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On the Town: Authentically Ali MacGraw

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ali MacGraw (left) and a look from her “Ali4Ibu” collection; images (2) courtesy of Ibu

March 29, 2017

Authentically Ali MacGraw

The actress and activist fills us in on her summer collection for Charleston’s own Ibu

written by Stephanie Hunt

In the late ’60s and ’70s, Ali MacGraw’s raw glamour was so real, so relatable, that it was hard not to fantasize that you, too, could conjure her “it girl” appeal. Part those straight locks down the middle, toss on a turtleneck, turn on a slightly pouty smile on barely glossed lips, flash a sultry side-glance with those mahogany eyes, maybe even grin while squinching your cute nose, and there you have it. That Ali MacGraw magic. An allure that has graced about every magazine cover, every red carpet.

Except, of course, it was never that easy.

MacGraw’s natural beauty and immense intelligence catapulted this Wellesley grad from a behind-the-camera job as a stylist setting up shots for famed photographer Robert Sokolsky to a career in front of the lens, first as a model and then movie star. There was Love Story, then skyrocketing fame and all the tabloid fodder that comes with it—romances, affairs, a headline-making marriage to Steve McQueen.

“Unless you’ve spent your whole life wanting to be the center of attention, it’s terrifying. The thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve survived it,” says MacGraw, who, despite an Oscar nod, says, “I was never a good actor, but I’ve always had an eye for beauty.” This aesthetic sensibility she attributes to her parents—both artists—and a childhood spent dabbling in drawing and making things and exploring outdoors.

Today MacGraw proves she’s more than survived. She’s thriving. Having long ago traded the LA limelight for Sante Fe’s serenity, MacGraw is living out her deep commitments to be of service—especially for women’s issues and animal welfare—and to cultivating beauty, as a tireless volunteer and supporter of Sante Fe’s artisan community. Now as an ambassador and designer for the Charleston-based Ibu, the fashion icon is thrilled to weave her passions for beauty and service together. “I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had, doing what I love to do,” says MacGraw, who will debut her “Ali4Ibu” designs during Ibu’s sold-out Women Without Borders: Ali MacGraw Collection Launch on April 26 at the Cedar Room. (The collection will be available to shop at at 5 p.m. that day and in-store on April 27.)

In collaboration with Ibu and its global women artisans, MacGraw has designed clothing and accessories that highlight ethnic pizzazz and authentic sensibility. “My collection includes work by women’s groups in Morocco, Togoland, Brazil, Tanzania, and Pakistan, each offering something very special that’s not just the fashion du jour that you’d see in Vogue on a teenage model who’s too thin,” she says. MacGraw’s designs reflect her own streamlined style: “It has to be comfortable, able to be packed in a carry-on suitcase, and something that has longevity. Who wants to stand around saying, ‘Oh my god, I don’t think that length is in this year.’ Who cares?”

“Ali brings muscle and imagination to her designs, which are now employing women from South Sudan to Peru and Madagascar, from Nepal to Colombia, India to Pakistan and beyond,” says Susan Hull Walker, the founder and creator of Ibu, which elevates women artisans through economic empowerment. “She’s always been an icon of great style, simply wrought and divinely layered, but mostly we’re thrilled to work with Ali because she’s an Ibu at heart, embodying compassion; humility; graciousness; generosity; and a conscious, well-crafted life.”

“When Susan asked if I’d be an Ibu ambassador, I immediately said ‘yes’ because this is so real, so important,” says MacGraw. “Together we are changing the lives of our sisters across the globe and uniting our hopes and possibilities in this most difficult time. It is a huge honor for me to be a small part of this great vision.”

The Women Without Borders: Ali MacGraw Collection Launch begins at noon on Wednesday, April 26, at The Cedar Room at Mercantile and Mash. Tickets are sold out, but if you’d like to be added to the waiting list, e-mail For details on the event, click here.

To read more local fashion stories, click here.