From Dorze, with Love

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

Dressing Bess

Porgy’s a cripple, Bess a druggie, the neighborhood a dilapidated slum . . . so the Catfish Row opera has often gone down in the stereotypical interpretations of directors since it was first produced in 1935.  But now, in the Spoleto Festival’s 40th anniversary production, the opera is taking a spin.

Artist Jonathan Greenhas re-interpreted the costumes based on his own experience growing up in the Lowcountry and the women and men who formed a vibrant colorful community around him.  Porgy and Bess through the eyes of a native son, unabashedly celebrating the culture he loves.

At ibu, our New Africa exhibit elevates the same energetic expression; and, like Greene, does so also through dress.  Our long twirling skirts from Togo, our bright beaded shoes and necklaces from Kenya, our shawls that wrap your do like a royal crown.

I live a couple of blocks from Catfish Row, where Gershwin was inspired to put this story to music.  In that context, Jonathan decided to conjure a world in which Africans chose to immigrate to the colonies like Europeans did - and to dress them accordingly.

Monday night I sat in Charleston’s new grand performance hall, awash with the colors of his imagination, thinking of the difference a garment can make.  Here’s to Jonathan, for painting both with memory and a bold leap into beauty.  Here's to all who create new worlds with the colors of their imagination . . . worlds that open , like the heart of Bess.  Open and sing.

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

Introducing SHEBU

Sally was in college when her brother came to work with ibu.  She heard him talk incessantly about his new endeavor; like any younger sister she wondered what planet he had landed upon.  But Sally came to the first ibu Pop-Up Shop and just like that she knew why he was hooked, because she was, too.  Sally went to her brother, Austin, and said:  I love ibu. I love what you all are doing.  I want to buy everything.  But this is all I can afford, so I’m going to buy it.  She held one of our signature ikat bags in her hands and proudly carried it home, filled with ibu stickers which she pasted all over her car.  

Austin never forgot Sally’s words.  For two years, he has been working toward a collection of hand-made items, crafted by global women artisans, that friends and sisters like Sally can afford.  The result is Shebu. . . our new collection of clothing, jewelry, and gifts for women who love the chic, but still are working on the chips.  20-35 years olds, or anyone young at heart.  Breezy, fun, hip.  Rad.    

I get a lot of help on these things from team ibu, all of whom are under 35. They are styling the looks, instagraming like life depended on it, dressing their bitmoji in ibu, having a ball. 

The great force of this marvelous generation is their care of the world.  They work less for money than for meaning.  They care less about owning than about belonging to a large vision.  And doing something that matters.

This is for them.  Because ibu is a luxury brand, but more.  I want to showcase here the finest artisan skills in the world and am willing to pay for that gorgeousness.   Still, ibu is a movement, and a movement is for everyone.  Especially this generous-hearted group of young women: rising ibu, fierce and fearless Shebu

Venita and Landon, two of our own rock stars, styled and modeled our new Shebu looks - see them here.  You’ll recognize their fresh faces, their beautiful love of all things ibu.  We thank them for leading the charge.  Please send this news to a young-at-heart friend!  

The heart of Shebu will always be Sally.  Here’s to Bubby and Sis, to all brothers and sisters, and the tender song that hums between them.



All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

The Find Life

Last fall, Suzette and Holly headed from Charleston to Namibia, NIgeria, Ghana, Togo, and South Africa in an epic adventure, scouring little known and less visited places for things that people make.  Things to be loved.  They call their business The Find Life, and indeed, what they find is not only remarkably skilled and remotely located artisans, but people that become their friends. 

Like Sandy, a Namibian woman who discovered a way to use the myrrh collected by remote tribal Himba women and add melon seed extract to create a celebrated organic body lotion and shower gel.  Mbiri is a beautiful gift, and ibu is proud to be the first and only place in the US to offer it.  

