Bibi Russell: a ‘Top 20 Person to Watch this Millennium’

Andrea Kolb meets Bangladeshi fashion designer and former international model Bibi Russell.

She has travelled the world with a mission – to promote craftsmen and women and their fantastic talents. Bibi Russel, top model, acclaimed fashion designer, "one of the 20 people to watch in the millenium in Asia“ (according to Asiaweek) and founder of "fashion for development“ – a woman with passion, love and true dedication. Creative, beautiful and restless.

With the set up in 1995 of Bibi Productions, she has given the Bangladeshi weavers and artisans the golden opportunity to utilize their considerable skills and talents to achieve economic survival and to build towards a prosperous future. Up to now she has given several thousand weavers and artisans all over the world a perspective – and recognition.

Her work has been internationally recognized having received among others, the ‘Honorary Fellowship’ of the London Institute in 1999, title of ‘Designer for Development’ by the UNESCO in 1999, the title ‘Artist for Peace’ by the UNESCO in 2001 and the Peace Prize 2004 by the United Nations Associations of Spain. 

TNW: Bibi, you are a style icon, a ethical fashion icon – what characterizes you as a designer?

BR: Thank you!!! Icon? I am glad to hear that!!!! Actually, I am carrying out my dream;

I want to promote social and economic development and make sure craftspeople have a better livelihood and sustainable income.

I am happy to be a Goodwill Ambassador for the incredible craftspeople who tirelessly contribute towards preserving and developing the traditional textiles and crafts.

My academic area of expertise is in fashion design; professional practice in the fashion industry of Bangladesh for more than two decades...You must consider your product from top to toe when you design; I design my products accordingly!

TNW: What have been the major milestones in your career? 

BR: To be loved by the village people!

TNW: You are from Bangladesh and started your business there – now you are also working in Colombia – a completely different culture on the other side of the world – how did it come about?


Starting from college study in London, I have worked internationally most of my life. All the networkings pay off !!!

TNW: What are the differences and what are the similarities working with different cultures:

BR: You see, one’s upbringing contributes a great deal in terms of communication. The only difference I can think of is geographical, that builds physical structure. I think people have same sort of feelings and responses towards matters but express them differently.

TNW: Describe Bibi Russell in 3 words: 

BR: Fashion for Development.

TNW: What inspires you?

BR: Laborious people.

TNW: You created the brand "Fashion for Development“ many years ago. Now it is a world wide movement – what has changed in the ethical fashion business? 

BR: Awareness and sincerity towards preservation and development in terms of variety, quality and marketing of traditional textiles and crafts have grown immensely.

TNW: What is the difference talking to the editor in chief of VOGUE and village people in Bangladesh (apart from the language and the money issue) – how do you manage to talk the two languages?

BR: I actually can speak more than two languages! Respect and ability to explain your demands clearly go a longer way than any languages.

TNW: What role do online sales play in your business at the moment?

BR: Hmmm! I am working on this gradually.

TNW: Are you using social media? 

BR: I am not really media savvy. Actions usually represent themselves!

TNW: Quality or Quantity?

BR: Quality absolutely.

TNW: Sunrise or Sunset? 

BR: Both! You can not have one without the other. Life is like two opposite sides of the coin, different but inseparable!

TNW: What is your favorite quote? 

BR: “We live in this world when we love it” - Rabindranath Tagore

TNW: What is the best advice you've ever received?

BR: Listen to your heart!

TNW: What advice would you give to any aspiring designers?

BR: Be focused...... Recognize your passion, show it with sincerity, acknowledge all the resources and respect human dignity.

TNW: Any creative role model?

BR: Rabindranath Tagore

Andrea Kolb is a marketing expert and social entrepreneur. In 2001 she founded the communication agency Calliope. Six years later, Andrea and her husband Bernd moved to Marrakesh and opened a city palace they had previously restored, the AnaYela, a "Place of Inspiration" established as a hot spot for international thinkers. 

Living there inspired her to create the social fashion brand ABURY. Under the positioning of “Beyond Fashion”, ABURY combines the desire for style and ethics, exclusiveness and sustainability in a unique and innovative concept.

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