This is actually faux-cheer as, for me, Monday is always the most stressful morning of the week around here. Kids are grumpy, husband slow as molasses, dog expectant, and much to get done after a leisurely weekend.
So to get the week off to a calm yet productive start for all of us, I’m writing and posting (in purple-ish type) about my very favorite fashion designer, Bibi Russell.
Bibi Russell began as fashion model who returned to her native Bangladesh to preserve and promote the hand-woven textile industry there.
“For the last 15 years, I have been working hard with our weavers and craftspeople to promote our natural fibers.” In her words: “Promoting crafts and supporting craftspeople has become my mission. I have been examining ways of blending tradition and modernity, and fostering innovations in handloom textiles and handicrafts.”
I first became acquainted with Bib Russell through her work with a Cambodian group called, charmingly, The Modern Dress and Sewing Factory. In fact, we worked with them, designing the Lotus Teen Batik Skirt at www.lotusjayne.com,
Bibi Russell is a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador and founder of Fashion for Development, a global movement seeking to help weavers and women across the globe.
The UNDP in Cambodia also worked to develop this project.
One of her projects was to work with these HIV positive women (above) on creating new designs with traditional techniques. “If you join hands with women living with HIV with affection and confidence, they can create magic with their fingers,” said Bibi. Our Touch of Magic tote is one of her designs, rich and exotic, yet completely contemporary.
Every time I see her newest collection, she’s pulled this off — rich, exotic, completely contemporary fashions. As she says,
“All my fabrics are hand-woven, and natural. I do not use synthetic materials. The fabrics I use are Khadi, Cotton, Silk, Gamcha, Jute yarn fabric, Tribal fabrics, recycled fabrics and of course the legendary Jamdani, which was once worn only in the royal courts and is still the most highly valued fabric of the country.”
“We need to catch sustainable national and the International market, where all the hard work of the weavers will be valued. This will be possible when we showcase the rich history and tradition of handloom, with our designer creating diversity in colours and style. We do have a long history of vibrant colours and weaves, woven with completely natural fibre and we do need the world to see that.”
Check out these pictures of her work out from the 2012 Kolkata Fashion Week:
Couldn’t you just see this look (above) on an urban young woman in the USA?
These are traditional Bangladeshi bracelets (above). Still trying to get ahold of some for you!!
Bibi Also creates a Bangladeshi nerd-look with her painted glasses (above). Her own glasses are always cool too. And the great earrings!
I guess that’s her magic. She designs without fear, able to work from her truest self.
It seems to me that Bibi Russell not only has FUN with the items she creates but she also embraces the weavers, the people who make these clothes, and works to celebrate the traditional crafting techniques of these humble people.
All of this is always at the forefront for her. Bravo, Bibi!
And a Happy Monday to you, dear Readers.
It was so much fun to share in that last post that I decided to write another.
Below see a picture is of Beth; she fell in love with this scarf at a December Holiday sale.
The scarf is 100% silk chiffon, handwoven in rural Cambodia. I took the silk and reworked it like a painting, adding, removing, brushing, altering the textile until finished. I created a dozen scarves in December (and sold all, thank you!), a collection called December 2012. I conceived these as landscapes, not literal, more landscapes of the soul, yet also like the very atmosphere from that month made real, a two-dimensional piece of a time. This description is starting to sound too much like a sophomore creative writing project, but you’ll forgive me, won’t you? Please say yes!
Anyway, Beth and her mother Barbara, both writers, loved this particular scarf so much that Barbara bought it for Beth, who immediately draped it around her head in a single, lovely gesture. Doesn’t she look incredible? Like a Mona Lisa of the 21st century, faux Muslim, those liquid eyes, the slight smile.
Beth, you are a vision.
I hope to create more monthly collections but don’t want to jinx it by promising. That tends to happen.
What follows are some pictures I took one silent, foggy morning and another with snow. Inspiration for the December 2012 collection.
Please feel free to give feedback. Feed back, if you desire.
I hope you have a warm and cozy Tuesday.
So we’ve all travelled together out of 2012 and into a tiny bit of 2013.
So far so good here, hope it’s so for you too.
Would you like a sneak peak at just one new item for 2013? I thought so!
I love the hammered surface with the flowering vinet, a perfect metaphor for life, mine anyway.
I thought it would be easy to come up with a koan for this image. It was not.
The best I could do was: humble vine flowers on pitted highway.
Do you have one? If so, share it with us, please!
I am very excited to also be once again working with my friend Rachel Faller, the unstoppable force for good design and deeds of Keo K’Jay, her ethical business.
Rachel is one of those people who reaffirm an entire generation. In her early 20′s Rachel travelled to Phnom Penh with her Fulbright Scholarship burning a whole in her heart
and her pocket. There she began Keo K’Jay, equipping and training HIV positive widows for in-home seamstress work
which they could do even when not feeling well after their treatments.
She has collaboratively created collections since that just keep getting better and better with each season.
