Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Bibi Russell


Bibi Russell  who is an UNESCO Artist for peace, is a household name in Bangladesh popularly called “The pride of Bangladesh”. She is an inspiration for the rest of us in Ethical fashion and craft communities. 

Bibi is a fashion designer and former international model from Bangladesh. Born and raised in Bangladesh, she was the first Bangladeshi girl who went to am international fashion school. She studied in London College of Fashion, earning a graduate degree in 1975. Here she was encouraged by a teacher to model for her own graduation collection and she did so in front of the best in the fashion industry back then.Her first assignment was a grand 14 page shoot for Harper’s Bazaar! She has worked as a model for different magazines including VogueCosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar. She also worked as a fashion model in fashion shows until 1994, working with Yves Saint LaurentKenzoKarl Lagerfeld and Giorgio Armani. Bibi believes this has given her the knowledge and understanding of the industry which helped her become the role-model she is today.

Bibi didn’t let this success get to her head. Her vision was clear. She was not in fashion to become a supermodel or a famous designer for any international brand. Although people still remember Bibi as the first Asian supermodel, what she wanted out of all that learning in fashion was to strive for Bangladesh and its craft. She gathered enough strength and focus to cut out from everything else and returned to Bangladesh in 1994 to save and revive the crafts of her country. 
Bibi Russell
(Image courtesy: Robert Frank Hagens of 1we-One world experience)

Bibi started Bibi Productions, her own fashion house, fusing indigenous Bengali cultural elements into her line. With assistance from UNESCO, she organized her first European fashion show in Paris in 1996. As of 2004, her company employed 35,000 weavers in rural Bangladesh..She has won many awards and accolades and still continues to be a role model for all women working with communities for the greater good. The Asiaweek magazine highlighted her as “one of the 20 people to watch in the millennium”

When I spoke to Bibi recently, I was amazed by her dedication and respect for people. Nothing deters her from her motive of working endlessly for the people of her country. She is truly the messiah for Ethical fashion and someone who’s footsteps we should all follow. In Bibi’s words, “The people of Bangladesh have made my dream come true and now I am working on making their dreams come true. When the world is moving towards eco-friendly and ethical practices, I only see a bright future for our nation that has been sitting on these principles for ages”

Bibi’s sign off message:
In Bangladesh there is no middle class, you are either rich or poor. I am here to help you come out of the poverty line. I am with you and you have to work hard with me to bring you out of poverty. I do not believe in charity- it never helps! People can buy from me thinking of it as charity once and they will forget about it but I want to share the beauty of the craft which YOU will create. Bibi productions is for the people of Bangladesh.

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>We are Jess and Shimul from Bhalo. We work with makers and artisans in Bangladesh to create original, handmade garments and accessories from natural fibres.

Country: Perth (Australia) and Dhaka (Bangladesh)
A little bit more about Bhalo:
  • We released our first range in 2009 and since then have been featured in several magazines and blogs, including The Age (Melbourne) Magazine, The Design Files, Michi Girl, Peppermint magazine, and soon to be released Vogue (Mexico), Lucky Magazine (USA) and Grazia (France).
  • We have stockists in most Australian capital cities, as well as New York and Los Angeles. We also sell online, and most of our customers come from USA and Melbourne (particularly the inner city suburbs).
  • Our producer is registered with the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation), and provides employment for 200 women, and free schooling and daycare for their 300 children.
Watch out for their latest range coming to

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Meet Ajaiy Vir Singh, SriLankan Fashion designer and social entrepreneur.

Who is Ajaiy and what makes him awesome?

He is the brain child behind: Conscience 

After working in ethical/green fashion and apparel manufacturing for a few years, Ajaiy decided to take the plunge in an attempt to create a ‘supply chain of happiness’, by impacting the cotton growers, weavers and ethical apparel manufacturers to create a product with the conscience intact.  Hence the birth of a brand not very far from the core – Conscience!

At the core of Conscience is what they call a supply chain of happiness.  Conscience’s key fabric is cotton, grown by farmers who are empowered to use environment friendly practices.  The cotton is completely organic, called eco-logic cotton.  The next step of weaving is carried out by equally responsible handloom practices in the South of India.  The fabrics are then manufactured into fashion items at Sri Lanka Apparel’s Garments Without Guilt certified factories.

