“For me fashion is a culture; it is a necessity. I you give a craft person work, you can give the whole family a sustainable income,” believes Bibi Russel. This incredibly gifted and widely acclaimed Bangladeshi designer is not only a mega fashion icon and former international model, she is also someone who leads from the front and works tirelessly to revive country weavers.
An alumnus of the prestigious London College of Fashion from the 1975 batch, Bibi commenced her career as a model for renowned fashion magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazar. As a fashion model she walked the ramp in several fashion shows while working with Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani.
It was in 1994 that she went back to her roots and started Bibi Productions – Fashion for Development, her own fashion house in Bangladesh that infuses Bangladeshi cultural elements into her designs. Her company helped over 35,000 local weavers in Bangladesh with employment.
“I make world clothing that exemplifies the global village mindset. I design ready-to-wear clothes. Ultimately, I combine fashion with traditional craftsmanship, aid empowerment and commitment. My collection is made exclusively of handmade fabrics, crafts, rickshaw art and recycled products,” said Bibi in an interview last year. She is one of the most celebrated faces in developmental fashion today. She finds inspiration for her work in villages and has worked in villages of Rajasthan and Kolkata, learning and helping develop their textile crafts.
In 1996, with assistance from UNESCO, Bibi organized her first European fashion show in Paris and from then on there was no looking back. She organized another fashion show ‘The Colours of Bangladesh’ in Spain the following year. The King of Spain rewarded her with the coveted Cross of Officer of the Order of Queen Isabella.
Bibi was given the distinction of ‘One of the 20 people to watch in the Millennium’ by the Asiaweek magazine. As a mark appreciation for her illustrious work in the world of fashion, she was awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the London institute in 1999 and the ‘Designer for Development’ award by UNESCO in the same year followed by ‘Artist for Peace’ in 2001.
Bibi has a close relationship with Myntra as a mentor at the Myntra Fashion Incubator (MFI) programme, where she shares her experiences and ignites passion in young designers to do more.