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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK


Bangladeshi chic debuts in London

The garments use traditional methods and materials

London Fashion Week has begun on a serious note with Bangladeshi-born designer Bibi Russell showing her new collection, most of which was manufactured by victims of the country's devastating floods.

Watch haute couture from Bangladesh - Frances Harrison reports
This is the first London collection to emerge from the villages of Bangladesh where about one million people depend on weaving glamorous silks and cottons for their livelihood.

Before the models took to the stage, Ms Russell - herself a former catwalk star - issued an appeal for aid for the weavers in her homeland.

[ image: All the models were Bangladeshi]
All the models were Bangladeshi
"At the moment Bangladesh is facing one of the most damaging disasters in its history," she said.

"One-tenth of the population do not know where their next meal is coming from.

"Due to the devastating floods a unique craft, and more importantly a livelihood, has been completely destroyed, along with a lot of other assets."

Workers destitute

Ms Russell has already helped weavers by introducing their work to the Western world of high fashion through her label Fashion for Development.

[ image: Bibi Russell: Inspired by her homeland's culture]
Bibi Russell: Inspired by her homeland's culture
When the floods hit, her workers were left destitute and she sold most of her own possessions to buy new looms for them to continue producing her work.

Ms Russell said: "One loom costing only $200 (£125) is the difference between shattered dreams and survival. Survival not just of one weaver but also of his or her dependent family of up to five or six members."

Among the audience at the catwalk show was the Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, who added her support to the efforts by the United Nations and the British Fashion Council to assist Ms Russell's work.

[ image: Many weavers have lost everything in the floods]
Many weavers have lost everything in the floods
Commenting on the skills of the weavers Ms Short said: "We think we are sophisticated but we couldn't build a house or grow our own food but often these people live in very great poverty.

"They have wonderful handicrafts but the beauty of tonight is to bring a world of privilege together with such people and create the chance for them to improve their lives."

The collection featured brightly coloured silk shifts and wraps in the coolest natural cotton. It was modelled by nine Bangladeshi students who had been schooled in catwalk technique by Russell herself.

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23 Sep 98 | South Asia
Bangladesh starts flood clean-up

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