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    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.

    Beaded Earphones and Chargers from Kenya

    Beaded Earphones and Chargers from Kenya
    The first face of Ibu, Abigail graced our lookbooks, modeled our first Ibu looks . . . and, more than modeling . . . she lived and breathed the early life of the Ibu tribe. 

    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

    Handspun Hope from Rwanda

    Handspun Hope from Rwanda
    Odette is hired as one of the first ten women to work at the Rwandan enterprise, Handspun Hope, and on that very evening of this new beginning, gives birth to her daughter, Diana. Diana has grown up as the enterprise has grown, now with 122 women finding creative, sustaining work, new skills, safe harbor, and each other. In that is also the beginning of healing from the deep wounds of genocide.

    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.

    Kisses from Kismet

    Kisses from Kismet
    Wavy tiger stripes and leopard dots speaking to courage and strength? Or glowing pearls and jewels from Tibetan Buddhism? Drifting clouds, you could say, or are they rivers, these undulating waves? 

    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.

    Velvet from Uzbekistan

    Velvet from Uzbekistan
    Among the thousands of silk worms rustling before me on a bed of mulberry leaves, one occasionally raises a sleepy head to strike a pose, signaling the cocoon won't be long in coming. Aziz begins the day by explaining the life of a silk worm here in a family compound in Margilan, Uzbekistan.

    Millennial Mantra Cuffs from Colombia

    Millennial Mantra Cuffs from Colombia
    Several months ago, I stumbled across an online article translating insanely popular millennial idioms into the kind of English that I typically, boringly speak. From Refinery 29 I learned that lit had moved on since my college days from the good time I had the night before to something bigger - the whole stinking party is on fire!

    Woven Earrings and Totes from Mola Sasa

    Woven Earrings and Totes from Mola Sasa
    On the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, four indigenous groups have lived in simplicity according to their nature-rich spiritual traditions, untouched by the rest of the world.

    Woven Peruvian Clutches

    Woven Peruvian Clutches
    Climbing in the mountains of Peru, over steep passes and through orchid laced valleys, I stumble straight into an isolated family compound, complete with a pig roasting and a mother weaving. No one around for miles. 

    A Whirlwind Trip to Kyrgyzstan

    A Whirlwind Trip to Kyrgyzstan
    We land at dawn and drive on quiet roads, the sun splintering across powerful white mountains.  Slipping into Bishkek, street cleaners use tumbleweed brooms to tidy the empty avenues.  The faces I see everywhere elude me - there's something strikingly other about them - strong and broad and, later I would understand, proud.  Clearly, I am somewhere new, I think, with a breezy chill down my arm; somewhere I've never been before.  I feel adventure in that breeze.

    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.

    Navajo Crafted Beaded Cuffs

    Navajo Crafted Beaded Cuffs
    Working with artisans in Istanbul, Sydney adopted the Turkish word for IMPACT to guide her business, wanting the income earned to make a real impact in the workers lives.  After some time, she returned to her home in the states, determined to create the same impact with US artisans.

    Beads of South Sudan

    Beads of South Sudan

    Jess just appeared.  She lives in Nairobi, bought a home in Charleston, and one day, out of the blue, came to visit.  Turns out, sitting on our rooftop with coffee in hand, I learn that Jess is working with artisans in Kenya and Ethiopia and when we wondered aloud if she knew of women who could bead a sandal, she quickly linked us to the Maridadi Handcrafts women in Malinda, Kenya, so that now we're dancing in some fancy beaded toe numbers with a lot of hand-love in every stitch.   

    Bringing Light to Embroidery in Nigeria

    Bringing Light to Embroidery in Nigeria

    Our ladies are stopping their work at sundown, Hassana explained, because they can’t see to embroider on black cloth at night. They don't have lights. 

    These are the same women of the Queen Amina Embroidery Center in Nigeria who made the stunning ali4ibu caftan last spring - richly embroidered on white. You loved it.  Who knew that the change of fabric color could throw off their game?

    Weaving Through Destruction in Mexico

    Weaving Through Destruction in Mexico
    Twelve days ago, a rip-roaring 7.5 scale earthquake shot up the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, tumbling adobe houses in its path.  Just 2 kilometers from the epicenter, Margarita is at her back-strap loom, working diligently on a new blouse for Ali and Ibu.  Her village trembles; parts of it fall.  In the midst of the rubble, the shaken Mixtec Tixinda weavers locate one another and their ali4ibu work still on the looms; once convinced everyone is ok, they join forces to start rebuilding each other's homes.

    Empowering Women in Pakistan

    Empowering Women in Pakistan
    This is what beauty looks like. This is the sound of laughter coming from a woman doing what she loves and getting paid for it. This is a rural Pakistani from Khairpur who belongs to Project Rang, one of 2600 women across the South Punjab and Sindh who are earning living wages where once there were no wages at all. With it, this widow supports her children and grandchildren.  

    The Story Cloth of Myanmar

    The Story Cloth of Myanmar
    I read the stories of the Rohingya: the more than 600,000 Rohingya in western Myanmar attacked violently by their government, driven from their ravaged homes, running for their lives after watching their parents diced with machetes and thrown into ditches, their daughters raped, their villages - 354 of them - burned to cinders. Their life in Myanmar, always uncertain and unrecognized, is now in ashes. The remaining huddle in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while the violence they survived seeps relentlessly into their memory like sewage water into their tents.

