Perhaps the highlight of our trip, on the last day we were taken to Bibi Russell’s studio in Dhaka where we were given the opportunity to meet Bibi and talk about her work.
(Image from here)
Bibi was the first woman from Bangladesh to study at London College of Fashion. In 1975 after being spotted modelling her final collection at college, she was offered modelling contracts with designers including Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani; and magazines including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. These experiences provided her with a rich experience and contacts that would then allow her to follow her real passion – promoting Bangladeshi textiles and handicrafts.
Bibi set up Bibi Productions in 1995 to promote Bangladeshi textiles and handicrafts within both the local and international market (mainly Europe and Scandinavia). The marketing message underlying this work is ’Fashion for Development and Positive Bangladesh’. Her work has been internationally recognized and she has received many awards. These include the ‘Honorary Fellowship’ of the London Institute in 1999, title of ‘Designer for Development’ by the UNESCO in 1999, the title ‘Artist for Peace’ by the UNESCO in 2001 and the Peace Prize 2004 by the United Nations Associations of Spain. (http://www.bibirussell.org/).
Similar to Aarong, Bibi works to help people in Bangladesh by designing and researching beautiful textiles whose production can create jobs in rural areas. She currently provides employment for over 35,000 weavers in the country. Her textile scarves are rich and extremely luxurious to the touch designed around the weaving process and resulting qualities of the fabric:
However her work tends to differ from Aarong as she avoids the traditional imagery of kantha people and animals, and the use of applique and traditional embroidery. Instead she creates modern, high quality textiles in bright colours that show off the quality of the hand woven fabric itself, which can also hold their own in the western fashion world. Bibi is continually researching new ideas and approaches including using rickshaw painters to create brightly coloured bangles, accessories and furniture.
She has also produced gorgeous bangles made out of water hyacinth, a plant that grows widely in Bangladesh.
We were also given a sneak preview of a special collection she has been developing in aid of HIV sufferers (continuing her work in this area – http://www.ecofashionworld.com/Players/BIBI-RUSSEL-FOR-WE.html), including a sewn sari with fabulous ruffled edging:
As visitors we were very excited to see the combination of traditional design within the region being mixed with innovative detailing such as this tie design on the back of the sari bodice:
and the colourful shoes and accessories to complete the collection:
The Bibi Russell fashion show below also shows how Bibi has been able to successfully mix the influences of the east and the west without being predictable or excessively ethnic:
Further details of Bibi’s awe inspiring work can be found at:
- Listen to interview at: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=0u4WSE3Gf2c
- Interview on the development of developing countries: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=g7ydoXVi8Ic&feature=related
- Photo gallery http://www.bangladeshshowbiz.com/bibi/bibi_photo_gallery.html