Founder of the IBU movement: Susan Hull Walker

When women support each other, incredible things happen. This is true, see it for yourself how Susan Hull Walker does it. A game changer who sparks the beauty of female solidarity, human compassion, through independence and style.

More than a brand owner, she is the founder of an inspiring mouvement. As a sustainable ethical company IBU is proud to have about 70% of products designed in-house and crafted by one of their 101 groups, offering unique items found nowhere else. The remaining 30% is bought wholesale from the artisans at a more than fair price, creating livelihood, collegiality, and bonds of friendship between IBU allies and artisans.

Susan, your mission of your movement is to support women in developing countries by empowering them financially through their skills and crafts. It is such an honorable path to support. I am proud to be able to introduce you here to my readers.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Before founding Ibu in 2013, I studied world religions at Harvard Divinity School and served for eighteen years as a minister in Maine, San Francisco, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Returning to school to study fiber arts at SCAD, I learned to weave and speak in the language of cloth. It opened my eyes to a woman’s way of recording her mind and soul. What I didn’t find in parchment and page, I found in textiles.

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As a weaver, I began to work with women’s cooperatives around the world to preserve their skills and stories in cloth. My designs showcase the sumptuous beauty of the world’s textiles, but they are newly designed for the contemporary woman – those who want to belong to what is bold and strong, eruptive and free.

I live in Charleston, South Carolina and Santa Fe, New Mexico, traveling frequently to visit artisans, speak about the movement, and spread the ibu love.

What is the IBU movement exactly?

IBU is a movement of women around the world growing into economic self-sufficiency through the art of their hands.
Working with 101 artisan groups, in 35 countries, Ibu celebrates the imagination and skill of women and puts money in their hands.

Ibu offers original designs by also collaborating with our ambassador designers to bring you elegant, bold, powerful handmade luxury.

And what is the meaning of the word IBU?

In the Malay language of Indonesia, Ibu means a woman of respect. Ibu artisans and allies alike belong to a world-wide web of self- authorized women on the move.

What sparked the launch of this passionate mission?

A woman in the developing world spends an average of 90 cents out of every dollar on education and healthcare for her children and family.

For men, the statistics are closer to 40%, so that supporting women has a multiplier effect as her family and community also benefit from her choices, leadership, and prosperity.

Ali MacGraw for the IBU Movement.

Ali MacGraw for the IBU Movement.

You have an impressive ray of empowering women as IBU’s brand ambassadors like Ali MacGraw, Charlotte Moss, Alison Cambridge and Meryanne Loum Martin. Who else would you love to see join your tribe?

I am always looking for women who embody the Ibu ideal – those who live a life of substance and style. Those who are engaged in the world, work on behalf of other women, reek of respect and dignity. I’ve been asking millennials, Who is the Ibu for your generation? I’ve received many answers, but I am still looking for the one that stands above the rest. Malala would be an amazing ambassador. Lupita. We’ll see.

For readers who would like to join your mission, what charity or means would you recommend they support, other than through buying your line, and what region has the most pressing needs in your perspective?

Ibu is establishing its own non-profit arm so that our allies can give in support of artisan communities. We’re excited to be able to address their pressing needs – the ones that prevent them from truly soaring in their work. We have done a survey of artisan groups, finding that there are those who need tools and supplies, workspaces, health care, design training. Our non-profit, called Ibu Movement, will choose 3-6 groups each year and focus on their needs and goals.

With the awakened movement of women empowerment in Western society, is there any advice you would like to give to young women? Any words of wisdom, mentorship from woman to woman?

It is exciting to see the renewal of the women’s movement and a growing awareness of all that still needs to be done both at home and abroad. I am so happy to be a part of this work, and my joy comes from years of interior exploration – identifying my strengths and yearnings, understanding what moves me forward and aligns me with my greatest sense of purpose. Elevating women into sovereignty over their own lives – this has always been what drives me.

What I find most important in this life: knowing yourself well and then moving out from that authentic place to do your best work in the world. And loving it. Loving your life and all of those you daily touch.

From all your travels, which place captured your heart and why?

Two years ago I traveled through Ethiopia and fell in love with the people, the natural beauty, the history, culture, place. It is absolutely stunning and vibrant.

You take such good care of other women, how do you take care of your-self? Do you have any tips?

Before launching into Ibu, I had years of building a contemplative life: meditation, journaling, walking in nature, making retreat. I continue to draw from that well, and try to feed it still. Daily physical exercise also. Feeding my imagination with art, story, wild possibility. Staying inspired.