Monipuri is the name of an ethnic community in Bangladesh and it belongs to a patrilineal society. This community is usually found in many thanas of Moulavibazar district. The main occupation of the members of the community is agriculture, especially vegetable production and weaving. But weaving is totally domestic oriented. "Moytoy" is their local dialect but they also know Bengali language. They are the followers of Hindu religion and an important part of them are Muslims and Christians.
Women of Monipuri community are especially involved in economic activities for earnings in support of their family. Their handloom items like colourful sharees, bedsheets, napkins, lungis and wrappers are in good demand in Dhaka, Chittagong and even London and other worldwide cities.
Monipuri clothing items are sold everywhere from footpath shops to posh shopping malls in cities, online internet stores such as sareeguru.com and are acclaimed by fashion conscious urban people. Urban ladies like Monipuri sharees as they are very fashionable and economical.
Having a glorious tradition in handloom, Monipuri community is different from other tribesmen. They are the only tribal community in Bangladesh who live in plainlands. There is at least one handloom in each family. These are simple in design and low cost.
Though Monipuri women are traditionally specialised in producing handloom items, the picture was not like this even a few years back. They are grateful to internationally known Bangladeshi fashion designer Bibi Russell. She went there in 2001 and encouraged them, displaying various designs.
In the textile Asia 2005 fashion show Bibi Russell productions, the pride of Bangladesh performed in the grand event.
Bibi Russell presented contemporary clothes that drew heavily on the Bengali tradition. Kurtas, lachas, turbans, topis, and bags in bright colours stormed the ramp. Her collection was especially designed for this region and she was out to show how natural weaves and primitive designs can be so exciting. Her choice of colour and presentation was nothing like anything seen on the local fashion scene.
Bibi is a 1975 graduate from the London College of Fashion and a veteran model for top international fashion brands including YSL, Karl Lagerfeld, Armani and Kenzo. She has shared the ramp with models like Jerry Hall, Iman and Marie Helvin and later Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Claudia Schiffer. Using her exposure to the international fashion scene and her eclectic education, Bibi decided to use her craft to help the craftsmen of her country. She propagated the theory "fashion for development" and her first Paris show titled "Weavers of Bangladesh" found work for over 30,000 craftsmen.
Bibi's return to Bangladesh in early 1990s was to fulfil her dream of promoting Bangladeshi fabrics and crafts.