This spring I will have some of her T-shirts for you. These are irregular cotton T’s, restyled for a more flattering fit,
then screen-printed with Keo K’Jay designs, quirky and personal.
I can’t wait to show them to you!
Lastly, I spent some time this January poking around on the web. A Peace Treaty is one of the many new businesses helping to sustain traditional crafts around the world. Their designs are as spectacular as their story:
Each season, A PEACE TREATY travels to a particular region and seeks out local village artisans to re-define an accessory, designing limited edition pieces in style unique colorways. Each jewelry or scarf collection resuscitates ancient handmade textile and metalsmithing techniques that are at risk of extinction.
Working with craftspeople in eight countries and injecting life and trade back into local economies, A PEACE TREATY employs artisans with above fair trade wages and invests in creating income generation opportunities for out-of-work artisans, disabled and widowed women.
Wishing everyone an inspired year. More soon.
check it out!
I am smitten by Cheryl Strayed’s writing. You’ve probably heard of her latest book “Wild, From Lost to Found on the on the Pacific Crest Trail”; it was on the best seller list for a while this year. You may not have heard of “Tiny, Beautiful Things” though, as it is a collection of her (anonymous) advice columns called “Dear Sugar” written for The Rumpus, an on-line site for writers. More about this book in a minute.
My brother gave me “Wild” when I was visiting him in Atlanta this summer. He explained he would have liked the book better if there was less personal soul-searching and more focus on the Pacific Crest Trail itself. I think now that maybe the book disappointed him partly because he was just missing Dad. Strayed dominates the landscape, her inner struggles blocking even the most breathtaking of vistas. My dad hiked, backpacked, and camped all over the Northwest late in his life. It was his own version of soul-searching and back-to-nature, though he had a cushy van rigged up to sleep in every night, complete with a portable toilet and lawn chair. I’d hoped to find Dad in the book’s pages too, actually, though I was riveted the first sentence in.
Still, I understood my brother’s feelings. I miss Dad too. I admit to reflexively looking for personal wilderness accounts every time I cruise through my favorite bookstore in Montclair, Watchung Books. For me though, I have to say that Dad came along on my hike through “Wild,” walking beside me page after page as I hiked with Strayed, his usual white sweat-stained tennis hat on his head, huffing and puffing up and over mountains.
I couldn’t get enough of Strayed’s insights, of her inner journey. You know how addictive certain writers can be. They make you walk around the house unable to STOP reading, damn it, up the stairs, into the bathroom, or even three flights down, down, down into the dark basement on the stairs that are getting really dangerous. Right after finishing “Wild” I tore voraciously into “Tiny, Beautiful Things”, but this time, thankfully, in the audio version. Thankfully, because I had lots work to do. Audio books are a salvation for the most punishingly boring, repetitive, and thankless tasks out there (that would be housework).
I tell you all of this because as I was putting together a new collection of jewelry for the Lotus Jayne webstore, Strayed’s book “Tiny, Beautiful Things” was streaming through my headphones, straight into my heart. Night after night, I sat at my work table squinting through tears leaking down my cheeks, blinking hard, trying to see the miniscule holes in the charms and beads I was stringing.
It is because of that experience, and in homage to the courageous, fiercely honest, and wise voice of Cheryl Strayed, that I have named this new Lotus Jayne collection “Tiny, Beautiful Treasures”. ’Nuf said.
Kampot pepper is once again being grown, and now exported, from the Kampot region of Cambodia. By the end of this entry, perhaps it will be clear why I celebrate this.
My kids couldn’t get enough of it when we were in Cambodia last summer. My son even added it to his daily fruit smoothies!
It’s great stuff…and by the way, Anthony Bourdain likes it too. Read what he and Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef at the famed Le Bernardin restaurant in New York City, have to say about it.
Just a little preview (see above, like you could miss it!) to let you know about The Ikat Textile Line coming to Lotus Jayne for the cooler weather. These generously-sized ikat scarves work for women…and men too. They are silk and cotton, handwoven in small batches by Cambodian artisans with disabilities, mainly resulting from landmine maiming.
In Cambodia, everywhere you go there is no escaping landmine survivors. Many are reduced to begging from tourists as they are shunned by the general population. Wat’s (Buddhist monasteries where monk’s go to school and maintain religious traditions) are one of the few places where the disabled are given a safe haven to live. The handicraft group making our ikat scarves is of this sort, the NGO is called Watthan (properly Wat Than).
Here is one of the managers assembling recycled bags for my former partner and I to bring back to the USA waaaay back in 2006:
In 2004, former students of Maryknoll-Wat Than Skills Training Centre for Landmine and Polio Disabled in Phnom Penh formed an independent cooperative. Their aim was to increase employment opportunities and thus bring more independence to the disabled in Cambodia. This group follows fair trade principles by guaranteeing fair wages and benefits for their disabled artisans. Also, profits are shared by the staff and producers, and are re-invested in staff development and training.
I am so excited to be working with them this year. These wonderful silk and cotton ikat scarves are very wearable and affordable. More to come — stay tuned!