John Legend collaborates with Bibi N, Afghan artisan in NJ

By Jessica Kline, Publisher + Editor Macaroni Kid Clifton-Montclair October 9, 2023

When Bibi N. found out that award-winning singer and songwriter John Legend had selected her embroidery to be a part of his Creator Collaboration with Etsy, she didn’t know what to say. The reason? - Bibi N. didn’t know who John Legend was.

This 22-year-old Afghani woman had only lived in the United States for 18 months. In 2021, she fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. With her 1-year-old son in her arms, Bibi N. navigated roadblocks and checkpoints to get to Kabul. There, she reunited with her husband and they boarded a plane - the first step of many to resettlement.

In 2022, the family moved into a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey and welcomed a baby girl. As Bibi N. adapted to her new surroundings, she was determined to earn money to support her family. She began to embroider, a skill she learned from her mother and sisters. This was a tangible connection to her homeland and her family, and a way to create a new future here in the U.S. By October 2022, she’d joined the Bibi Collective, a group of 7 Afghan refugee artisans. She had also opened her first bank account and an Etsy shop that she named Sudais Design in honor of a family member.

Her talent, skill, and resilience caught John Legend’s attention. “It’s important for me to fill my home with high-quality pieces made by people who approach their craft with intention,” says Legend. “Getting to collaborate with these talented artists was such a special experience because the finished products tell a story about the people who made them.” John Legend chose to elevate the work of female, Black, and underrepresented artisans. “I love Etsy because it gives a platform to so many creative and diverse makers, who pour their heart and soul into their work,” he says.

Bibi N. now knows who John Legend is and says, “I couldn’t believe that an American celebrity would appreciate my embroidery. I learned how to sew when I was 8 years old. I never did it to get attention or fame. Now my embroidery is hanging next to John Legend!”

About Bibi Collective:

The Bibi Collective is a group of Afghan refugee women artisans. They create and sell handmade and embroidered gifts, apparel, and home décor to support their families, share their artistry, honor their traditions, and build new lives in the United States. The women fled Afghanistan in August 2021 during the Taliban takeover. They spent several months in refugee camps before settling in New Jersey. The Bibi Collective facilitates the empowerment, education, and financial independence of all the women in the Collective. Training in business management, marketing, and financial literacy is provided. The women work in their homes while caring for their children.

Available for sale:

Insta: @bibi_collective

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