She wears multi colored specs, big nose rings, gorgeous silver earrings and carries the most eccentric combinations of clothes ! She deals in cotton, organic and nothing is synthetic or even close to artificial, just like her own arena, she is none other than the international model, entrepreneur and a great fashion designer hailing from Bangladesh – Bibi Russell.
Known for her fashion sense and ethnic style of designing, Bibi Russell is the first Bangladeshi woman to have gone to London School of Fashion but not to establish herself in Europe, but understand the grammar of fashion and bring her talent and expertise back to India. Inspired by Chief Minister of Rajasthan – Vasundhara Raje, Bibi Russell has now blessed the state by opening her brand collection in the state-run emporium – Rajasthali.
On account of this, Jaipur Beat visited Rajasthali and had a talk with the icon herself about her journey to Rajasthan, her dreams, achievements and the unconventional path that she has chosen 🙂
- You are a fashion designer, model, author and entrepreneur, so many roles and just one you, how do you relate to all these ?Well, first of all I am Bibi and that’s the main thing. I work for something that is my dream and that is close to my heart and there is nothing more important than this. So with every role that I play, there is some dream that I am fulfilling.
- Your own style is so unconventional! From whom did you draw inspiration for this?As a young girl, I studied in Bangladesh. So I was very fascinated by these nose rings and different jewellery. Then I went to Europe in my teenage and later became an international model, hence I was always told what to wear (laughs). But now, I wear and do exactly what I like, and I always wear something comfortable.
- You went to London School of Fashion, and you never thought of establishing your brand there, why?I went to one of the best fashion schools to learn the grammar of fashion, but had a very clear plan to give it back to my own country.
- Do Bangladeshi women also carry clothes and jewelley the way you do?Not only Bangladeshi, but there was a survey done which revealed that women of Europe, India and especially in France, the fashion of nose rings was a rage and it was started by Bibi Russell. Young generations are following this trend all over the world without thinking that they look old fashioned as it’s all in the head.
- You design for class or mass?When I design, I want everyone to be able to wear it. I do target the middle market as that’s what’s sustainable, but the truth is that I design for everyone, it just depends on how one carries it as you can step out wearing a simple cotton saree and look extremely classy.
- What drew you to Rajasthan in the first place?I am an Asian girl, my schooling was in Bangladesh. So while studying I found out that Rajasthan is one of the largest states of India, not just area wise, but when we talk about the music, food, folk dance, royalty, architecture, there is nothing that Rajasthan lacks. It is truly a gold mine for every creative person and hence we need to promote it very positively !
- Any film that inspires you?I have seen ‘PAHELI’ movie atleast 5-6 times and it truly is a fantasy !! I surely am not a Shahrukh Khan fan, but it’s one of my favourite films for the costumes that it has and the way Rajasthan has been represented so beautifully in it.
- How has the culture of Rajasthan contributed to your fashion collection?A lot ! Growing up in Europe, it’s hard to understand combinations like a bright green and purple, but when in villages of Rajasthan, you see the women casually carrying off bright green cholis with a purple saree and the like with such rawness, it’s truly inspiring. The same goes for the safas aka turbans worn by men in all the neon colors which are simply entrancing!
- What kind of women flashes in front of your eyes when you design the outfits?I make clothes which a teenager can wear, but I can wear them too. It depends on how you carry off and what you’re comfortable in.
- What do you think is the connection between feminism and fashion?It’s not just the clothes which contribute to fashion. I come from a country where the Prime Minister is a woman, the first opposition leader is a woman, speaker is a woman, and second opposition is a woman. I just believe in equal rights for both man and woman and no one to be given extra privileges.
- You have worked with so many big brands. Name that one designer who truly inspires you.Issey Miyake. A Japanese designer who has done revolutionary things to fashion.
- You were awarded ‘Artist for Peace’ by the UNESCO. Do you take this as an achievement or as a responsibility?It’s both. I am now an ambassador of art which makes me feel grateful as well as responsible. If you are interviewing me today, you are helping thousands of artisans who need our support.
- What are the challenges you faced in this industry?In Europe, when I was doing my course, everyone knew I was from a country which is going through misery and hundreds of other problems hence they treat you differently. But I never got upset with that and all I would do was ask more questions in order to learn where I am going wrong. This is what my advice is to the young generation, just don’t let anyone look down on you and keep the desire of learning alive.
- This is the first time you have given your name for India, why Rajasthali?I am completely awestruck by Rajasthan. I wanted people here to see how I dress, how I keep myself free from the shackles of opinions and it’s my special love for Rajasthan which made me come here.
- You design for both men and women. Which part of your collection is the closest to your heart?The entire collection is close to my heart. But the one experience that I would like to share is when we visited Tal Chhapar with special permission and were told to make things only with stuff found inside the sanctuary. Those things have come out very creative and unique.
- What are your plans ahead? Any show that you will be exhibiting this collection at ?There is a Heritage Week in December, I will come back for that.
- Thank you very much Bibi ! What message would you like to give for the Jaipur people?I just want to say that feel proud of your city and state, and in whichever small or big way, make your contribution to the local artisans and craftsmen as you need them as much as they need you.
Being extremely passionate about the culture of India and her heart always lying in the villages, Ms. Russell has been working in Rajasthan with craftsmen and local artisans for few years and has now
showcased her unique creations and creative apparel on the first floor of Rajasthali. With every purchase one makes through ‘Rajasthali’, they would be contributing to the development and promotion weavers and crafts persons besides taking back souvenirs reminiscent of the
rich heritage of Rajasthan.
Watch the full interview here –