Bengal has been drawing people by the droves from all over the globe for centuries now. From the grand Moghuls to the European traders, few have been able to resist the spellbinding beauty of Bengal, with its age-old traditions, and bold and vibrant colours. It has inspired poets and artists through the ages, and let's not forget the fashion world.
On the seventh day of the new year, Mumbai will be showcasing Bengal in all its colour, art, clothes, music, food and handicrafts.
Celebrity designer Bibi Russell, representing Bangladesh, will be opening the show with her unique line and Sabyasachi, Kiran Uttam Ghosh, Anamika Khanna, among others will be the flag bearers of West Bengal.
This show will be scheduled as a black tie dinner invitation show featuring in the audience the sparkling glitterati of the Indian film industry, industrialists, corporates, socialites and the crème de la crème of the Mumbai elite, which also represents the movers and shakers of India. This show will be preceded by a day-long clothes sale by 20 designers.
That's the Mumbai story. Around the 29 of January Bibi will again be in India as a state guest to uplift Rajasthan on Rajasthan Day where she is working with their artisans and weavers on their famous kota fabric.
In a nut shell, Bibi Russell will kick off 2006 with her dazzling designs and sadly all in India. This lady extraordinaire is one spirited soul who travelled and walked through the dusty village roads working relentlessly to achieve her goal. But one tiny dent in her spirit she feels is “ It is sad but India is taking the best of my creativity.”
It is indeed sad, that, while the rest of the world adores her, she has not found the platform she could have commanded in her own country, opting not to enter the market the way the other designers have. It's not easy to find an independent Bibi Russel label, unless you count her line for Aarong. “But that doesn't mean I'm not working,” she clarifies. Bibi Russel is one name that springs to mind when one speaks of the renaissance of the weaving industry here.
Weaving is an age-old heritage of Bengal. The fine and varied handmade fabrics and the weaving skills of the craftspeople of Bengal have marveled people around the world for centuries. Exquisite hand-woven Muslin, Jamdani, raw, as well as refined silks, a wide range of Khadi and extremely fine cottons, have earned a place of honor for the artisans of Bengal in world culture.
“If the weavers of the thirteenth century could do it then they can still do it now, I strongly believe in this,” says Bibi Russell who spent a decade in Bangladesh working with grass-roots people and promoting fashion for development. Translating their fine fabrics into her own signature style is her forte.
“However, competition with machine-made textile, lack of resources, lack of access to information and technology, and difficulties in communication have made access to the global market difficult for rural based artisans in Bangladesh. Highly skilled weavers are often forced to abandon their handloom to secure an income as manual labourers for survival. To revert the situation of these fine craftspeople, I have set up Bibi Productions in Bangladesh on the 13th July 1995, with the purpose of generating a movement towards creating a secure future for the weavers of Bangladesh,” she added.
By Raffat Binte Rashid and Sabrina F Ahmad
Models: Farizeh, Tanik, and Asif Azim
Photos: Zahidul I Khan