She steps across a zebra skin rug and then a kilim rug in fiery colors. Her shoes are made of an intricate, hand-woven textile that’s been re-thought as a ballet flat. (In Guatemala, the weave is used for traditional skirts.) At her Logan Street house downtown, this blonde, elegant woman walks daily across the same hallway and threshold crossed by the National Women’s Party during a suffragists’ gathering in Charleston in 1915.
Okay, progressiveness surrounds Susan Hull Walker. Formerly a pastor at Circular Congregational Church (one of Charleston’s coolest worship houses, btw), Walker’s work is now focused on the color, thread and world culture of hand-woven textiles. Her flowing, South American-style ruanna jackets and leather wrap bracelets from Kenya are making a fashion splash. Walker founded her iBu line in 2013 in the tall-walled, roomy, 1850s residence where she lives with her husband. By March of this year, her company had grown to include a business manager, seamstress and jewelry designer. It was time for a separate workshop and showroom. Walker found and renovated the upper floors and rooftop of a King Street storefront to be the HQ, and her team has arrayed the space with racks and bundles of color-rich, lusciously crafted kimonos, dresses, wraps and skirts. (Just look upward at 183 King Street and you can’t miss the ochre-orange painted window frames.)
Through iBu, this modern-day merchant is creating markets for women who are weaving with traditional techniques in countries around the world, including India, Laos, Thailand, Mexico, Colombia, Turkey, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Peru. Her garment styles are “fluid, bold and swingy” and she invites women to find meaning and fun in the boldly-dyed, global realm she’s creating—right here on our color-loving, Rainbow-Row-peninsula.
“(In Charleston) people are ready to be challenged and engaged—there’s a natural love of history, and innovation and progressive ideas grow.”