Just prior to their expedition,  Suzette and Holly emailed me cold and invited me for a bottle of bubbly and before the night was out the three of us were bonded at the hip.  With ibu on their brain, they returned two months later for more clinks of the glass and a show and tell that made me weak for breath. While we cultivate designs from some of the women’s groups they found, I suggested we let you in on the other goods as well during our New Africa exhibit.  Boon!

The Find Life has found tiny carved elephants with personality plus, bottle openers from warthog tusks, zebra hide coasters, Gemsbok horn sconces, leather chokers, baskets, (baskets!) baskets from Namibiawhere Suzette’s uncle ranches.  She and her sister have designed sophisticated hide bags from the food-chain cast offs.  Paintings, like the one above, that capture a slice of life in South Africa.

While these treasures are not online, you may email our showroom manager to discuss any of the products which we can ship to you.  marisa@ibumovement.com

While these treasures are not online, you may email our showroom manager to discuss any of the products which we can ship to you.  marisa@ibumovement.com

 

Come tonight to our Opening Launch of The New Africa and meet these intrepid goal-diggers who are determined to turn dreams into something beautiful for all.  They help to find the life in all of us which wants to explore and expand and embrace this colorful world.  

See you tonight!

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

New Africa

 

A fashion revolution is erupting across Africa.  Designers, tired of dictates from Paris and New York, are returning to their own folkloric roots to fashion a distinctive sense of body, movement, clothing, even fragrance.  African women are taking to the sewing machine, the beading needle, the spindle to create something out of their own hands and imaginations.  No longer is Africa the object of the West’s obsessions and prejudices.  Africa is defining itself, on its own terms, and ibu is celebrating.  

After all, ibu is all about self-definition: the freedom to write one's own life. So, we are heartened to see widows in Togo fashioning wax printed cotton into swishy skirts.  Masai women are beading cuffs and killer necklaces right out of their own collared artistry.  Shoes are wrapping up the ankle like the snake bite protectors women have always worn in Namibia.  Tie-dyed goat skin is finding form in clutches from Ethiopia.  Fur from ranching food production becomes bags of wild desire.  Fluffy cotton hands-spun cotton from Dorze become billowing caftans for a summer’s night.  

Add these treasures to your Wish List.  Email marisa@ibumovement.com to reserve something you love before it is launched on May 18!

Add these treasures to your Wish List.  Email marisa@ibumovement.com to reserve something you love before it is launched on May 18!

Will you help us celebrate this movement of color, imagination, light, freedom?  Even as violence and poverty darken the lives of many in parts of Africa, yet we celebrate these who are constructing a new life in the midst of it.

Join us on WEDNESDAY, MAY 18 at 6:00 pm for the launch of
THE NEW AFRICA:  an ibu collection.
 

If in Charleston, do not miss!  Our rotating gallery space will be transformed into another continent entirely.   The drum rhythms of Africa will lead us there.   Images and words will make it come alive.  Food and drink will make us merry.  Our rooftop promises a splendid sunset.  And you will have a chance to shop the collection, of course.  Lots of new gifts - in limited quantities - will only last as long as they last!

If you’re far away, join us online that evening and we will offer up our best to you digitally.  Either way, please be a part of our summer months and join us in elevating The New Africa.  

 

all the best,

Susan Hull Walker

May Days

My niece is unexpectedly blooming with her third child.  ibu interns that I have grown to love are graduating college and heading to New York.  Two men I adore are getting married in another friend’s garden.  A long-time muse is moving away to be near her children in her 85th year.   I feel, in May, acutely and tenderly, the turning of things. 

At ibu, things are changing by the day, growing as a child grows, organically and under the eyes of love.  We have so much budding and bursting forth this May, I thought I’d better flag them before you miss something wonderful.  

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That’s it for now.  More will be revealed in the weeks that come.  During this month of blooming and leave-taking, merry-making and marriage, mothers and fine music ~ may the tender moments find sanctuary in your soul.


