‘Russell’ up a mod revolution

She is humble and her modesty reflects in her design elements too. Bangladeshi designer Bibi Russell, who ruled the style charts in the late 70s and 80s and was also among the top 10 women in the world who changed the face of fashion, is a force to reckon with. With a mission of promoting Bangladeshi fabrics and handicrafts for international markets, she has provided work for thousands of weavers and artisans. Her latest show in April at the Colombo Fashion Week won her a standing ovation.

She started Bibi Productions in 1995 and even today continues to strive in the quest for meaningful fashion.
Celebs across the world flaunt Bibi Russell’s designs — Queen Sofia of Spain, Maris Teresa Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Antonio Banderas, Isabelle Adjani, Prasad Bidapa, Shobhaa De and many others. But Bibi Russell is a lesson in modesty, “I spend most of my time in the villages doing research. Five hundred women in north Bangladesh are doing my crochet, a project I started six years ago. I also like to do a lot of rickshaw art and recycling.”
And each experience has enthused her to explore further, “When people see my collections, I want them to understand and appreciate the effort. I want to preserve the heritage of my country, foster creativity, provide employment, empower women and contribute towards the eradication of poverty. Exquisite handwoven muslin, Jamdani, raw as well as refined silks, a wide range of Khadi, and extremely fine cottons, have earned a place of honour for artisans of Bengal in world culture.”
Bibi Productions’ first ready to wear collection ‘Weavers of Bangladesh’ was launched at Unesco headquarters in Paris in 1996. Her work has also been branded as ‘Fashion for Development.’ She won 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, the Peace Prize 2004 by the United Nations Associations of Spain and was appointed as the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in 2008. “I graduated from the London College of Fashion in 1976 and began my journey to represent the vivid colours of Bangladesh. I have always believed in working with handlooms, and with colours that are non-chemically produced.” On her personal dress sense, she adds, “I dress very simple, a tunic, kurta with pants and on formal occasions, I wear saris, Everything I wear is 100 per cent handmade natural fabrics.”

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