Standing behind the curtains during an Audubon Runway Show last week, I am the silent eye in the midst of a storm. Fifteen young women stampede into the dressing room, hot off the runway, frantically throwing off their clothes to allow a well-orchestrated Ibu team to dress them again in trousers and jacket, wrap scarves and style turbans, chunk on cuffs, slip on shoes, clip on earrings; pile on necklaces, change the lip color and throw the hair into a wild top knot - all in 60 seconds or less - and then head my way for a final check. The audience is waiting, the music is pounding, but I look each one in the eye (after checking for lipstick on the teeth). You are glorious, I say to the young woman standing in front of me. Let them see YOU and your own radiant self. She nods, eager as a race horse behind a gate. JOY. I whisper. Go out there and spread some Joy.
And then she walks onto the stage and beams like light from heaven.
The runway is a bit of theatre, and the razzle-dazzle of it has risen to staggering heights in recent years. As the fashion industry teeters, uncertain of who it is anymore or what it's for, major designers have raised the bar trying to eclipse one another in spectacle. So it is daunting to step even a tiny toe into this field. But I do so anyway because I want to say something and that something doesn't have a thing to do with spectacle, but rather something like this.
In every possible way, especially to the women modeling our clothing, I want to say Respect. (You are a subject not an object. You are a presence, not an absence. Stand tall. Show up. Be here.)
I want to say - especially to the women wearing our clothing - Sovereign; that to dress in Ibu is to robe in a kind of vestment. You feel your powers. Your inner authority. Your rising self. And you rule.
I want to say to the rest of the world, Look! Everything here is the fruit of women's hands and imaginations. We are women of the world dressing women of the world. This is the way we want to feel,and here is how we look when we feel that way.
I want to say that life is not a runway but a real-way and the women who make and wear Ibu work hard and walk proud and earn their way in the world.
I want to say that beauty matters. That joy wins . . .
As I stand for another second of calm, I glance at the large screen where I can see the models in Ibu walking the runway, each of them shining. I see around me a team working so hard and fast you'd think their lives depended on it. And in that moment, my eyes sting; tears swell.
Four years ago this week, we opened the Ibu showroom. In the years since, Ibu has walked into the world like these models walking out onto the runway - eager and ready. Standing in that moment, I see the story of these four years roll out in front of me and I say a quiet thanks. That I get to dress the world in the beauty of women's hands; that I get to whisper to these young faces as they begin their walk into life - remember Joy. That I get to remind myself . . . it is all joy.
So, we'll do it all again next Friday, March 8. Hit the runway. Run the real way. Head into year five, hooves circling the track. Hope you'll join us for the champagne.
All the Best ~
Susan Hull Walker