In a Marrakech boutique last January, Charlotte snagged a head wrap in a dreadful fabric and bought it. Just outside the door, I asked what she was thinking and she let me know we had some work to do perfecting the turban for her Ibu collection. I’m down! Every caftan entertaining moment needs the option of a scarf tied casually around one’s locks. Classic Chic. But who knows how to do that anymore?! You need some help. So, we took the half-right head wrap and enhanced, edited, sized, and sent it off to our good friend, Muhayo, in Uzbekistan, with her gorgeous ikat fabrics. Charlotte chose her favorite, a composition of subtle colors that seem to go with everything, and had a classic clutch made too. Simple, clean lines, lots of pow in the graphic punch.
Ikat has hit the market big in recent years; so popular that major brands knock it off in a printed textile mill and think you don’t know the difference. But I know you’re keener than that. Real ikat is a centuries old technique in Central Asia which involves counting and wrapping silk threads on a warping board before they are woven - what one of Muhayo's artisans is doing in the image at the top of this page. By tying off groups of thread one bit at a time, these areas resist the dyeing process which comes next. (seen below). Each color involves tying off a different batch of threads - an intense, exacting process - bringing to life a pattern over time.
When those precise threads are warped on the loom, the threads shift in the hand, just tiny shifts, and that creates the blurry irregular lines of ikat that we love.
Though a process practiced in many corners of the world, this ikat is created in the Ferghana Valley of Uzbekistan, where the skill has been passed down over centuries. During the Soviet regime, ikat was almost extinguished, considered nostalgic and un-modern. But now, like other craft, it's experiencing a renaissance, and weavers are returning to their looms.
In Tashkent, Muhayo Aliyeva is providing economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s storied language in cloth. Her own sisters had stepped into arranged marriages and not been allowed to step out of their homes. Muhayo decided on a different direction, and now employs her sisters, nieces, and other women in a growing enterprise. When Charlotte opted for a kitten heel mule out of the same ikat, I went to our shoe guru, Lynne Comeau, who has been designing and making shoes in Italy for years. She knew just how to turn Muhayo's silk threads into the sexiest little mules you'll ever want to ride.
Today, I am celebrating Lynne in Milan, Muhayo and team in Tashkent, and the women of the Ferghana Valley reviving their culture and their pride. And with them, Charlotte Moss in New York, bringing light and life to these ancient ways, these skillful hands, these hope-filled women.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker