million colored dreams, Bibi Russell saves Asian talent & tradition from
their sweatshop curse
Refuting servitude of sweatshop economies, Bibi Russell, Asian Supermodel &
UN Ambassador questions why countries fueling global retail don’t have
any local brands. Braving fashion conspiracies and hostile crossfire, challenging
socio-political agendas, hers is a heartwarming journey to provide livelihood
for millions of weavers & craftsperson. Educating & engaging, she shapes
emerging cultural identities by nurturing national brands.
Bibi Russell, Bangladesh’s
first supermodel, received her fashion education in London 1972. Spotted at
her showing, she emblazoned international catwalks, as muse to YSL & Armani.
Witnessing a devastating flood, Bibi gave up her glamorous life to return
home, resurrecting the country’s dying crafts & weaves. Today fifteen
years later, Bibi, a UN Ambassador for Fashion Development & Artist for
Peace, with a Fellowship in Fashion, has single handedly provided livelihood
of over 80000 weavers & craftspeople from Spain to Senegal & Sri Lanka.
2007, Bibi questions why nations with a billion possibilities-India, Pakistan,
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh- fuelling global retail are unable to develop a single
‘local brand’. Challenging this servitude of outsource economies
that is turning eastern talent into faceless fodder for export factories,
Bibi questions why people who producethese garments will never-be allowed
to wear what they produce. Seeking to understand why politicians and corporate
talking about ‘cleaning up fashion’ don’t encourage policies
to support local labels, Bibi charts a trajectory to nurture national labels.
Through Bibi’s very personal, emotional, humorous yet humbling journey,
we witness how one woman can save the soul of nations sold to synthetics.Working
alongside local design communities and craftspeople, educating, engaging and
empowering, she travels across nations. Following her across the silken route,
into Rajasthan watching her work tirelessly to revive Gandhi’s weaves,
we realize why this nation, once rich in tradition is losing its cultural
identities, Bibi tackles their apathy; researching economical, eco-friendly
solutions that are hip and haute, re- shaping emerging cultural identities.
Going with her to Shekhawati, we witness her rescue of salt-mine workers from
50 Deg C temperatures, training them in local crafts. But when she returns
to Bangladesh, to care for ailing mother, the bureaucrats stop paying local
workers, trying to sabotage Bibi’s project. Realizing she has been used
as media candy, Bibi seeks fair compensation for the women workers. A silent
conspiracy unveils; she is stamped a ‘foreigner’ - a terrorist.
This hurts her, but our defiant hero refuses to fall victim, continuing into
Colombo, shepherding in a design community, braving even crossfire to showcase
In Cambodia she works alongside HIV + women, infused with their zeal for life.
Bibi’s roller coaster ride is filled with trials and triumph; passion
and pain, revealing a visionary leader with controversial views on child labor
and women’s empowerment that reflect positively through her achievements.
Without seeking compensation, giving up her personal life, sacrificing her
own label, she wakes up every morning with a prayer to save one-more life
Changing the harsh reality of workers putting in 12 hour for 1 US$, Bibi stirs
a visual debate on the lives of 20Million workers affiliated with the eastern
Following in her trajectory, this film is a cinematic expose, as our protagonist
opens up dialogue on the pertinent issues of self determination and development
of national brands in economies undergoing tumultuous effects of rapid urbanization.Shot
over three years 2008/ 2010, across five countries, the upheaval in the world
is reflected in the life of our key characters. Against this global canvas
as our story unfolds, as outsource is sidelined in Obama-Economics, South
Asia’s apparel industry falters, revealing how bad governance stunts
real growth. Hope is now pegged on the dignity of design to bring in the key
differentiator. Will Bibi’s green philosophy becomes a ray of light
for a better tomorrow
Shot Across: Bangladesh/ USA/ India/ SriLanka/ Cambodia. Final Cut April 2010