Bibi Russell’s intriguing journey to zenith
Bibi Russell is the one who literally single-handedly made Bangladesh's fashion renowned before the world. She is the founder of 'Bibi Productions'-a world renowned fashion house working with crafts people in Bangladesh. And she is also the one who revived the popularity of Bangladesh's traditional cloths.
"I'm Bibi,I am a designer and I work with and for crafts people. My aim is to save and revive crafts and help crafts people to live better life. I believe in positive Bangladesh," said Bibi Russell.
"Whatever I do I keep that in mind. I believe fashion can be used for social and economic development. Fashion, for me, is a cultural identity, a necessity. In today's world no one can go naked. You need a piece of cloth to cover your pride. This holds a very fundamental truth that fashion is a part and parcel of social and economic development which opens up many doors of opportunities for us."
"As I said earlier, I work for and with crafts people and whatever I do I make sure that it's a sustainable income for the people involved. I want to ensure better livelihood for crafts people and education and health for their children."
Bibi who was born in Chittagong but completed her school and college study in Dhaka went to London and earned a graduate degree in fashion from London College of Fashion.
In the next few years, Bibi worked as a fashion model with different prestigious organizations and talented people.
In 1994 BiBi returned to Bangladesh and opened Bibi Productions in the year of 1995, a fashion house, fusing indigenous Bengali cultural elements into her line. With BiBi Productions she first claimed the much cited slogan 'Fashion for Development'. Then on Bibi has been working with crafts people with a vision to save crafts and revive their dream.
Bibi has received recognition from many prestigious organizations around the world- "Honorary Fellowship" by the London Art University, "Entrepreneur Woman of the Year" by the Foundation of Entrepreneur Women, "UNESCO Special Envoy: Designer for Development", UNESCO Artist for Peace, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, and YODONA Award for Humanity are few of many.
Her father was from Rangpur and mother from Dhaka and so they were brought up in a multi-cultural environment. According to Bibi, they had a very wonderful childhood.
She claimed that she knows many things about our art, culture, music, and everything because of my brilliant childhood and therefore she gave the credit to her parents.
"They made us believe that there is a positive Bangladesh. They made us feel proud of Bangladesh," Bibi said.
"I'm very lucky to see and come close to many great politicians, great artists, and great musicians during my childhood. Our house was open to all. So, we were not like stuck rich children, we had a very beautiful childhood and we did travel a lot."
"I want to preserve the heritage of my country, foster creativity, provide employment, empower women and contribute towards the eradication of poverty. That is what I'm committed to do. Save the crafts people and help revive their dreams."
She could easily build her career in abroad and she has that ability. But because of her immense love towards the country Bibi is back to Bangladesh.
"I'm back because I love this country. I believe there is a positive Bangladesh which was implanted within me by my parents. That's why I think how you grow up; and how you spent your childhood is a very important issue. Nobody asked me to come back; neither did my parents give me an injection of DeshPrem [love for country]. They knew I would come back and do this. My two feet are in the ground. I lead a very normal life," she remarked.
Apart from being a renowned international fashion model who worked with brilliant people and prestigious organizations, Bibi is also an entrepreneur and designer. There is passion behind it which motivates her to do many things at the same time.
"I think someone like me would not do something very suddenly. I'm a very focused person. I knew what I wanted to do but it had to be very clear to me whether I could do it or not before embarking on a journey. So I took time. I had a dream but it took me many years, 20 years, to make my dream come true. I wanted to come back but I wanted to have mental and physical strength to be able to put everything behind my dream and drop everything on earth to make it happen."
Diversity of people is an important ingredient of Bibi Productions. All members of her team are from lower middle class families-poor the world says. Bibi wanted to give them the confidence that poverty is not an incurable disease.
She said: "You can come out of poverty if you work harder. You have to plan, you have to be focused, and you have to work hard to make your plan happen."
Bibi Productions is a hundred percent self-funded project and financed by Bibi herself.
"I never had anyone paying me. I've been doing this for 18 years, tough life is gone. I never had a sponsor, I never had anything. But it's not a complaint. Whatever I have in life I put it in Bibi Productions. When I came back I thought many people and Bank would come forward but no one. They give it to corporate and big NGOs, they don't believe. I thought it's may be because they can sell the poverty but I'm showing not the misery of the poverty but the beauty. I'm showing hands of crafts people have magic."
"However, at Bibi Productions I'm just the founder; I'll be leaving Bibi Production for the people of Bangladesh. There is no other way, if I show you my card; you can see I'm just the founder- I'm not the managing director, other people do the work and they own BIbi Productions."
Bibi is also an avid reader. "I'm a voracious reader, I read a lot. Now I'm reading autobiography of Salman Rushdie. Before that I finished reading a book on Surja Sen and Pritilota."
"I always believe, because I'm a Bangladeshi, we made history for the first time with a piece of cloth-the Muslin. If we could make it in thirteen century then we can do that in twenty first century too."