Woman of Respect

Runway Photos: Melissa Toms

Ali MacGraw in Ibu
Portrait by Rob Brinson

Ali MacGraw—movie star, American style icon—is laying out a trash bag for me to sit on. In an effort to find a more intimate spot to chat, she’s insisted that we take our conversation outside and briefly escape the buzz of women who’ve come to Charlotte Barnes Studio in Greenwich to see Ali’s collection for Ibu and meet the screen legend herself. “I’m worried about your white skirt,” she says, as we get settled on the back steps behind the building, and before I know it, she’s laying out the plastic sheeting as if it were a picnic blanket. I’m immediately enchanted. I assume everyone who meets Ali has the same reaction. She’s magnetic, instantly warm and familiar, interested and passionate. It’s with this enthusiasm that she tells me how she found herself here, at seventy-eight, as a designer and ambassador for Ibu.

Ibu, the Indonesian word for woman of respect, was founded by Susan Hull Walker in 2013. A world traveler with a background in textiles, Susan started the company as a way to share her discoveries while empowering the women who create and produce them through cooperatives. A range of handmade clothing, accessories, jewelry and home goods are sourced from female artisans representing thirty-four countries. Susan connected with Ali after years of seeing each other at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, where Ali now lives. They bonded quickly over their shared aesthetic and a friendship followed.

Ali easily accepted the invitation to become a brand ambassador for Ibu, but a chance to design a collection was something she hadn’t considered. She agreed, knowing her early career in fashion (as a stylist and photographer’s assistant) would help her translate her own style into the pieces that make up the collection. Most important, she’d have the opportunity to support a global network of women. “It’s not a career move,” she says. “It’s something I’ve always loved more than anything. My parents were artists. Most of what interests me is what I look at, and I believe in what [Susan]’s doing.”

An African multi-strand blue beaded necklace became the jumping off point for the palette. Paired with white and pops of orange on embroidered cottons and lightweight silks, the breezy summer capsule includes eighty-five designs that reflect Ali’s bohemian style, while invoking the history of the artists. “I love that not only did someone make this, but generations of people have probably worn it.

“There’s nothing there I wouldn’t wear,” she says, showing off her own look: hand-dyed indigo pants and a crisp white shirt, topped with a brightly colored coiled necklace in the signature ali4ibu colors. She’s the picture of effortless elegance with a bare face and hair pulled back, so it’s easy to see how Ali MacGraw landed her current role: model, muse and creative force driving Ibu’s vision. ibumovement.com


Recycled LPs are melted down into tiny discs and strung together to create these necklace strands. In a pile of tangerine layers, they make a serious statement. $95

Fiesta earrings with cascading, cheery tassels in warm citrus shades add a playful punch. $35

The Mola Sasa clutch refers to the bright geometric textiles—called molas—that have been hand-stitched for centuries by coastal Panamanian women. $395

Handcrafted from the caña flecha cane plant, this power cuff is an Ibu signature piece. Wear two and create your own Wonder Woman moment. $20



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