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.
I have the feeling that Nawal learned to embroider through her tears, as her new life without mother and family and mountain air was a heartbreaking one for her. But where we are broken, some grow strong.
Nawal is one of those strong ones. She turned this heartbreak into the beginning of a business. She learned to navigate her world by rising to the top of the game she was dealt; she turned around and employed other women who want to do the same, and then she carved out a place in the hubbub of the souks to offer this beauty and called it by a name known in both Hebrew and Arabic, a word meaning miracle.
Last January, Charlotte Moss and I went to meet Nawal. We poured over color swatches and dress samples and details centimeter by centimeter, and went back to the hotel exhausted but sparking. Nawal and her kind husband, Mohammed, took us to Ourika, where the artisans live and work on Ibu designs. Here we met Latifa, Khadija, and Fatiha, poets composing in thread. While these women and their cohorts are capable of many curls and plumes in their soutache embroidery, we opted for simple, clean minimal lines. Charlotte fell in love with their soft Moroccan cashmere edged in subtle, fine hand-embroidery and came up with a cape for three seasons in colors you will wear over jeans and yoga pants - or swing around your shoulders in the evening.
Then, Charlotte drew on the memory of a couture cape to create the piece de resistance - what we call the Nawal Wrap. (Above, right) This stunning piece pulls over the head, leaving a collar to flow gracefully over the torso, tying at the waist. Crazy beautiful and staring down autumn, daring the cold to arrive. We’re ready. You can be, too. And when you return home, you can slip into the the At-Home Caftan (below) that these women have also made and embellished and have over friends or none at all - this is as comfy as it is colorful and ravishing.
We’ve been working since January to bring Nawal to New York for our launch - her dream is to see this country. And since she has already made our dreams come true with these gorgeous clothes, it is the least we can do. I want Nawal to see how we esteem the craft she learned as a little girl, how we admire the women who make it, how we need her strength to teach us of our own. How all of it, all of it, is miracle.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker
Clean. Minimal. Chic. Uncluttered, but lined - carefully, meticulously lined with hand-embroidered detail. Just enough to sizzle. Nawal and the women who work with her have crafted several pieces included in the Charlotte Moss for Ibu Collection.
top to bottom: the Khadia Cape in 4 colors (you may need 2!), the Nawal Wrap in 2 colors, and the At-Home Caftan in 3 colors - all of these with hand-embroidered trim in contrasting colors that makes it sing. See more about each...