Ali MacGraw — legendary actress, model, stylist and animal rights activist — is standing next to me before a small continental breakfast at the Lotos Club on the Upper East Side. We’re in the breakfast room debating between blueberry or strawberry yogurt. The selection’s whatever but the historic space is striking and handsome, like something from another world, another Manhattan. And here’s MacGraw, right at home, bustling about, mingling with fellow diners while pouring coffee for us both.

She is charismatic and charming, impossible not to gravitate toward. In an all-black outfit (a tee, skinny jeans, flats), with a blue scarf, a stack of blue beaded necklaces and Santa Fe silver hanging from her lobes, she is exactly what you think of when you use the word “chic,” minus the intimidating or untouchable context that often goes with it. At 78, she says her style hasn’t changed much, though she appreciates that there’s less stress on “the look of the moment” when it comes to fashion today — that now, one can dress however he or she wants and still look stylish.

We’ve met to discuss her collaboration with Ibu, a collection of designs sourced from 71 female-centric artisan groups from 34 countries with a showroom based in Charleston, South Carolina.

MacGraw met Ibu’s founder, Susan Hull Walker, at The International Folk Art Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where MacGraw lives. Artisans from all over the world come to participate and everybody in town volunteers. “2,000 of us do the grunt work: bring the water, sell the stuff, unpack,” she says. “It’s on this gorgeous pavilion between all of our museums on a hill under the New Mexico sky.”

Each year she would spot Walker, whose style appealed to MacGraw, a self-described “thrift shop, hippie market kind of [woman].” She finally introduced herself to Walker, who asked MacGraw to be an ambassador and design a collection. From there, a collaboration was born. MacGraw has been working on the project gratis since last August. She sees it as a way to do her part.

“A woman in the developing world spends an average of 90 cents out of every dollar on education and health care for her children and family,” explains the company’s website. “For men, the statistics are closer to 30%, so that supporting women has a multiplier effect as her family and community also benefit from her choices, leadership, and prosperity.”

“When a woman brings money into the household,” says MacGraw. “Suddenly she can’t be treated quite the same way as before.”

Ali MacGraw Ibu Edith Young May 2017 Man Repeller1.0 (18 of 46)

We talk a lot about style. A fire burned her house down in ‘93 and took with it many of her designer treasures, including original Halstons. MacGraw has since stuck to a uniform: tees, black skinny jeans and ballet flats, plus accessories — just like what she’s wearing today — and, “one or two things a year that are hair-raisingly expensive but I know will last my lifetime.”

“I remember in those early days spending too much time worrying about whether I looked okay. That is really boring. The minute that every single thing is perfect, you’ve lost your sexuality, as far as I’m concerned. Where’s the juice?”

“I once bought this dress for a dinner when I was a movie star and felt very conspicuous. It was colossally expensive — one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I had it shortened, which meant I couldn’t return it. I put it on and went, ‘This dress is wearing me. There’s a face in it, but who is she?’ What a lesson.”

Ibu Jadia Skirt, Signature Power Cuff, Mini Discus Necklace, Ankle Wrap Sandal

MacGraw says really sincere, heartfelt things like this throughout our conversation and then, about a half a beat after, makes fun of herself.

“With all of the different stages — and when you get older, there are a lot of stages — you do get to a point where you think what’s really, really, really important?” She prefaces her next sentence with “don’t throw up,” then says, “The most important thing is the quality of your friendships.”

“Perfect…I don’t think it exists,” she adds. “It’s a peculiar obsession. Being a decent human being, interacting and connecting with other people — really, really connecting — is more important than anything.”

Check out ALI4IBU, the Ali MacGraw collection here and shop it here. Follow the Ibu Movement on Instagram @ibumovement. Photos by Edith Young.

Get more Fashion ?
  • So beautiful!!

  • Senka

    Fangirling hard over here! Love story is one of the first movies I remember watching with my mom. My mom loved it, and I loved McGraw ever since. She looks amazing and seems so real. Love the article and her style!

