One of the trailblazers of the “fashion for development” ideas, Bangladeshi fashion designer and former super model Bibi Russell has just launched a new fashion label called Bibi for WE. The initiative is a collaboration between the United Nations Development Program and the Modern Dress Sewing Factory (MDSF) in Cambodia.
The products under the Bibi for WE label will initially comprise designer bags meant for a global market. The design will use local materials such as Cambodian silk and will be rich in local cultural motifs. Bibi has trained HIV positive women in the selection of materials, design, finishing and quality control.
Bibi Russell was the first Bangladeshi student to earn a graduate degree in fashion design at the London College of Fashion in 1975. She then became famous as a model in the late 70s working for different magazines including Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar and was a catwalk model for Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani.
She returned to Bangladesh in 1995 where she started her own fashion house Bibi Productions, which fused indigenous Bengali cultural elements into high fashion design.
To date, she has provided work for over thousands of weavers and artisans and has presented several shows in Europe, most of which were supported by UNESCO. For her innovative work as a designer, UN ambassador and entrepreneur, she has received numerous awards.
About her initiative ‘Fashion for development’ she says: “When people see my collections, I want them to understand and appreciate all the work and effort that has gone into them. I want to preserve the heritage of my country, foster creativity, provide employment, empower women and contribute towards the eradication of poverty. That’s what I’m committed to do.”
Read more about WE and the HIV positive women that are the co-creators of this eco chic bags collection in UNDP’s newsroom