May 29, 2005


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Last night while surfing TV channels, I got glued to a fashion show in a Pakistani channel GEO TV, where models were on a catwalk wearing gorgeous and colorful outfits of the Indian sub-continent. The most striking thing of the show was that there were Bengali folk songs playing in the background which blended extremely well with the festivity. I had little doubts but soon the title came up on the screen- "Bibi Russell Productions" , the pride of Bangladesh performing in the "Textile Asia 2005 fashion show". A review of the show says:

Bibi Russell presented contemporary clothes that drew heavily on the Bengali tradition. Kurtas, lachas, turbans, topis, and bags in bright colours stormed the ramp. Her collection was especially designed for this region and she was out to show how natural weaves and primitive designs can be so exciting. Her choice of colour and presentation was nothing like anything I have seen on the local fashion scene.

From the same review:

Bibi is a 1975 graduate from the London College of Fashion and a veteran model for top international fashion brands including YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, Armani and Kenzo. She has shared the ramp with models like Jerry Hall, Iman and Marie Helvin and later Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer. Using her exposure to the international fashion scene and her eclectic education, Bibi decided to use her craft to help the craftsmen of her country. She propagated the theory "fashion for development" and her first Paris show titled "Weavers of Bangladesh" found work for over 30,000 craftsmen there – something our fashion industry should learn from.

Bibi's return to Bangladesh in early 1990s was to fulfill her dream of promoting Bangladeshi fabrics and crafts. She spent much time in rural areas to learn different languages and dialects of the weavers, their ways of life, and earned their trust. She established "Bibi Russel propductions" and from the colours weaved by the villagers, she reached out to the world. In 1999 Bibi was named "UNESCO Special Envoy: Designer for Development". Yes that is her motto - "fashion for development" and she provides work for more than 35,000 small scale weavers of Bangladesh. In her words:

"I believe in the potential of the rural craftsmanship of Bangladesh. For me, this was a soul-searching question, especially in the West, when i came across opinions with regard to Bangladesh's poverty, devastating floods and other stereotyped negative images. I developed a positive attitude, almost as a defensive mechanism. I tend to show the beauty of poverty, not the misery. And this beauty abounds in this country."

Beautiful is who beautiful does. I remember her final words to the Pakistani audience in the abovementioned show which went like this: "There are so much beautiful elements in our culture which we do not explore. Pakistan has a rich culture. So dig out the beauty. No one is stopping you."

Yes no one can stop Bibi Russell. They only can and should follow her.

Related articles:

* Bibi Russell -weaver of colored dreams
* Bibi's fashion with a purpose
* Bibi - fashion for development.


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