Textile handicrafts to the garment industry, Bangladesh on her golden period

Lipi Khandokar is one of them who are working to promote Bangladeshi crafts and arts industry in the local and international market.

Bangladesh is historically well known for its textile industry from the past. At present, the country is one of the largest readymade garments supplier in the world. Once the Mughal Dhaka was the capital of worldwide ‘Muslin’ trade. There were different verities like ‘Sindon’ a high quality of Muslin, Khaddar, Silk, and Jamdani. Besides the garment industry in Bangladesh, people have a great passion for handicrafts business because of their culture and heritage. I am not an expert in this industry, just got some inside knowledge from Lipi Khandokar, the Managing director of Bibiana during our USA tour in IVLP exchange program.  The lady belonged handicrafts in every moment of her life from fashion designing profession to walk for life.

From the ancient time of Bangladesh, our crafts history is rich. These craftspeople or artisan are so creative and unique with their ideas to make handmade clothing, jewelry, household items, foods, pottery, and terracotta. Many people are employed in this sector and trying to promote our crafts in the international market as well. Lipi Khandokar is one of them. She started fashion designing profession during her graduation from Fine Arts Institute, Dhaka University. Initially, she started working with Aarong and explored her knowledge to join in many international fashion shows. To develop her skills in textile and apparel, she completed a professional course form National Institute of Design (NID), India.

In 2001, she started her own fashion house Bibiana with the partnership of some friends. Now it has nine showrooms in different places of the country with more than 200 employees and near about 10,000 artisans are connected. Later, her husband Mr. Tanmoy, an artist joined with Bibiana to support the large-scale operation and creative designing as one of the directors. Bibiana promotes countries heritage and culture through its’ diverse products made from local resources like traditional Khaddar, Silk, Jamdani, Muslin, Silver, Jute, Bamboo, Shital Pati, Nakshi Kantha, Pottery, Terracotta and other materials.

I am familiar with the Bibiana brand from 2006 for its’ traditional crafts and artist’s impression. I used to visit Ayesha Abed Foundation and some other local NGO’s and boutique shops when my father was an Additional District Magistrate (ADM) in Jamalpur.  There most of the crafts were made by women. From this idea and my family’s experiences with garments industry motivated me to made my informal boutique with some friends. It was good to earn some pocket money and as well exciting work right after finishing my college while I was doing my under-grade studies. For this basic knowledge and working in ‘women entrepreneurs financing project’ built my interest to know more about our local crafts, artisan’s life and inspired to find out the links with the international market.

Lipi Khandker (left) is seen wearing ‘Nakshi kantha stitch saree’ and jewellery from Bibiana at Professor Terry’s home in New Mexico, USA.

During our USA trip in 2013, we visited the New Mexico mainly for its’ stunning arts and crafts of small businesses. We visited many enterprises, museums, local heritage and met with university expertise, Native Americans’ crafts, stakeholders, professionals to share our knowledge and experiences. In our ‘Regional Economic Integration Through Women’s Empowerment’, a multiregional project team we were eight members from India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Lipi Khandker; Sarah Ali, managing director of Bitopi Advertising Ltd.; late Sarwat Amin, CEO of Diorama and myself. Other members from India and Myanmar were Jesmina Zeliang, proprietor of Heirloom Naga; Susan Rualkhumi Ralte, lecturer of Women’s Polytechnic; May Oo Khaing, owner of Ocean Crown Services Ltd and Khin Thet Maw, Joint Secretary of Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs Association. All the members are experts in different areas of women entrepreneurship especially arts and crafts.

Lipi Khandker presents her fashion and designs related to our traditional arts, history, and culture. She is a member of “Deshi Dosh” group where country’s leading craft brands are trying to promote this industry in the local and global market. As a mentor and trainer, she is working with many organizations voluntarily to promote our craft industry for her passion and love for it. She is one of the board directors of BWCCI, the general body member of SME Foundation and FBCCI, executive committee member of Fashion Design Council of Bangladesh and joint secretary of Crafts Council. Frequently she attends the national and international trade fairs and fashion shows to promote the crafts industry and explore our potential in this sector.

Bibiana has a fan page “Fan and Friends of Bibiana”, where the customers like to post their love and passions for Bibiana. It is an excellent way to promote the traditional crafts in our fashion and craft business to contribute to economic development and heritage. Recently Bibiana arranged an event where market leaders, policymakers, clients nationally and internationally joined to show their enthusiasm for crafts and arts. It was a good initiative to create a better ecosystem for our artisans and craft business.

Fan and Friends of Bibiana events, where Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh attend along with some policymakers, market leaders, friends, and fans.

Naiyer Fatema

Naiyer Fatema is a financial inclusion specialist and women economic empowerment activist. She experienced working with the financial organizations in Bangladesh and designed some financial products for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SME). She is a business graduate and a Masters in Development Studies (MDS). Currently, she facilitates programs in Digital Spaces in Adelaide to support communities taking the advantage of emerging technologies and new opportunities. Naiyer is an International Exchange Alumni of the U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs and a member of the Development Network, New Zealand.
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