  • gracesface

    She.Is.So.Gorgeous.

  • Hunter

    Still as beautiful as ever. I wanted to and still do want to be Jenny from love story. What style!! So happy to see this story today!

    • Signify

      You don’t want to be ‘Jenny’ from ‘Love Story’. She died. Go to Harvard Law School instead.

  • Junglesiren

    Wow. She’s awesome… still.

  • ihaveacooch

    oh my god!!!!!! she is so beautiful. this was such a cool shoot/article.

  • Ariel

    STUNNING!

  • “Where’s the juice” is my new favorite phrase. She is FABULOUS.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Great interview. She looks fantastic! And I love the idea behind the collection.

  • Paul Pham

    Goldie Hawn should have used McGraw’s plastic surgeon. Face not over filled, still beautiful

    • Aly

      Quite the assumption, brah. Both Goldie and Ali look great. But I’m sure you’re beautiful-er.

    • bnorwood

      Or tastefully Photoshopped.

    • Justme

      I admire that we wears her life on her face. I, too, at 62, have wrinkles. Not sure I’m going to get rid of them.

  • Alexandra Sterling

    Ali really is one of these incomparable women of style. But some of the items in that collection are pure cultural appropriation. Sufi jacket? Dervish swing jacket? When we Muslim women wear these types of clothes (at 1/10th of a designer price) we are told that we are backwards and need to be liberated…

    • kneelbeforetigers

      This. As much as I want to appreciate, seeing the pics made me very uncomfortable.

    • belle

      I agree – those names made me cringe, especially coming from a company run by three white people between Charleston and Santa Fe, both cities already overrun with rich white people (although a more folksy/artsy breed than bigger cities). I do appreciate what Ali is doing, and it seems like a great cause – just wish they involved more multicultural voices who could really speak to that heritage. I like that they feature the artisans who design and make the pieces!

      • pdbraide

        featuring the artisans is a very big difference. that’s really what people should do. These women will definitely get more direct business because they can be contacted…

      • Free2Fly2011

        What if they were doing nothing at all? Would that be more appealing?

        • belle

          See my above post – “I do appreciate what Ali is doing, and it seems like a great cause – just wish they involved more multicultural voices who could really speak to that heritage.” That would be more appealing 🙂

          • Free2Fly2011

            I got that. But, it seems to me that when someone is doing their passion, there’s always some kind of talk of criticism on cultural, race, etc. My personal thought. If that’s the case, get your own thing going.

          • belle

            I, too, am a white woman living a privileged life, which is why I actively seek out organizations that feature the voices and craft of those not born into the same privilege or lifestyle. It is all too easy (and too normal) to exploit the histories of other races/cultures while simultaneously excluding them from the conversation. As I said, while this isn’t perfect, they seem to be on the right track. And don’t worry, I too am following my passions and hope to make the world a better place 🙂

          • Free2Fly2011

            Sorry Belle, in this country I’m not considered white.

          • belle

            I was referring to the subjects of the article, not to you.

          • TheRanta

            I think, in fact, it’s the responsibility of those with power (read: white people) to help create an environment where those who have been historically and systemically disenfranchised are given a platform. It’s easy to say “get your own thing going” if the system is built to work for you. Not so much if your a person of color.

          • Free2Fly2011

            I disagree.

          • TheRanta

            That’s too bad. If you think race, gender, and sexual orientation/identity don’t have a significant impact on one’s ability to pursue their passions, you’re sadly mistaken. Ask any woman, American person of color (other than yourself, which is how you identify below), or LGBTQ person about the obstacles they’ve faced and face on a daily basis.

    • ShaunMarie

      The “Artisans from all over the world” and the women who are making these pieces are quite happy that their designs and labor are being culturally appropriated by wealthy westerners…

      “Ibu works with women artisans in 34 countries, collaborating with 71 different cooperatives and groups.”

      http://www.ibumovement.com/the-artisans/

  • Kelly

    These outfits remind me so much of my mum <3

  • Michael Iannucci

    Stunning. She has always had a unique style. And continues to. What an inspiration for women of any age

  • Bee

    She is so incredibly stunning and, even in pictures, exudes such a beautiful energy! Side note, whenever I see the chef Katie Lee I think she looks just like Ali MacGraw.

