Before Bibi Russel, fashion design and catwalk were mostly an anathema in this country. The girl from Chittagong and a student of College of Home Economics, Azimpur, Dhaka had crossed not only a huge geographic distance but also an eternity of mental mileage when she decided to pursue fashion design at London College of Fashion in the early 70's.
Credit goes to Bibi for presenting a blend of indigenous elements to the wide world of fashion. The girl who featured in world famous magazines like Vogue, Herper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan, could very well spend modelling and opening her fashion houses abroad. But she had a different idea and it was to make her people familiar with the art of couture.
Needless to say, Bibi has been immensely successful. Dressmaking and modelling have by now become a craze among a section of young generation. It has always been associated with affluence and high society. But unless the dresses -at times apparently weird and repulsive too - make no appeal to a considerable number of young girls and boys, the purpose surely gets defeated.
Bibi has traversed the globe to know what suits the young generation, girls in particular, best. She has tempered high fashion with the simple and soothing elements of indigenous culture. Yet it was not until recently that girls or boys made a conscious choice of designer couture. Now one can come across girls and women on the street wearing dresses that are not run of the mill. Boys too have shirts and pants different from normal tailor-cut. Even they crop their hair style matching their dresses. It is a treat to watch girls using public transports make conscious choice of designer dresses. They are not sacrificing style for the sake of daily rush. Of course, a few bus services now offer seating service and these girls with their flowing apparel face no difficulty to get on board or alight from such a bus.
So why not take the opportunity to make a statement of style? As for those who do not have to depend on public transport, the style they follow always inspires awe because of the exceptionally stylish dresses and the price tag as well. But when someone gets on board a bus with dresses marked by special design, it gives an impression of commonness and familiarity. This is rather important. The wearers are revolutionising fashion without some extra effort. They are taking style to the commoners.
So, fashion design needs to be even more tempered by designers like the pioneer of this art, Bibi Russel. Acceptance of cultural fusion is now global and Bangladesh cannot remain isolated like an island out of this influence. But still there has to be propriety or infiltration of too much of alien elements will have adverse impacts on local culture and tradition.
Fashion houses are churning out styles to stamp their special mark but some try to draw attention by fashioning something outrageous or weird and others come up with dull and drab materials because of lack of creativity and imagination. At the end of the day it is the aesthetic sense that should rule the roost. If that sense prevails, the exercise is likely to be crowned with success. After all human body has its limitations too, so has couture's. It is exactly because of this, pants taper beyond all proportion to kiss legs as if to display the form inside. But then, contrary to this, flowing leg covers of enormous size -far beyond what is necessary to cover the thin legs -are introduced.
While the round of pant legs for young men reduces and then increase as if they are tired of either of these after sometime, for girls both thin and wide types are in vogue at the same time. This is rather surprising. Girls go for tight-fitting upper and lower garments without maintaining a style code. But for boys this is not possible. They have to say good-bye to their now obsolete very loose or tight fitting pants or shirts depending on the wind of the time.
Let fashion become affordable to all irrespective of social positions. After all, the urge to look beautiful or handsome is eternal.