Former Bangladeshi model of international fame, Bibi Russell turned a designer as she always wanted to "uphold the hidden gems of Bengali culture" through her ‘Gamcha (cotton cloth) works’ inspired by the earthy natural garments of Bauls — singing minstrels of undivided Bengal.
"I did not return to my country to make a commercial name. I have always wanted to tell people about the beautiful Bengali culture. I wanted to promote our heritage," Russell told IANS here.
Talking about her Baul connects laced with spirituality, she said: "Most of my works are inspired by Baul culture. Everything is made of ‘gamcha’ and has an earthy feel. I tried to make it in a diversified way and make sure that it is worn by the young generation. I think it is my responsibility."
Russell opened her store in Bangladesh in 1995 after an international modelling career of almost 20 years.
The vibrant lady has put the humble ‘gamcha’ on the international map in the form of saris, trousers, long dresses and so on. It shouts out comfort in the true sense. She is known for sporting gamcha stoles, coloured spectacle frames and assorted rings.
Russell had designed for Goutam Ghose’s film "Moner Manush", in which eminent Bengali actor Prosenjit Chatterjee played Lalon Fakir, a famed 19th century Baul singer, philosopher, lyricist, thinker.
"Baul is in my heart as I belong from Lalon Shah’s birthplace, Bangladesh. I use Baul music even in shows that I do abroad," Russell said on the sidelines of a fashion show organised by Maybelline New York in association with Retro Metro in dedication to Prosenjit’s iconic on-screen fashion.
Prosenjit was the star of Saturday’s event on the eve of his 56th birthday.
Talking about her international exposure, Russell said: "I was in Uzbekistan for a project and they have lovely Ikat and ceramic work. I love the place… It is a beautiful country. I have worked there for four to five years."
"I am grateful that I was a model as I could visit various part of the world. That exposure and media connect is now helping me as a designer. I need a lot of support for my work. I am not even on the first step of the ladder," Russell said about how modelling helped her to build her designing career.
Russell had worked with the girls of Liluah correctional home in West Bengal alongside the West Bengal government. She taught them the use of weaving loom, recycling and making accessories that will ensure sustainability.
"This project is very close to my heart. It is still not complete. These girls who had no idea of fashion had also walked the ramp last year," she added.
Russell will be a part of the third edition of the much-awaited Rajasthan Heritage Week 2018. Her collection ‘Rajasthali’ explores Khadi and beautiful handmade Rajasthani work.