All the best,
Susan Hull Walker 

Behind the Bamboo Curtain

At night, behind the bamboo curtain at ibu, a gallery of rare creations play - children’s tiger hats, hand-crafted silver horses, embroidered dragons, tiny shoes.  Our once-ever Yao exhibit has brought together for a short time these exquisite treasures on consignment to us by two of the most knowledgable collectors in the country who specialize in Chinese minority antiques and vintage pieces.  A gift to Charleston, to ibu.  To you.  

They won’t be with us much longer, so I wanted to take you for a walk through the gallery to show you some of my favorite pieces.  At the top, a long cotton indigo coat is newly crafted by women in Guizhou who skillfully paint wax onto cloth, which is then submerged in indigo. The wax resists the dye, leaving a lovely hand-drawn image (similar to batik). Long to the calf or short to mid-thigh, mine goes with me to the grocery with jeans, to a neighborhood party with white pants; keeps me, even in summer, cool, calm, collected.  

The jacket on the bottom left is cotton, pounded with egg whites for a magical sheen.  Red stitching, red buttons, and on a similar tunic, red ants crawling all over it - this fabric is tough like leather (and has the same attitude) - only it is lighter and crisper. The stunning necklace boasts five rings of Chinese silver and comes with a stand so you can enjoy it on your mantle when it’s not around your neck.

The Dragon coat on the bottom right is vintage, made chicer still when we added tulle under the collar for drama.  Could it get any more gorgeous? 

Embroidery books - every woman owned one - filled with her own origami boxes which unfold within and decorated with her designs which inspire.  Inside the hidden pockets have been found pictures of children, remnants of thread, even an umbilical cord. $300

A wonderful horse necklace with dangles to make any simple outfit better.  $75

Vintage children’s hats!  For fun and festivals/   Each comes with it’s own stand.  I have them grouped on my dining table, singular on glass shelves - everywhere they add texture, color, excitement.  $75-$495

No, not children’s shoes.  These are women’s shoes, far left, worn by one whose feet were broken and bound.  A horrific chapter in the treatment of women, but a true one, and the artifact is worth keeping, remembering, even as I put my two strong feet on the ground, with gratitude. 

Silver necklaces in small and large sizes.  This one, $225. Other Chinese silver necklaces for just $95, here

Silver earrings from the Miao which we have made user friendly. $345

You can shop these pieces here.  Or come by the store for a peak behind the bamboo curtain. These won’t be with us much longer.  Find yourself a piece of wow. Now.  

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

 

Champion of Change

Miriam’s resume reads like that of a champion player - earning her MD, later her masters from John Hopkins in Public Health, pulling down a PhD from UNC in Nutritional Epidemiology, post-doc as NIH National Research Scientist Award,  serving 10 distinguished years as Executive Director of Community Health Mission in Savannah which assisted over 18,000 uninsured low-income adults.  

But she is more than a champion player, acing her game.  She has been called, in fact, a Champion of Change.  

Dr. Miriam Urizar Rittmeyer has never forgotten her native Guatemala where she grew up the eldest in a house full of children.  Not only is she championing the poor in the US, she has also returned to Guatemala to raise the level of education for rural girls.  To that end, she exercised her creative brain and designed beautiful cotton-gauze scarves, seared with the intricate designs of the local huipiles, or blouses, whichindigenous women weave in Guatemala.  

ibu is honored to offer, for a time, these proud, gorgeous scarves.  The proceeds of these scarves will go toward funding young Mayan girls education in Guatemala.  Each scarf comes with it’s own box and a description of the huipile weaving it depicts.  Such a lovely gift - Mother’s Day - any day.  

But not just that.  Even as she is celebrated for her excellence in service and medicine, even as she galvanizes the young girls of Guatemala, Miriam has never stopped expressing her passion in new ways. - in music, poetry, painting. And now, in her spare moments, through a new love ofjewelry-making.

We’re so happy that Miriam’s son brought her to ibu to make a connection.  I found online an essay which he wrote when he was young: Why My Mother is My Hero.  I think I understand

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker