This is how it went. I'm having lunch with a friend - chewing on the juicy opportunities which ibu faces - and she thinks to ask if we work with any women’s artisan groups in the US. It would be so great, she muses, to find women in this country with unique skills to contribute to the ibu collection. I didn’t know, at that time, of a women’s cooperative that would be a fit for ibu. But you know how it is when a seed find purchase.
Immediately after lunch, I head to Starbucks to meet another friend who is fabricating designs for ibu in Mexico. Over paper and pen, drawings and color samples, I look down and see on her arm the most dazzling bracelet. Where did you find that?! I interrupt our own conversation, pointing to the way light is catching the sky blue and gold waves of intricate beads circling her wrist. Oh, this is a cuff beaded by Navajo women - they have a cooperative I helped out once, she says, casually. Light streams in like an epiphany. I try it on, marveling at the soft deer skin lining, the perfect edging detail, the exquisite design. I can’t remember their name, she apologizes...But it doesn’t matter, that minor detail. I am on a mission now. American women for ibu.
It wasn’t easy but I found them. Turns out, Sydney Alfonso (above, right) and her mother, Kerry, (above left) shared many adventures around the world collecting wearable treasures and cultivating a passion for socially aware consumerism, financial inclusion of the disenfranchised, and gender equality in the workplace. But when Sydney wanted to start a business on these principles, she came back to her native New Mexico and started there.
Sydney began her company, Etkie, in 2013 working with at-risk women in the Navajo communities near her home. Mom jumped in to help. A recent fundraising campaign allowed them to deliver their first set of micro-loans to artisans including lead designer Dru Chackee, (above center). The bracelets are hand-beaded on a traditional Navajo loom, made with high-quality seed needs sewn onto deerskin linings sourced in New Mexico, and finished with custom buttons. Exquisite.
Now they’re here. At ibu. Among all of the other women of the world, this native genius shines. It is one of our country’s unique contributions in the world of global glamour...one that I’m honored to offer. Sydney says:
We are on a mission to make our production process as beautiful as the products we create by ensuring that all of our products are crafted or finished by talented individuals in underemployed communities.
And beautiful they are. Their luxe cuffs are made from sterling silver, 24k gold, and bronze plated beads imported from the Czech Republic. The beads are cut 3 dimensionally, which is why they have a dramatically different and unique sparkle. Beaded in modern, minimal designs, beaded in colors of the sky and desert, beaded in beauty. Wearing one, I cannot help but hear the Navajo Blessing Way whispering in my ear...