Ethical Fashion practices and unwavering commitment to natural materials with sustainable production practices in place makes them the eco-warriors we find totally AWESOME.


What makes me introduce you to Ajaiy? 

Besides his fabulous eco-brands, Ajaiy runs an initiative The Colombo Fashion week. Let us not mistake it as just another fashion week like all others popping up in every state of the Asian continent. This event is a serious attempt to uplift a dying industry and as the founder puts it “We want to get there where it makes sense. Fashion weeks need to include commerce, training, guidance, interaction, exchange of ideas, all these are aspects that we are adding and making better every year”. Therefore, an initiative is what I call it 🙂

As I spoke to him this morning, we both agreed that the terms “Fashion week” and “Ethical” are the most abused ones in the fashion scene today. He realises that in order to let the world know that this event is not another publicity gimmick and that they stand for a mission that spells “Fashion for good”, he will soon roll out his PR exercise sharing with all of us the plan he has in mind for this social event.

An excerpt from my chat with Ajaiy:

Bhakti: When did you start the Colombo fashion week and why? 

Ajaiy: CFW was started in 2003, with the sole objective of uplifting the fashion industry of Sri Lanka, through guidance, interaction and creating market opportunities for the SriLankan designers. A vertically integrated showpiece unlike many other fashion week events which are run by event companies. Our process starts at the beginning of year where we identify young designers with potential, guide them help them stand on their feet, encourage them to use local fabrics. They are in kind of an incubation.

We have unstinted support from Bibi Russell and Rizwan Beyg of Pakistan who help in motivating designers in South Asia. CFW also worked with retail houses in Sri lanka to create a buying infrastructure for local fashion. 

B: Tell me more…

A:Cfw operates on few fronts, local designers, local fashion crafts like batik, beeralu lace etc which we support and the local fashion infrastructure. We also help designers local or international to find relevant manufacturing units for them.

B: Why a full day dedicated to Ethical Fashion?

Personally I was connected closely to the Sri lankan apparel industry and was instrumental in finding them their current position ‘garments without guilt’ but most of the industry people are not united on this cause. Hence, I initiated CFW as an ethical platform. We had this in mind a few years ago but only took the plunge once we were ready. This will finally take shape in February 2011. Like in many countries where apparel industry is influential the fashion design gets run over, Sri lanka too is suffering from the same. CFW is playing the role of giving boost and raising a local fashion industry in the country.

Since 2009 CFW also took another step of creating a South Asian Spring Summer/resortwear hub where designers showcase their Spring/Summer ranges. The buyers and media have taken it positively and look forward to it every season.

B: Do you charge the designers for the stalls and show…why? or why not? 

A: There are no stalls, but closely controlled meeting rooms. We follow a format for designer buyer interaction. We dont charge Sri lankan designers as they are part and parcel of this project. So far, we dont charge international guest designers anything too as we look forward to their interaction with our local designers and create a knowledge sharing base. 

We have managed to create the CFW into a seat of interaction for fashion in South Asia and (we think) no other South East Asian country has been able to do that yet.

B: Do you have buyers coming in for the event? 

A: Yes, we have buyers from India, middle east, Malaysia so far and for the next season we are expecting a few more countries to get added on the list.
–end of excerpt–

Sri Lanka’s premier Fashion Week started in 2003, with a single-minded objective of uplifting the local fashion design industry through interaction, exposure and guidance. Expect great minds to meet, awesome ideas shared and most importantly, meaningful fashion finds its market at this event. To send your entries to participate at the event, get in touch with Ajaiy on

Ajaiy is in Delhi, India at the moment and while he spends his time at my favourite places like Khan Chaacha (drool) and TLR (Alas!) besides working on Colombo Fashion week, Conscience, StringHopper and spending some quality time with his family there. I wish him very good luck with all his future endeavours. 

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Green the Gap: Transforming garbage into gifts-Brand Equity-TV-Economic Times

Cant wait to see their beautiful stuff here at @SoEthic!

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