Piles of books about indigo capture me with subtitles like the color that changed the world...that seduced the world...and while I am steeping myself in indigo history across India, Indonesia, China, Japan, and Europe, I’m also pondering this strange love affair the world over with the color blue. There is something dense and unreachable in this color, yet so alive, intense, and deep as the enigmatic ocean. Something we love.
This morning, I’m digging into indigo lore in West Africa where most often women preside over the dye pots of this magic.
I pick up the phone and call Aissato, the Queen of Indigo from Ivory Coast, who has recently supplied us with tables full of this storied cotton. She explains in a beautifully lilting and broken English that these cloths are wrappers to carry babies on a mother’s back, that the pieces she provided Ibu are from the Mossi-Dafing and Samo tribes, old and gloriously faded, passed down from mother to daughter in Burkina Faso.
Woven by men in fantastically long strips that extend far outside the home, women then stitch the cloth to form designs that will resist the dye and leave white spots - then submerge them in the living indigo vats, further shading with every round, until the plant dye pales, gives over all its got, and dies.
Ali loves this indigo, and often wraps it around her hips like a sarong, or fashions the cloth into soft pillows. But for her collection...she envisioned shoes. The chicest indigo mules you’ll ever want to own...each one, absolutely one of a kind. Ali chose a cording made of a blue and white ticking stripe and lined the whole thing in a pale blue suede. This shoe is killer. I want you to have first dibs because I do believe they are going to all be gone quickly. See below for the pre-order possibilities.
In the meantime, consider the 18th century European dyers who classified indigo in shades that read like poetry: milk-blue, pearl-blue, flat-blue, middling blue, sky-blue, queen’s blue, turkish blue, garter blue, infernal blue. Consider how the blue of this planet wraps around us, how it gurgles and flows and ponds in serenity, how it soothes the heated mind, how it cradles the night stars, and sometimes, in the midst of everything and everyday, like the first hyacinth braving spring, how it takes our breath away.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker