a crimson coat dancing with threads of Samarkand - one of my favorite embroidered designs evoking prosperity and peace - now lit up by the low slant of sun. Pulse goes up; my feet swerve and head straight toward this sighting without thought.

    Intricate Embroidery from Afghanistan

    Intricate Embroidery from Afghanistan
    Watching the 2001 Iranian film, Kandahar this week, I see the true story of Afghan-Canadian journalist, Nafas, desperately trying to find her way back to her birth city to save the sister left behind from her depression and threatened suicide.

    A Revolutionary Family in Morocco

    A Revolutionary Family in Morocco
    Wafae took me to her house, walking arm in arm up the hill and past her mosque, to a home that opened first onto a room of weaving looms and dried plants where natural dyeing experiments were bubbling.

    Jewelry Makers in India

    Jewelry Makers in India
    Tiala, loving nothing more than to cook, prepares a dinner for me of Naga-spiced chicken and vegetables. I frankly find black pepper a little overwhelming, so when I turn fiery red and sputter and cough and start gulping wine, she kindly washes off my dinner under the faucet with all of her precious spices and hard work going down the drain, muttering about wimpy white people who can’t stomach anything interesting.

    The Business Behind Ibu

    The Business Behind Ibu
    Those are still my two goals for the work of Ibu: putting money in the hands of women and doing so by elevating their under-appreciated, under-paid skills of hand-crafted beauty.

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