When Ali and I set out last summer to design and produce a collection of women’s wear for Ibu, we didn’t know that 23 countries and cultural traditions would be tapped to represent her iconic style. We didn’t know that that we’d watch the Queen of Katwe and fall desperately for wax print cloth or that artisans in India could take her favorite white shirt and make it better, that we would dream up 100 new pieces, everyone with her hands and imagination all over it. We didn’t know if we would be any good at designing clothes or making shoes or collaborating with each other or where we would find the perfect black and white stripe. We surely didn’t know that, one year later, the world would be divided and walls would be going up and people in the countries where we work would be feared.
We didn’t know but we began in the spirit of adventure and fun and friendship and what happened in this year past changed us both. Ali is in no way a diva but an Ibu in every smacking bone of her body - and she jumped into this endeavor with both feet and a heart so large it outran whatever challenges tested us. She brought in her ebullient friend and shoe meister, Lynne Comeau, who traveled to Brazil to find women willing to assemble our vintage cloth shoes. She tapped her talented friend and couture pattern drafter, Sharon Moricoli, to make samples and size patterns while Ali sat on the floor to pin up skirts. Ali poured over sketches and specs and Pantone swatches with Ibu designer, Jamie Buskey, dreamed up tunics on tablecloths while dining under the summer sky, schlepped piles of inspiration to the FedEx office to send us, sniffed out cuffs from Nepal and tassels from India, wrapped duct tape around her feet to mock up a sandal; she styled each look for our photoshoot and modeled them too - I mean, she did not miss a detail in this whole affair.
And she had the time of her life. That’s what she says, though her life has had many remarkable moments, but I’m believing her, because her energy for Ibu is endless and her passion real as the river rocks we found to grace your neck. It isn’t just the designing that draws her to Ibu - it is the women whose lives are changed; it is the artisans being honored and through this work stepping out of poverty into into a new dignity. That is what makes Ali burn.
So, now, I am so happy to announce that the ali4ibu collection is preparing to launch! We are taking it to New York, to California, to Santa Fe and beyond, but Ali wants to launch her collection in Charleston, where the Ibu team she has come to love worked with her throughout this year.
We’re making a Big Party of it, not only to premier her Summer Collection but to celebrate the women of this world crafting beauty. Breaking down walls. Building respect and even affection across borders, and surely hope.
We found a beautiful, large, light-filled space and are setting up a runway, bringing out the band, putting on a pop-up, and asking Ali to show up and tell her side of all of this. Now, all we have to do is to fill that space with women and yes, men - friends and allies of Ibu - and especially those who’ve never heard of Ibu - all made one in the enthusiasm, joy, and spirit of this moment, this movement.
We want to ask our readers in the Charleston area to not only come and have a blast - but also reach out and ask a friend to join you for this Ibu Celebration of Global Women Artisans and introduce them to the movement that we are.
We’re making it easy. For one week, we have an Early Bird Special. And we have hope that this will be a high moment for the women of the Charleston and Mount Pleasant . . . and soon, the rest of you around the country as we take to the road. Stay tuned.
Please join me in thanking Ali for her incredible support and advocacy, and elevating the rocking, brave, fearless Ibu of the world, rising up everywhere.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker