Fashionable development

Supermodel Bibi Russel brings prosperity to villages in Bangladesh.


Jay Walljasper | September 2004 issue
Specialists in sustainable development knew that Bangladesh’s rich tradition of handwoven textiles offered a way out of poverty for some of the nation’s families. The only problem was that ever- shifting tastes in the fashion world made it difficult to know what fabrics would be in demand any given year. How could you loan money to a mother of five to buy a loom and fulfill her dream of economic self-sufficiency, and then see her go broke because designers in Paris and Milan had declared silk or muslin “out” this season?
Enter Bibi Russel, a Bangladesh-born supermodel who once shared European runways with Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Kate Moss. She understood the world of fashion, and was interested in creating her own designs based on the vibrant hues and luxurious embroidery of traditional Bangladeshi clothing. “As a child when I saw many villagers come to our home, I would admire the bright and beautiful colours they would wear in the sarees and gamchhas,” she recalls.
Teaming up with the Grameen bank (the world’s first micro-credit bank) in 1994, she spent two years touring villages to learn more about handloomed textiles and the economic conditions of the rural poor. She then went to work, drawing upon her training as a designer at the prestigious London School of Fashion, to establish a fashion line that would provide a permanent market for Bangladeshi fabrics. In 1998, her first Paris show, supported by UNESCO and using only models from Bangladesh, drew rave responses. She gained more acclaim as the first designer from the developing world to be featured at London’s September Fashion Week, and in a Madrid showing arranged by the Queen of Spain.
Village artisans produce everything in her line, including buttons, shoes, and home furnishings. Traditional fabrics like khadi, jamdani and jute are used extensively in her designs , some of which feature a “peasant” look while others cater to more to modern “sportswear” tastes. Her Bangladesh-based company, Bibi Productions, now provides a livelihood for 35,000 weavers and tailors.
“One loom costing only $200 (163 euros) is the difference between shattered dreams and survival,” she explains. “Survival not just of one weaver but also of his or her dependent family.”
UNESCO has honored her with the title of “Artist for Peace,” and she is now exploring ways that artisans in other poor countries (including a project with traditional knitters in war-ravaged Bosnia) can make a reliable living by creating handicrafts for international markets.
Bibi Productions, Rahman Chamber, 12-13 Motijheel, CA Dhaka, Bangladesh, telephone +880 2956 5358, e-mail bibiprd@citechno.net, www.bangladeshshowbiz.com.
 

Solution News Source

Fashionable development

Supermodel Bibi Russel brings prosperity to villages in Bangladesh.


Jay Walljasper | September 2004 issue
Specialists in sustainable development knew that Bangladesh’s rich tradition of handwoven textiles offered a way out of poverty for some of the nation’s families. The only problem was that ever- shifting tastes in the fashion world made it difficult to know what fabrics would be in demand any given year. How could you loan money to a mother of five to buy a loom and fulfill her dream of economic self-sufficiency, and then see her go broke because designers in Paris and Milan had declared silk or muslin “out” this season?
Enter Bibi Russel, a Bangladesh-born supermodel who once shared European runways with Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Kate Moss. She understood the world of fashion, and was interested in creating her own designs based on the vibrant hues and luxurious embroidery of traditional Bangladeshi clothing. “As a child when I saw many villagers come to our home, I would admire the bright and beautiful colours they would wear in the sarees and gamchhas,” she recalls.
Teaming up with the Grameen bank (the world’s first micro-credit bank) in 1994, she spent two years touring villages to learn more about handloomed textiles and the economic conditions of the rural poor. She then went to work, drawing upon her training as a designer at the prestigious London School of Fashion, to establish a fashion line that would provide a permanent market for Bangladeshi fabrics. In 1998, her first Paris show, supported by UNESCO and using only models from Bangladesh, drew rave responses. She gained more acclaim as the first designer from the developing world to be featured at London’s September Fashion Week, and in a Madrid showing arranged by the Queen of Spain.
Village artisans produce everything in her line, including buttons, shoes, and home furnishings. Traditional fabrics like khadi, jamdani and jute are used extensively in her designs , some of which feature a “peasant” look while others cater to more to modern “sportswear” tastes. Her Bangladesh-based company, Bibi Productions, now provides a livelihood for 35,000 weavers and tailors.
“One loom costing only $200 (163 euros) is the difference between shattered dreams and survival,” she explains. “Survival not just of one weaver but also of his or her dependent family.”
UNESCO has honored her with the title of “Artist for Peace,” and she is now exploring ways that artisans in other poor countries (including a project with traditional knitters in war-ravaged Bosnia) can make a reliable living by creating handicrafts for international markets.
Bibi Productions, Rahman Chamber, 12-13 Motijheel, CA Dhaka, Bangladesh, telephone +880 2956 5358, e-mail bibiprd@citechno.net, www.bangladeshshowbiz.com.
 

Solution News Source

SIGN UP

TO GET A Free DAILY DOSE OF OPTIMISM


We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously. Privacy Policy