Frances from California

Under Fire in a War Zone Looking at Ivey Abitz

Under fire in Afghanistan, Frances hunkers down in a concrete bunker with her flack jacket, helmet, and on her smartphone.

by Frances from California

Ivey Abitz design worn by social scientist in Afghanistan.
Frances in Afghanistan wearing her Clotaire Shirt Jacket by Ivey Abitz.

I first discovered Ivey Abitz clothing on my last night of vacation in Paris. I’d spent nearly two weeks there absorbing art, quality design, and craftsmanship. The next day I would board a flight back to Afghanistan, where I had spent the previous 14 months. I worked and lived in southern Afghanistan, in Helmand province, the most violent in the country.

I don’t remember how I found the website, but sitting there in Paris on my last night of leave, I discovered this beautiful clothing that met all my criteria: quality craftsmanship, thoughtful design, and custom made. I am myself a weaver and sewer, and while not nearly as talented as Ivey Abitz, I know enough to identify quality when I find it. It was a fit.

Knowing that I would not have reliable internet for long, I placed an order.

Upon returning to Helmand, Cynthia Ivey Abitz and I struck up an occasional conversation about our mutual admiration for craft and quality. I was back for six more months of living and working in a war zone.

I cannot overstate how much it meant to have a distraction from the violence around me. I served with the British Army, and while our area of Afghanistan was small, we had a disproportionately high amount of casualties compared with the rest of the country. Our task was daunting.

Our conditions were austere to say the least! I lived in a tent with seven other people; we endured a summer and winter with no climate control. However, the most pressing concern there was the fact that we lived in a war zone. Internet access was rare, but when available I went right to the Ivey Abitz site and just looked at beautiful things, and imagined what my world would be like when I was home. There was no better therapy than distraction for me.

Toward the end of my deployment the Afghan phone carrier I had offered very slow 3G. One day our base took indirect fire, where people lob ordnance into where we live. We put on our heavy body armor and headed for the shelters. I sat in a concrete bunker wearing a flack jacket and helmet and waited for pages to slowly load on my phone. Coincidently, that day was the very day IA’s spring 2013 line premiered, and I wasn’t going to miss out on making a mental list of new items to contemplate.

Needless to say, I made my list, placed an order, and by the time I returned home I had boxes of beautiful clothing waiting for me. I love every item I have, and am grateful to Cynthia for providing me with plenty of good things to think about while I was in Afghanistan.

Blanchefleur Duster Coat and Palliser Jacket over the Everett Frock
Frances in the Blanchefleur Duster Coat and Palliser Jacket over the Everett Frock on her return home to California.

2 replies on “Under Fire in a War Zone Looking at Ivey Abitz”

This is one of the most delightful stories I have ever read about the quickening of spirit through creative design! What an incredible woman devoting her energy to such a daunting prospect in Afghanistan, only to find joy in the wearable art of Cynthia Ivey Abitz. I truly enjoyed this essay and loved the picture at the end of Frances finally enjoying her new Bespoke ensemble! Thank you for sharing this.

I love your story, your courage, and your longing for beauty amidst the horrors of war. Isn’t it amazing how beauty sustains and nourishes us? I feel so lucky to have found Cynthia and Ivey Abitz, and especially honored to be is such good company. Thank you for sharing your story. So glad you are back safe and sound.

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