    • Jasoer

      Kathie Lee Gifford looks like Ali Mc Graw…is that what you said ?

      • Bee

        Haha, no not Kathie Lee Gifford. I said Katie Lee, the chef. 🙂

    • Signify

      No one remotely strikes me as reflecting Ali McGraw. She has always been much more than “a face.”

  • Hilary

    LOOOVE everything about this!

  • Meg S

    I want to convince my mom this is her next style incarnation. I might adopt her black tee black skinnies and ballet flats uniform. Probably not every day, but there’s a lot I can do with that as a base for accessories. I’m after those zebra sandals, and expected them to be much more expensive than they are. After I get home from vacation, they’re on my list of things to buy.

    Questioning some decisions in garment naming, but I think there’s a good cause behind it. I wish the artisans spoke for themselves about the pieces they created, rather than things that sound like they’ve been written by a publicist.

  • Sandra Bell

    Beautiful woman — makes aging not a thing to worry about.

    • Signify

      Unless you are aging badly in spirit, which can be true at any age, but more challenging as one ages.

  • janeyouignorantslut

    She’s perfect, as always.

  • Wonderful beauty, Spirit, and a total inspiration!!!

  • Nancy Adams Barnes

    I have spotted Ali in Santa Fe. She is perfectly at ease and friendly with employees in stores and restaurants.That, for me is a mark of a true and
    genuine person. I admire her so much. She is actually even more beautiful in person.

  • Havana Brown

    I wish it were true that a woman’s financial contribution to the household changes men’s attitude toward them but evidence goes against this. No criticism of your endeavour, just remarking on what I observed in Morocco.

  • Kim

    Beautiful woman, inside & out.

  • Signify

    I wonder if Ali MacGraw and Cybill Shepherd miss the college issue of Glamour magazine from the 1960s, as much as I do. Women in quintessential autumnal ivy-covered settings, in great clothing, beautiful set design and photography so realistic, (if only in one’s imagination), as to make the reader hear the crunch of leaves and feel the reds and oranges of the maple trees, and working toward degrees that didn’t begin with “Mrs.” Ultimately, as poor as I am, and as old as I am, things would have been much worse had I not been inspired by those young women and their stories.

  • Norey Agudelo de Mejia

    COMPETITION ARTROOMS 2018 IN LONDON – I NEED YOUR VALUABLE VOTE
    Dear friends,

    “Love, unity and peace reign in our hearts worldwide in order to light of wisdom leads our steps with security.”

    I am so glad to let you know I was selected among the international visual artists to participate at the competition “ARTROOMS 2018” in London. The final candidates will be selected by virtual votation from the public. That is why I kindly ask for your valuable support by vote for my artwork. You can vote just once but you can forward the link of my application to other friends or groups. Please do click on the box “VOTE FOR THE ARTIST”, which is located bellow the painting The Girl and the Butterfly.

    This is the link for you to vote directly:

    https://art-rooms.org/application/agudelo-de-mejia/

    It is such a honor to count on your support and please feel free to read my statement whereas I am pointing out the importance of “El Primimodernismo” which is the fusion between the basic elements of the Primitive Art and the most relevant aesthetic trends at the Classic,Modern and Contemporary Art as a new vanguard proposal I created.

    Thank you so much for your support. Vote due date is September 07 2017. Share this message and link for others to vote.

    Cordially yours,

    Norey Agudelo de Mejia “Noriam”

  • Susan Paduano

    So beautiful! Ali does not look her age. And is having fun.

  • Justme

    My role model. I crave living in Santa Fe. There is a feeling, a vibe that cannot be found anywhere. I go there (from DFW, TX) many times a year to reconnect. These are my people somehow. I can see why Ms. McGraw gravitated there. There is no other place like the city different.