It started with a tattoo. A line drawn on the torso signified power or totem or clan. Bodies were the first canvas upon which one might make an artful mark, claim an identity. Only later, much later, did clothing take over that job - textiles are often the extension of tattoos, a literal second skin, carrying forward the same symbolic patterns while also offering warmth and modesty.
Never more so than for the Kuna Indians in Panama. At home on the San Blas Islands, the Kuna (or Guna) women are celebrated for their molas, a unique form of reverse appliqué, layering cotton and then incising the cloth like a tattoo, turning it back in tiny stitches to reveal another layer of color beneath, and then another. Kuna women wear these molas, the full blooming of their imaginations, around the waist and chest, attaching them to a blouse.
In the past 50 years, visitors to Panama have made collector's items of these unique textiles. Though I have them framed in my home, and covering cushions on a sofa, and though I surely have enough, I cannot resist collecting yet another vintage, storied piece.
Brilliantly, these prized molas are now being created by a cooperative of 60 women in northern Columbia, on the border of Panama. Designer Yasmin Sabet is working with this cooperative to create clutches so chic, Vogue magazine heralded them as immediate, outfit-elevating, soft, squeezable nods to your own international scope. Moda Operandi applauds how these darlings transition from street to beach . . And, I would add, into evening with a bit of pluck.
Ibu, along with Rosemary and the women of Mola Sasa, is thrilled to offer you these original, handmade marks of identity - now as enviable art for your wardrobe. Consider each a collector's piece. A second skin. Your own tattoo in thread.