    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.

    Gold Plated Brass of Colombia

    Gold Plated Brass of Colombia
    In the late 19th century, Nemicio Cano, a stone paver in Colombia, South America, discovered major archeological artifacts from Pre-Columbian times while he was working on the land.  Igniting what became a legacy of intrigue and fascination with the gold of these forebears, Nemicio and future generations of his family became guardians of this cultural history, through it resuscitating the cultural pride of their people.

    Charlotte Moss for Ibu - Part Four

    Charlotte Moss for Ibu - Part Four
    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 Moss for Ibu - Part Three

    Charlotte Moss for Ibu - Part Three
    Twenty years ago, I met Nawal while she was running a world-class boutique for my friend Meryanne Loum-Martin in Marrakech.  Years later, after Nawal had started a business of her own and I had, too, we found our way together again. One afternoon over espresso and invoices in her shop, Nawal told me in her halting French-inflected English about her childhood - how her mother had died when Nawal was only three years old, how she was sent away from her home in the mountains to live with her grandmother in the mellah of Marrakech.  Here, in the impoverished Jewish Quarter, where needlework is the game, Nawal learned to embroider in all of the complex ways of Moroccan style - a rich, dense soutache that I admire; no - that I obsess over.

    Charlotte Moss for Ibu - Part One

    Charlotte Moss for Ibu - Part One
    Ibu team member Austin told me one day that his college friend had started making kilim shoes in Turkey.  Curiosity drove me to the screen to check it out - loved instantly what I saw.  Boston-based Millicent Armstrong is making one of a kind classic smoking slippers out of old kilim rugs and calling the enterprise Artemis Designs.  I ordered a pair and wore them everywhere. Comfortable, richly textured, and oh so chic.  Wish I could carry these, I thought, knowing you would love them as I do, but since they are not made by women artisans, the notion passed.  

    Beaded Bags in Kenya

    Beaded Bags in Kenya
    As Wendy McNeil listened to a presentation about Ibu artisans, she found herself thinking of Antonia.  Born in London, Antonia Stogdale spent holidays in Kenya where the last 3 generations of her family were born.  When she decided to settle there, a celebrated chef on luxury safaris led by her husband, she also reached out to Maasai women to start a beading project with them making uber-chic clutches and bags.  Wendy quietly put me in touch with Antonia, whose bags sell so quickly in Kenya and Europe, they haven’t even found their way to a retail store in the US.  Until now.

    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.

    The Women Behind Ali4Ibu - Part Three

    The Women Behind Ali4Ibu - Part Three
    Last August, Ali and I poured over vintage beads at an Ethnographic Market, captured by the patina of old shells and coins and brilliant blue glass.  And then we saw these humble tear-shaped beauties, light and gentle and the hue of spring rain . . . and we were hooked.  Job’s Tears. 

    The Women Behind Ali4Ibu - Part One

    The first thing I do - after Ali says Yes - is to scour the internet for what signature looks have come to define her life, what dress has become her second skin.  I want her collection for Ibu to capture the essence of her iconic style. 

    Meeting of Powerful Women in Marrakech

    Meeting of Powerful Women in Marrakech
    They’ve taken an 8 hour train from their home in Sefrou down to Marrakech, carrying a bag so heavy it takes two to inch it along.  Amina, fearless and well-traveled, has brought her lovely daughter-in-law, Wafae, who’s never been to the pink city in her 22 years.  At 9:00 in the evening, the two travelers, without a sign of weariness, arrive at Jnane Tamsna where I am staying and celebrate our grand reunion over dinner, having such fun that the proprietor, my friend and Ibu Ambassador, Meryanne Loum Martin, comes to join us.  

    Mantra Cuffs from Colombia

    Mantra Cuffs from Colombia
    My dear and brilliant friend, Jill Weeks, looks at our popular cuffs one day and wonders aloud, Why not have words woven into them?   A month later, we find our way to Magno and Reinel of a Zenu artisan group in northern Colombia, learning about how their cuffs are woven out of caña fleche fiber in ageless symbols which bind their lives together.  Can the artisans weave words as well as symbols, we ask?  

    Mola Textiles from Panama

    Mola Textiles from Panama
    It started with a tattoo.  A line drawn on the torso signified power or totem or clan.  Bodies were the first canvas upon which one might make an artful mark, claim an identity.  Only later, much later, did clothing take over that job - textiles are often the extension of tattoos, a literal second skin, carrying forward the same symbolic patterns while also offering warmth and modesty.

    Jewels from Morocco

    Jewels from Morocco
    First I noticed the silver amulets around the necks of friends, then the chunky rings, unusual earrings.  When I raved, they sent me again and again to the same source: Jewels.

    Weavings from Chiapas

    Weavings from Chiapas
    What’s the difference between a coaster and a cocktail napkin?  Not something Cesi thinks about a lot - until ibu commissions hundreds of handwoven cocktail napkins (what do they use these things for???)  When I first met Cesi last December, she had traveled many miles through the mountains to present me with piles of her work, already completed.

    Prints from Kenya

    Prints from Kenya
    I leaned out of an open lorry and saw long stretches of cinnamon colored paths winding over the lush mountainside.  Dotting the path were brightly colored sarongs swaying on women’s hips, the companion piece of cloth wrapped around their heads, or tied over a shoulder, or billowing like a curtain against the hot African sun.

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