Bibi Russell, a fashion designer and former international model from Bangladesh, officially kicked off a partnership with Phnom Penh’s Modern Dress Sewing Factory on Wednesday, at the UN Development Program’s headquarters.
Russell made a name for herself as a model in the 1970s and ’80s, and since then has become an advocate in her home country for “Fashion for Development,” an effort to employ rural women in traditional weaving and garment making.
Her latest effort as a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador is creating handbag and other designs for a label called “Bibi for WE,” which will be produced and marketed by the Modern Dress Sewing Factory, which employs 17 Khmer women living with HIV.
Russell told reporters at UNDP that she had spent time at the Chamkar Mon district factory and other silk manufacturing operations in the countryside during her nine-day visit to Cambodia.
“I want them to be able to show their magical fingers just to give them a little bit of confidence,” she said of the MDSF employees. “I want them—their smile, their sparkle—to see the world.”
Or Phakdey, operations and marketing manager at MDSF, said Russell offered up advice on design and quality control.
“I was full of pleasure and hopefulness for a lady like her to help us,” Or Phakdey said.