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New pop-up brings designer Charlotte Moss (and a touch of Morocco) to Charlottesville Caspari

Known for offering a taste of European elegance to Charlottesville with Swiss-printed stationery, Tuscan vases and London glassware, Caspari’s new pop-up on the city’s Downtown Mall transports customers farther south, bringing the desert hues and native embroidery of Morocco to Central Virginia.

From April 18 through May 2, the luxury boutique — one of the 74-year-old brand’s two flagships in the world (the other is in Paris’ Saint-Germain-de-Pres neighborhood) — is collaborating with the Ibu Movement, a global marketplace for female artisans, to feature the organization’s collection designed by award-winning designer and recently established Charlottesville resident Charlotte Moss, also a longtime ambassador of the Ibu Movement.

“We want to make sure we have a stage that isn’t just a retail store. That’s really important to us at Caspari. It’s a place where everybody can see something that excites them that’s different,” Lisa Milbank, president of Caspari, told The Daily Progress. “We’re always inspired by design, and now we’re able to pull that together and celebrate it on the Mall.”

The display immediately catches the eye as customers enter the store with the assortment of colorful ankle-length, flowy caftans; embroidered, cropped jackets and souk skirts hanging to the side of a table holding thick bangles and gold gingko leaf-shaped earrings made in Colombia. Ibu paired Moss’ designs with apparel of similar styles from other artists: crocheted tops handcrafted in Pakistan, cashmere scarfs from Uzbekistan and more.

Milbank said that the store is also highlighting a variety of other pieces that complement the pop-up, such as Moroccan dishes and table settings from India.

“It’s always about the art, and so, for us, anytime we’ve got something that’s art-related, no matter what it is, we love to exhibit it,” she said. “Caspari is a feeling, and it changes all the time, so whether it’s fashion, ceramics or baskets, it’s really about creating a setting. It’s important to us that we’re constantly changing the setting, and fashion is a great way to change it.”

Inspired by her travels to the North African country, Moss worked with Ibu’s founder and CEO Susan Hull Walker to create an assortment of caftans, jackets, pants, scarves and jewelry inspired by Moroccan culture. That’s obvious in the colors Moss draws from, the “faded pink of city buildings, desert sand and chartreuse green of palm frond,” Lasley Steever, and Ibu spokeswoman, told The Daily Progress.

There’s also a lot of Moss’ personal style in the collection, Steever said.

“This is a very Charlotte collection,” said Steever. “It’s a different collection for Ibu, but it really came together beautifully.”

In a statement to The Daily Progress, Moss expressed her enthusiasm for her second fashion collaboration with the Ibu Movement.

“A good collaboration is always a great learning experience. The opportunity to work with Ibu on another collection is an honor and a special treat,” Moss said. “To start with an idea and see it evolve through the knowledge, expertise, and the hand of others is an amazing opportunity and it always makes me look at my vintage items with an eye to the possibilities.”

Once the final designs were approved, Ibu coordinated with its partners in Ourika, Morocco, a small town tucked in the Atlas Mountains that span the entire country, to employ local, female artisans to bring Moss’ designs to life using native techniques. One such practice seen in many of the collection’s dresses and light jackets is a style of hand-embroidery called soutache, a decorative braid typically used in the trimming on pieces of clothing.

Originating in France in the 1600s, soutache was eventually used to line French military uniforms. Thus, the stitching pattern was introduced to other cultures in the Mediterranean and North Africa during the years of French colonialism, particularly in the early 1900s.

Moroccan craftswomen have carried soutache and many other customs into the 21st century. It’s those traditions that the Ibu Movement is focused on preserving and amplifying.

The nonprofit organization was started in 2014 by Walker, whose passion for collecting vintage textiles from all over the world eventually transformed into concern that the craft behind textiles was disappearing. So, she began Ibu, which means “a woman of respect” in the Malay language of Indonesia, in order to create a market for the work of the indigenous women often charged with carrying on their culture’s traditional fashion and art.

With partnerships in 50 countries, including Colombia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, the Ibu Movement provides grants, work spaces and other training for female artisans. Ibu then purchases their products with prices set by the artists and sells their work at their shop in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Often the story is about the work of women artisans in the global south, these works should be inexpensive and are undervalued because the price of goods is not that much,” said Steever. “Their work is equivalent to the design houses in Europe. It’s that high of quality, intricate of design; Ibu is trying to flip that script.”

Some of these artists were even present to talk about their work alongside Moss at a fashion show, “A Night in Medina,” hosted by Ibu last month on International Women’s Day in Charleston.

After the collection leaves Charlottesville on May 2, it will return to Ibu’s showroom in Charleston. But there are several future appearances lined up across the country this summer.

The showcase is only one of the many events going on at Caspari in the upcoming weeks as the pop-up’s debut on Thursday night coincided with a cocktail party with local garden clubs held at the store to kick off Charlottesville’s Historic Garden Week. On Friday, Caspari hosted a reception for the annual program series, “Fashion As Art,” with the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia.

Though the various celebrations and pop-ups may seem like a lot of moving parts, for Milbank, all the pieces fit together.

“We’re all focusing on the same things, we’re all interested in craftsmanship, in the arts, in making sure that women have the opportunity to grow and to get their ideas out there,” said Milbank. “The retail environment isn’t just about having something that’s mass-produced, it’s about bringing art to all people.”


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