Mola Sass

Mola Sass

In a design session many months ago, looking toward this spring's Ten-Year Runway, our team mused over how to incorporate the gorgeous work of Mola Sasa, one of our artisan partners in Colombia. Guna women, who once painted geometric designs on their bodies with natural colors harvested from the earth, began 150 years ago to instead depict those symbolic patterns in layers of cotton brought by European colonists. Each woman carefully cut away the top layers of fabric and turned it back with tiny hand stitches to reveal the colors beneath. They still do.

In the native language of the Guna (sometimes called Kuna), mola means a shirt. And that's how they wear them—like a bodice sewn to new commercial fabric, colorful and often floral, with a skirt below.

Guna women

I've cherished vintage molas in my home for many years, sewn into pillows and hung on the wall as the art they are; but never worn one. Now, however, as I study images of the artisans wearing their own beautiful form of body paint… I begin to wonder if we might let their stunning garments lead us to our runway design? What if we paired a new mola with a fresh Schumacher printed-fabric skirt and make of it a bodice, just as they do? It's hard to improve on what they've got going here. For a bit of sass, we could let the mola stand alone and strapless.


This is a conversation I love. It starts with learning another language, in this case, the tiny stitches and ancient designs that have ornamented the lives of Guna women for centuries. Then letting that language speak to something utterly new: Ibu's collaboration with the eminent global textile company, Schumacher. And paying attention to what that dialogue wants to create.

Beauty, I hope. Colors coming together, as does respect and knowledge and regard for our connected lives. Larger minds. A bigger, smaller world. A successful corporate giant talking with an earth-wise community of indigenous women. I love being at that table, making introductions, listening well and learning. And wondering what will be spoken next. 

All the best,

artisan partners in Colombia