It’s a love story to say the least. One of my absolute favorite style icons, Ali MacGraw, has just launched a fabulous new collection with ibu movement. Ibu movement, which takes its name from the Indonesian word (pronounced ee-boo) meaning a well-respected woman, is an organization that brings together local artisans from around the world to create stunning contemporary fashion collections. By empowering women in countries around the world, ibu promotes independence and self-sufficiency, while also creating a line of chic garments and home décor all infused with the ibu essence.
The mission has always been to empower women by uplifting their traditional craft to the modern fashion landscape, and this latest collection by Ali MacGraw proves to be doing just that. The colors are beautiful and beachy, with finely stitched details and amazing hand-block prints. They are working with women from over 23 countries from around the world (including Navajo women from Ali’s native New Mexico) to create the line and it truly is inspirational. Best part? We were lucky enough to chat with Ali about this fabulous new collection!
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: How would you describe the Ibu movement?
ALI MACGRAW: Ibu is the Indonesian word for ‘woman of respect,’ so when Susan Hull Walker (founder of ibu movement) was traveling extensively and trying to find a way to help women in these cooperative all over the planet, she realized it a perfect name for what she was trying to achieve. Because when women in these societies (which are often so drastically different from our own), are able to bring money into their households, it alters the family dynamic. She is able to gain respect, and provide things like education and medical attention for her family. So family by family, it starts to change the structure of some of the poorest areas of the world where these amazing artisanal crafts are being made.
The bigger picture for us all, is that it’s a great way to contribute something with our hearts and our checkbooks to women’s cooperatives all over the world.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: What drew you to Ibu?
ALI MACGRAW: My whole life I have been crazy about wearing and collecting textiles from the four corners of the earth. In many cases, these things been passed down for generations, or at least the handiwork and craft has been taught by generations, so there is a cultural continuum for these women that’s not often seen in the west. Our society changes everything immediately, outsourcing things, making things quickly and cheaply. It’s so unappealing in comparison to something made by hand, something that joins you to a group of women from around the globe.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: How did you envision this collection?
ALI MACGRAW: I’m not a designer-with-a-capital-D, but I was lucky enough to get to pick whatever I love to look at or wear for this summer line. I just wanted to use all these amazing things I’ve known about for years in a way that I could imagine wearing them for this and many summers to come. It’s not throw away fashion. I only buy things I love or not at all. So for this line I started with white because it’s summery, and blue because it’s a color that looks good on all types of people. We then found these beautiful Pakistani embroideries, and asked if they could make them in white and the perfect blue I found. Then I added a little orange to bring light to the collection.
The whole process was based on the question ‘would I wear it?’ Susan has many groups of women she has met abroad in their own villages, so we had the extensive network of over 70 countries to collaborate with. I conjure up what it would look like, then Susan says, ‘I know exactly the women who can do that.’ For instance, I was so inspired by the film “The Queen of Katwe,” set in Uganda, and I just thought what great textiles—the fabrics are all about joy and color. The process was so much fun, it’s all things I would like to wear—what real people wear, no Spanx, no zippers.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: What was the process for you working with the artisans from around the world?
ALI MACGRAW: I said, wow I’d love some pants that are really comfortable, with just a little elastic, and not skin tight, and I think everyone looks good in vertical stripes, and Susan knew just who to make them. I have a lot of global textiles in my own collection, and I’ve always worn lots of accessories—silver especially that I’ve collected my whole life. So we found amazing glass beads from Africa, and we have a friend from Nagaland that makes silver emblems and coins, and we like to layer lots of thing together. Or, I had a skirt from south Africa—a spectacularly graphic print, and I wanted to have it copied in Conga. So we did everything like this, I chose what I would like to wear, what I could envision for a summery collection, and Susan knew just the right woman to make it.
We also have nothing to do with fashion, this is wearable clothing for all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. It’s as inclusive as possible, all made by hand. And there can be so many cultures all wrapped into one single outfit. But because of all this, these pieces never go out of style.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: What does being an ibu embassador mean to you?
ALI MACGRAW: The world is such a disturbing place. But we lucky westerners have the privilege of reaching out woman to woman, sister to sister, maybe just in the small way of buying beads or a beautiful shawl. But it makes a connection between women all over the planet. We need to help each other. And for me, this is the fantastic combination of my own creativity, and my attempts to reach out and really connect. I’m not a political activist, my way is more social and service oriented. I love the personal aspect of ibu movement because we are in real contact with our artisans. And through their own empowerment, it expands exponentially from Uzbekistan to Brazil to Pakistan to the South Sudan.
It’s so exciting for me to work on this collection because after 25 years of living in a city that’s filled with this stuff, I’ve gotten a tremendous education about textiles and accessories from around the globe. And Susan also has her own collection of textiles, which she then learned to make at SCAD. She wanted to take these beautiful things and have them made at their sources. And it’s so special to wrap a shawl around your shoulders knowing that three or four generations of women created it. It’s a far a cry from the disconnect of our own society. This is a heart connection.