Above: Ivory B.
“ Ivory. B. is the expression of the different layers of our story that we carry proudly on an everyday basis. ”
As the museum anticipates our reopening, we look forward to one of our favorite outdoor events: The Market at Brooklyn Museum. In the meantime, together with our marketplace partner, Brooklyn Pop-Up, we are highlighting several of our outdoor vendors in a Virtual Marketplace. Along with handcrafted products that are available for direct purchase, there are interviews with each of our highlighted vendors and photos to give more context to their work. Please follow the link below to visit the Virtual Marketplace and learn more about our amazing vendors!
Brooklyn Museum Shop: Tell us about Ivory B.
IB: Ivory. B. is the expression of the different layers of our story that we carry proudly on an everyday basis.
BKMS: Ivory B. Items are produced in Africa with authentic African mudcloth fabric and real leather (except for the new vegan line) Can you tell us more about this, and about how Ivory B items are produced?
IB: Ivory B. bags are ethically produced in Africa. When I say in Africa I mean the Mudcloth is handmade in Mali, and I curate in Senegal during my trips.
Like the name said the Mudcloth is handwoven cotton, dyed with mud herbs and that’s what gives to different types of hearthstone (Video how to make Mudcloth will be sent next week).
The leather is from Morocco, where the bags are assembled to finally be shipped in USA.
BKMS: What is your connection to Brooklyn?
IB: My husband and I love to travel. When living in France, we liked to travel to US especially in New York, but the first time we stayed in Brooklyn was in 2012 when we came for the JayZ opening concert the very first day for the Barclays Center. The concert was in BK so we had an AirBnB in Brooklyn, Bedstuy. Until now I remember how much we loved, not only our stay, but the renter herself. We rented from the owner and designer of the brand Martine’s dream, Debbie, and we were lucky that the day after our arrival she had a backyard party with friends of hers. You have to know that there are lovely people on earth, but Debbie is LOVE! We felt soooo good as soon as we arrived that her friends thought we were family visiting and indeed we came for a concert, but we found a HOME, a family. Besides the concert we loved so much our stay that during the time we were there, we decided that we could grow our family there!
Knowing that hubby and I had been together for years (more than 11years at this time) before coming and stay in BK but never really thought of having kids. So of course after that first stay in BK and several others, when we finally decided to have a kid, it made sense that the family we were founding would be based in BK.
So Brooklyn is where I love to be a parent, but also where I started Ivory B. first because of clothing that when wearing here in Brooklyn I always got compliments, in the street (Brooklynites love to share the love that the BK way) so I felt like creating a brand.
BKMS: Your mission statement includes “Shopping for a cause” - can you speak more to this?
IB: Because of my accent, I know some consider me as “the French” but I’m still born on the continent in Gabon, and I was raised by my mom who’s from Ivory Coast. So for each bag bought there’s a part that goes to an association there called “the women of Daboo”. It’s a village in Ivory Coast. So far Ivory B has contributed to financing the school year of a young girl who was thinking to take a year break after finishing high school with honors, because her family didn’t have enough to send her school. For two years Ivory B. has collected and shipped school stuff for kids, and now this year Ivory B. is contributing to 20 backpack for back to school. In addition to the notebooks and pencils we have added a set of masks because the covid pandemic, unfortunately, is worldwide.
BKMS: What was your inspiration in starting Ivory B.
IB: That is a question that I’m not sure it’s a good reason but, being born in Africa, growing my whole life in France when I moved here, of course my French accent was part of me, but something I didn’t like much. When I was introducing myself, as Gabo/Ivorian that grew up in France I was told that I should to “just say French” ...I was like, excuse me, I’m still born in Africa, and also grew up in an African household while in France.
The thing that was funny is, in France I was also asked where I was from, meaning not considered as “just French” but that was one thing compared to be told that my style was French, that I was stylish “because” of my “French side”. They just don’t know my mum was always super stylish and while still born and raised in Africa, same for my father, and we all, my sibling and I, got our style from them!
The thing also was really to be put on a box because of my style, my education, and everything considered as positive, while trying to disregard the other part of me. While my African culture, mixed to education in Europe was a whole thing making me, who I am!
So when I was told that I was more French than African at work, because of this or that, I decided to show my African side! First through my still stylish but still African clothing, and stubborn that I am, Friday wear became African wear... and I was often asked where I got my clothes from... so I started doing clothing. But because of sizing (African fabric being stiff) I started doing bags (no more size issues). Also with bags I can carry “The Who” I am all week! That an everyday accessory, showing the me that I am on a day to day basis.
I’m not denying any side of where I’m from, of who I am! In contrary I embrace each side of me! Being born in Africa, growing in Europe, living now in US! All that makes me! So I’m carrying and show it all day proudly!
And Ivory B. bags just look like me, helping others to carry it all, because we can!
The Brooklyn Museum Shop is excited to virtually offer The Market at Brooklyn Museum with our marketplace partner, Brooklyn Pop-Up. To shop, please follow the link, here.
All images ©Ivory B., 2020.
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