A very graceful, humble and modest Bibi has gained endless awards, respect and recognition for her achievements. Her creative talent and her social work have led various awards to the fashion designer, such as the ‘Freedom Award’ and the United Nations Peace Prize not long ago.
Her extraordinary passion and belief that fashion can be used for social good and for a positive movement has touched by people around the world. Returning year after year, amidst a busy schedule that puts her at all points of the globe, Bibi still finds time to come display the work that began as a dream to represent the vivid colours of Bangladesh, a recognition of heritage that they fully deserve and giving the crafts people the golden opportunity to enhance their considerable skills to achieve economic survival.
Bibi Russell understands and supports the vision that HSBC Colombo Fashion Week sets out to accomplish each year, together with its many partners and supporters as it is similar to her own efforts to support and uplift the local fashion industry.
This is a fact that has not gone unnoticed as leading ethical fashion boutique and internationally reputed blog Fashion Compassion in the UK has listed Bibi Russell as one of the 10 international women who changed the face of fashion, making her the only Asian to be listed along scions of fashion such as Vivienne Westwood and celebrity designer Stella McCartney.
Bibi Russell made her foray into the world of fashion many decades ago at the age of 18 as the first Bangladeshi to be selected to attend the London College of Fashion, and in 1976, at her graduation show, Bibi was headhunted to begin her career as a renowned international supermodel and was the face of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and many other shows and advertising campaigns for almost two decades.
It was a career that made her a star on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York, as she worked for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, and in the ’80s presented collections from Armani, Mussoni and Ferrés with Iman and Jerry Hall. But modelling was only a fraction of the dream Bibi Russell had dreamt of for her life, so in 1995 she set out to found ‘Bibi Productions’ back home, a design house under her vision that is to this day changing the face of the rural economy of Bangladesh singlehandedly.
When Bibi Russell gave up her career as a top model many years ago and returned to her home in Bangladesh, she wanted to save the centuries-old tradition of hand weaving from dying out and provide an opportunity for the traditional Bengali weavers a lifeline to survive its flood ruined economy. Although she was presented with every opportunity to establish a great career in Europe, she was determined to make good use of her large contact base and experience designing for great fashion houses to provide support to the traditional textile industry in her homeland, and also to provide them the opportunity to reach international heights of recognition.
The textiles produced by Bengali hand weavers today have become essential for European haute couture or for covering Italian designer furniture. She sells her textiles and her own collections in England, Spain and France to much demand. And as a fashion designer, Bibi Russell is one of the most significant earners of foreign exchange in her country today.
For many years, her collections have been produced exclusively in Bangladesh and this has created jobs in one of the poorest countries of the world – and not only for seamstresses. With the presentation and the sale of her designs in Paris, London and Düsseldorf, she provides around 100,000 Bangladeshis with work, self-esteem and a perspective for the future.
In a recent interview Bibi mentioned that “...fashion is a culture. Whatever I create, I do to lift up the people involved in craft. I believe fashion is for everyone. It’s not only for one class.” A statement HSBC CFW 2013’s organiser, the Greater Colombo Fashion Company can agree with, as these events wholehearted efforts are focussed on developing and uplifting Colombo’s fashion design industry by grooming and supporting new fashion designers and guiding the existing designers towards important retail opportunities in Sri Lanka and beyond.
Winners of its prestigious Gen-Next award offered in partnership with HSBC and its mentorship and guidance process have taken local designers with amazing promise to great heights in the world of fashion design and will hope to do so with its arduously selected group of designers this year by going beyond the perspective of promoting Sri Lankan designerwear locally, but also internationally and to great repute.
That is why The Greater Colombo Fashion Company is set to present HSBC Colombo Fashion Week, now in its 10th year on 3, 4 and 5 April 2013, featuring high profile designers from eight countries such as Agatha Ruiz de La Prada, Bibi Russell, Radhika Hernandez and 28 others – both local and international – vying for notoriety and critical acclaim yet again for the impeccable designs and glittering talent we’ve come to expect from this event.