UNESCO Artist for Peace and well-known designer Bibi Russell launched her fashion brand in 1994 when she returned to Bangladesh from Europe.. after twenty years. The global- innovative and ecological fashion brand aims to revive indigenous handloom textiles and crafts and alleviate the economic situation of the rural craftspeople with one simple vision: "Save the craftspeople and help revive their dreams."
Bibi Russell was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Giving wings to her dreams.. she earned a graduate degree in fashion from London College of Fashion in 1975. In the next five years she was one of the top models on the global fashion scene and walked for Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani. Fashion's darling.. she was widely featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper's Bazaar.
Under the slogan "Fashion For Development", Bibi Russell set up Bibi Productions Fashion for Development in 1995 to save craftspeople by integrating indigenous artistic and cultural elements into her design aesthetic. For the first two years Bibi travelled to villages and got acquainted with the craftspeople and artisans there. She learnt their way of life by living with them following which she learnt the tools of the trade in rural Bangladesh as opposed to the modern technology she had learnt overseas.
"Since I was young I had a dream. I could not understand why Bangladeshi people were thought of as poor. For me, the country was rich with colours and music! When I went to Europe my dream went with me. One day I knew that I was mentally and physically ready to go back home" she told UNESCO. "I believed that the people of Bangladesh needed me as much as I needed them.. Today, after more than twenty years of experience, I know I was right. They know I respect them and help them restore their human dignity.. On the other hand, they give me so much love and affection! This gives me the strength to go forward. Nothing in the world can take me away from this work."
With support from UNESCO, Bibi Russell organised her first European fashion show in Paris in 1996 titled Weavers of Bangladesh followed by a second show titled The Colours of Bangladesh in Spain the following year. In September 1998 -with support from UNESCO and the British Fashion Council- Bibi brought her third show to London titled "Stars of Bangladesh". The same year- she made her US debut at the closing ceremony of State of the World Forum. In 2017 she took part in India's Rajasthan Heritage Week as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and to the rural Rajasthani weavers who created the homespun khadi for her collection. Russell also participated in the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange in 2018 with an exhibit showcasing sustainable fashion from the Commonwealth countries. It was launched at Buckingham Palace with the support of the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge.
The aim was always to showcase the centuries-old craft of rural weavers and craftspeople of Bangladesh and give them their due recognition on the world fashion map. The way these crafts are showcased may also influence fashion designers to use them in their new collections.. leading to development of these communities through Fashion. The Paris show brought in orders that gave work to roughly 30,000 weavers in Bangladesh. The huge response showed that Bibi Russell's vision to elevate rural craftspeople was obviously working. It was difficult for the weavers who lived in villages to make goods according to the tastes of the people- not to mention at a global level. With Bibi's inspiration and guidance, they had the ideas and the platform to market their products.
"What can be better for the craftsmen if their art comes under the 'fashion' umbrella and is recognised across the globe? The exposure will help increase their confidence and encourage them to stay rooted in their culture. The restoration of the historical glory of our weavers and craftspeople, helping them advancing their economic life and creativity is my mission" she told us. "In fact I owe my wealth of knowledge and experience of the weaves and crafts to the weavers and craftspeople of a particular region. Travelling to these rural areas, sitting down with them to understand their manual processes enabled me to experiment with color, weight and design. And then we found a union of modern design and the culture and creativity of rural village folk."
Of late Bibi Russell has showcased several collections at Rajasthan Heritage Week in Rajasthan in India for which she used pure Khadi, wool and cotton, using different weight — sourced from rural weavers in Rajasthan. She kept the look simple to showcase the fabric's beauty and accessorization, inspired by different parts of Rajasthan and made by her, in-house.
"We must join forces to support rural craftspeople by bringing together essential components such as culture- creativity- skill- capital- technical assistance- marketing- before many centuries-old fine skills are lost. We must appreciate and encourage confidence among the rural craftspeople and artisans by dedicating time and energy in their heritage, their art" she told us. "Since the dawn of civilisation, art and crafts have been sources of income and livelihoods for many fine artisans. Weaving- particularly- is an age-old vocation. Through art and design.. it is my intention to sensitise and demonstrate the skills and expertise of the local artisans. They really have magic in their fingers and I want to showcase that to the world. I consider it my responsibility. All my work here is for them."
"Save the craftspeople and help revive their dreams."
Envisioning that rural craftspeople deserve a better market and bigger opportunities, Bibi Russell wants to help preserve their heritage, foster creativity, provide employment, empower women and contribute towards the eradication of poverty.
Bibi Russell (Founder)
Recognition and Awards
- Official Website Bibi Russell
- Bibi Russell: The fashion queen of gamchha Telegraph India
- Bibi Russell: Finding magic in fingers UNESCO
- Designer Bibi Russell finds beauty in poverty The Hindu
- Wiki page of Bibi Russell Wikipedia
- UNESCO and Bibi Russell Put Fashion at the Service of Development UNESCO
- Bibi Russell profiled World Economic Forum
- Facebook account of Bibi Russell Facebook
- Bibi Russell, an inspiring designer New Indian Express
- Weaver of Coloured Dreams Star Magazine
- "I have to start from zero again but I am so excited" The Telegraph
- Instagram account of Bibi Russell Instagram
- Bibi Russell: An artist of excellence and passion Fashion Blitz
- Bibi Russell profiled The Daily Star
- local flavour, global look The Telegraph
- Bibi Russell Runway Review Explosive Fashion
- Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell is giving Rajasthani crafts a new life Telegraph India
- Bibi Russell, Taibun Nahar get Rokeya Padak News Bangladesh
- Return & Refund Policy Bibi Russell
Bibi Russell (Founder)
Fashion and Textiles
Retail and Consumer Goods