Bibi Russell: Pride of Bangladesh
Bibi was the first woman from Bangladesh to study at the London College of Fashion. When she graduated in 1975 she modeled her own graduation show, she was immediately offered modeling assignments with Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani.
Bibi is 5'10'' tall and debuts her modeling career in 1976. From 1986 to 1992, she was dominating as a top model in Vogue, Haper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan magazines. Bibi was model for almost all popular products, such as Kodak, Channel, BMW, Toyota, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Giorgio Armani etc. and did catwalk on the stage with almost all top models of the world such as Naomi, Claudia etc.
A supermodel for the biggest designers in the 1980's, she then returned to her homeland to make "fashion for development". She now employs 30.000 weavers all over Bangladesh.
‘Everyone thinks Bangladesh is a poor country. For me - it's rich in culture and everything. It gives me a lot of energy _ I live in Bangladesh. Most of the time I'm in villages and I'm competing with top designers.’
She sold her house and possessions to fund her dream. She lived in the villages and the jet-setting supermodel travelled by road, because it was a self-funded project. "People sell poverty. I sold the beauty in poverty," is how she explains her work.
Bibi won critical acclaim at the London Fashion Week the first time she showed her khadi (or khaddor as they say) and handloom collection, got Harrods to stock up her designs, and had an eventful debut in the U.S. too.
Bibi has received both national and international awards for her work with the artisans and weavers in Bangladesh. She has been honoured with an Honorary Fellowship from the London Institute (1999), Women of the Year by Elle Magazine (1997), and Entrepreneur Woman of the Year (1999) by the Foundation of Entrepreneur Women. She has also been highlighted by Asia Week Magazine as one of the ‘20 people to watch in the millennium.’ UNESCO named her ‘Designer for Development in 1999 for her unfailing commitment to human dignity, development and the eradication of poverty. This title was replaced by the title Artist of Peace in 2001.
Her speaking style is energetic, truthful and humorous; her message—profound and thought provoking. Each of the upward steps she takes on that ladder is a success formula designed to be enlightening and entertaining, showing people how to take charge of your life without being self-conscious about it. Bibi’s mission is to encourage people to move beyond limitations and reach for their dreams. She emphasises the importance of recognizing and valuing everyone's contribution as a team member in life's pursuits. A dynamic stage presence, Bibi captures the attention of her audience instantaneously and never lets go. She combines hard facts, specific strategies and personal insights to create a powerful message. Her ability to connect with the heart makes her one of the most influential women in Bangladesh.
That's empowerment. That's development. That's Bibi.