The first thing I do - after Ali says Yes - is to scour the internet for what signature looks have come to define her life, what dress has become her second skin. I want her collection for Ibu to capture the essence of her iconic style.
It’s easy to find the thread. Whether pictured with Ryan O’Neal on her recent tour performing Love Letters, being interviewed by Oprah on Soul Sunday, or heading to the flea market on a Sunday, I find Ali in a simple white tunic with massive, exquisite embroidery. (Ali later proclaimed it the perfect blouse - one she tosses over jeans and loads with jewelry. The kind you want in multiples.)
Let’s start here, I suggest. Luckily, I’ve met Mamta, Queen of the Chikan embroidery that floats over the perfect white blouse. Practiced almost exclusively in Lucknow India, Mamta and the women on her team create breath-taking pieces by not just adding but also taking away threads. Cutaway - in 32 different fine stitches.
We decide to take Ali’s perfect blouse to new heights. Ali draws it out on apaper tablecloth. Jamie translates that to a centimeters and I ask if wouldn’t it be even better with borders. I always love a border.
We chose a motif close to the heart of India - the boteh. Going back to the Mogul enclosed garden, this shapely stylized flower became a symbol of paradise - that fragrant, sensual sanctuary of beauty and peace. Centuries later, the English came to India and fell in love with the boteh, carried it back to Paisley, England to be manufactured in new textile mills and henceforth the west has known it as the paisley. Which isn’t quite right. I champion the boteh, and hearing it’s name, I see lilies in flower, towering trees, fountains and peacocks, pomegranates and apricots and serenely in it’s midst, colorful turbans and long gowns.
Chikan embroidery takes the great white shirt to another level. Rich with the hand of the creator who took weeks to stitch a garden on this white cotton, and alive with the history of a place, it’s a classic that ‘Ali has made iconic. And the beginning of our collection.
Over the next five weeks, I want to offer a sneak peek into a few of the pieces you’ll be seeing when the collection debuts on April 26 with our Runway Show and Online Launch. The women in Lucknow are stitching this beauty, now available for pre-order. I’ll tell you more about the shoes Ali designed to go with this piece, and the necklaces to layer with it...next week!
Until then -
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker