I found IBU Movement via my feature on Ali Macgraw in Ali Macgraw Aging Gracefully back in 2018. Susan contacted me later and thanked me for linking to IBU. We began a conversation and decided to collaborate. Today I am so happy to be interviewing Susan because she incorporates the “ethnic chic”look in her home and her own personal style. Welcome to Ageless Style-Susan Walker. We are so happy you are here! Thank you for empowering women artists in underdeveloped and developing countries all over the world.
You graduated from Harvard Divinity School, began your career as a minister, and went on to get a degree in textile arts. You are also passionate about women around the world receiving fair wages for their work. Tell us about how this has influenced what you are now doing at IBU.
All of these pieces came together in founding Ibu: my fascination with diverse world cultures and religions, my desire to elevate women and promote their under-valued skills in textiles, and my own experience as a weaver. At Ibu, we collaborate with women in over 40 countries, studying their traditions and techniques and then designing clothing, jewelry, and accessories for our market. I want to put money in the hands of women, especially those living in poverty in developing countries – women who are ambitious, strong, skilled, and full of imagination. When given respect and work, these women rise into leadership in their communities. They send their daughters as well as their sons to school. They support themselves, make their own choices, and live in a very different future.
What are your goals for IBU moving forward?
I started an Ibu non-profit last year as well as the business – one that can help women’s cooperatives with basic business training and workspace so that they can succeed in turning their craft into income. WeAreIbu.org. My hope is that this support, along with the work Ibu offers, will allow women to develop sustainable businesses and change the arc of their lives. My goal is for women, all women, to lead self-authorized lives.
Tell us about your collaboration with Ali MacGraw
Ali MacGraw is the epitome of an Ibu (which means, a woman of respect in Indonesia, where I first gave birth to this idea). She has lived a life of service and also embodies a style that is real, down to earth, unique, and of course, très chic. She is an enthusiastic supporter of Ibu, designing two clothing collections in our first five years, and now a Gift Collection on the 50th anniversary of Love Story. Ali took the colors and feel of the original Love Story graphic, added the word HOPE which she feels is the word that speaks to our time, and from her inspiration, Ibu artisans in Rwanda, Kenya, Guatemala, Haiti, Bangladesh crafted a whole collection of gifts for these holidays. She is generous in spirit, loves designing, is totally humble, totally fun.
Do you have any favorite textiles?
Impossible to choose! That’s like asking which is your favorite child:) I love the soul of so many textiles, but in my home are simple striped mantas from Bolivia, complex phulkaris from the Swat Valley, painted canvases (pichvai) from Rajasthan, India, and of course, hand-embroidered suzanis from Uzbekistan.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of IBU?
Oh, there’s hardly a moment free when running a small business during Covid – right? But I love to get my hands in the dirt to garden, take long walks on the barrier islands around Charleston, cultivate the inner life, watch English television with my husband.
Does your home reflect the IBU look as well?
Absolutely. I am a sucker for a gorgeous textile and I fill my house with them – thrown over white chairs and sofas or bed, made into pillows and benches, hung on the wall, upholstered into chairs. The rest of my home – the floors and walls and furniture is quiet, allowing the textiles to sing.
Who Inspires You and Why?
The women artisans with whom we work at Ibu inspire me daily. Living in the midst of war, violence, poverty, corruption, flooding – and yet they rise again and again to create beauty out of their lives. I am humbled by it, and hugely inspired.
How would you describe your personal style?
Really the same way I described my house! Simple basic pieces as a canvas allowing textile-rich jackets, shawls, shoes and accessories to speak. In order to avoid looking like I’m in a costume, I marry pieces I love from other cultures to a classic western silhouette. A crisp white shirt, slim pants, over-the-knee boots. I often look down and count the countries I am wearing – bangles from Thailand, a bag from Uzbekistan, shoes from Morocco, a scarf from Kashmir – and feel I am at home in the world.
What is your favorite accessory?
Loads of beaded necklaces stacked high, mixed with coin necklaces, or with shells. As another Ibu Ambassador, Iris Apfel, says, More is More.
Do you have a signature piece that defines your style?
I always have a set of bangles on my arm – several silver beaded ones or a collection of horn and bone bangles I’ve picked up here and there around the world.
Do you have any style rules that you live by, or do you choose to break the rules?
I won’t leave the house until I feel comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I don’t know why a certain outfit doesn’t feel right, but that doesn’t matter. If it feels out of tune with me that day, I change.
What are your favorite online and or boutique sources?
I lean on Eileen Fisher for some basics, also Lafayette148NY for white blouses. Most of my clothes are from Ibu or from travels, so I simply shop for basic pieces. Oh, and Figue. Love their caftans and sandals.
Do you have a particular diet and or exercise regime that you would like to share with Ageless Style?
I work out every day at the gym and that means strength training, cardio, and Pilates. During Covid, I substituted long walks, and always try to get in those 10,000 steps a day.
Do you have any anti-aging foods and or supplements that are your go to’s
I eat the good food my husband prepares – salmon and vegetables, a little lean meat, fruit in the morning. As much as possible, I try to eat my vitamins – in my food, that is.
What advice do you have for women over 50?
I hope we all stay passionate and engaged! I know so many women over 50 who are smart, educated, resourceful and don’t know what to do with themselves. By now, we know who we are We know what we love. Out of that love, there is so much to do, share, give, and care about. If you love cooking, there are people who are hungry for that comfort. If you love music, we all need to hear your song. If you love gardening, give your flowers to those who have not yet blossomed. This is joy – spending your full energies on this life with abandon. But not out of duty. Only out of love.
Susan’s” Ethnic Chic” Style
Susan’s style really resonates with me personally because it is Layered and personal, honors the customs, cultures, and resources of countries around the planet and blends them into “well-traveled” whole. Lighting, furniture, textiles, flooring, textures, and accessories are married with past cultures, modern taste, and contemporary living (Ethnic Chic at it’s best) You might enjoy reading my post Ethinc Chic and How to Get It here.
If you would like to learn more about Susan and IBU:
You can find the entire IBU Collection here
You can follow IBU Movement on Instagram here where the IBU story is interwoven throughout their feed.
Charleton Magazine wrote a wonderful article here about Susan and her favorite finds.
Susan shares how to use Antique Textiles in your home in the Scout Guide here
Thank you so much Susan for allowing me to interview you and sharing your creative spirit. I know our community here on Cindy Hattersley Design so enjoyed it.
Thank you readers for being here and reading Ageless Style-Susan Walker. Tomorrow I will be joining my friend Jennifer and we are sharing ideas for casual holiday at home dressing. I will be featuring some pieces from IBU with suggestions on how to style them, and sharing some gift ideas from the IBU collection.
Don’t forget to pop over to The Vintage Contessa and see who my friend Elizabeth is interviewing. I know you won’t want to miss it.