One morning last October, I found myself walking a weekly market in the green lush highlands of Southern Ethiopia. Sun splashed a colorful crowd gathered on the open town center. Women greeted one another with gossip and affection and spread their potatoes, milk, spices, and cotton for discriminating spinners to choose.
Dorze is the weaving capital of Ethiopia and local Ann Marie, below left, knows her cotton. Look at her - nothing is going to get by this one. She chooses only the best cotton and sends it on to the larger town of Arba Minch where her cooperative spins, dies, weaves and finishes the beautiful fluff into some of the softest, finest cotton in the world.
At their workshop, I saw fine gauzy cotton, netela, become voluminous bordered shawls - the kind worn by every woman in Ethiopia - and now - through ibu, by the chicest women in the west who know a good thing for a hot summer evening.
A heavier cotton, gabi, makes the luscious towels we carry at ibu, curtains in our gallery,colorful striped shawls, and now, for the first time, may we introduce? Caftans for your poolside and party pleasure.
This industrious group of spinners, weavers, and cotton growers is thrilled to join hands with ibu. Non-profits and governmental agencies from the West, they told us, have come and gone, pulling up roots after a 3 year grant is over. They watched endeavors rise and collapse without the needed structure built from within, and so, at last, decided to form a business of their own.
That’s what I’m talking about! I love to work with these who are going their own way and spinning out a life for their children, even as they play at their knees. ibu is not only carrying their beautiful goods, we are collaborating on many new designs yet to come. I want this group to endure.
Here’s to the trail of cotton, from Dorze to you - a long thread of work and love, the joy of creating, the pleasure of wearing, and the important link of belonging to one another.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker