BIBHU MOHAPATRA: The Indian Origin Fashion Designer, MADE FOR THE STARS
“Where you start is not as important as where you finish”-ZigZiglar
This quote befits the man of the moment- BIBHU MOHAPATRA. His life’s trajectory is no less than an unconventional, modern-day fairy tale. When he set foot to the other part of the world (literally and figuratively), who would have fathomed that he’d do something completely different from his original plan- “a detour”. Paying heed and grabbing life’s opportune curveballs, he is, hands down, ‘the scriptwriter of his own destiny.’
And, what we love about him is that even though he has reached the galaxy, he remains firmly rooted in his culture, his home ground, and his country. Join us as we take you through the life of the ace fashion designer, A-listed, and one of Former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s favourite designers.
FROM ROURKELA, WITH LOVE – The beginnings of Bibhu Mohapatra
Hailing from a humble, traditional, progressive middle-class family in India’s non descript ‘steel district’, Rourkela, Orissa, Bibhu still calls himself the ‘small-town boy’ who tailored his way and stitched his effortless creations on the who’s who of the entertainment and the political world. Till middle-school, he studied in Oriya and completed his Bachelor’s in Economics from a local college. His aspirations and unbridled energy may be the first world, but in the heart of hearts, he is a true Indian, making our country proud.
Somewhere he gleefully wishes to return to his early playful days- climbing trees, ‘playing gilli-danda’, and scraping his knees while learning to ride a bicycle. Living a simple life without television, he grew up in the open, heavily influenced by his surroundings and bewitched by his father’s persona. His only whiff of the fashion world was the Sunday supplements that would occasionally honour the budding designers of those times- Rohit Bal or Tarun Tahiliani.
Not many know this, but he was always curious about his mother’s sewing habits as a child. He quoted in one of his interviews, “When I was about 12, my mother taught me how to sew on her old machine. In most households, a boy wanting to learn how to sew would be met with criticism, but not in mine.” If this is not a liberalist household then what is! Eternally grateful to the women in his life, they instilled in him “the value of giving, hard work and commitment”. His father taught him the art of being responsible for other lives, primarily his employees.
We believe that is also his integral infuser in promoting the Indian handlooms, especially ikat amongst his high-profile clientele. He wants to stamp Indian fashion on the global map. Isn’t that just wonderful?
NEW YORK- The CONCRETE JUNGLE where dreams turn into REALITY!
After crossing the seven seas in 1996, a chance glance upon his drawings made one of his professors from Utah State University where he was pursuing a Masters realize that he was not meant for Economics. But, before you all lose heart; she only implied that he was actually meant for greater things in life. Connecting him with some influential people, he managed to get into the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, with their guidance- a complete U-turn, right? After arduously overcoming his struggles of city life, he scored an internship with Halston designs. Life was hectic, but he was living his dream. A year later, he started working full-time at J-Mendel, where he learned how to grow a luxury business. His boss too, allowed room for his creative freedom.
After nearly a decade and a travel sojourn to Europe, he decided to play with fate, and start his brand, BIBHU MOHAPATRA-Purple Label in 2008. Slowly, but steadily, through sheer determination and strong will, he flourished, and how! He is a connoisseur of luxury women’s ready to wear, couture, and jewellery. And, if his Upper West Side address in New York isn’t testament enough, then what is?
From his travel days, he staged his designs on his muses- strong, fierce, and defiant 20th-century women- from style icon and boss woman, Daphne Guinness to China’s scandalous power-hungry Empress Dowager Cixi, or the Swiss photo-journalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach, their personalities and sensibilities inspired some noteworthy collections under his label. He stands for the embodiment and empowerment of women. From evening gowns to “date dresses”, his creations are just outstanding. Incorporating his idea of luxury into his designs, it is not only restricted to the rich fabrics of velvet and satin but it also a symbol of posterity and repertoire of craftsmanship and intricate details.
The designer Bibhu Mohapatra - HIS CLAIM TO FAME
His professional life’s turning point came when USA’S first lady, MICHELLE OBAMA, stepped out of the Air Force One in New Delhi, with her husband hand-in-hand during their official tour in 2015. Entering on a stylish note to meet India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, she donned a crepe dress and silk and wool jacket with a floral design from the designer’s collection. And, what better way to honour the country than to wear an Indian label. Sales just skyrocketed for him thereafter, and there’s been no looking back for him. Staying true to her word, “Bibhu, you and I are going to do big things together,” they went on to collaborate again.
HIS WORK: FASHION AND JEWELLERY
Throughout his meteoric rise, Mohapatra has won an accolade of awards such as the “Young Innovator Award”, or was elected as a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America”. Through his charities and the Odisha India conclave, he ensured to pay his dues to the local artisans and uplift the rural gems-handicrafts. Coming back to his roots, he first launched his collection in Mumbai, India at the Le Mill store in 2011, and made his mark. Internationally, he served as the principal designer for the Verdi opera in Aida in 2012.
Enumerating designs with woven quilted effects and motifs, we fall in love every time he launches something. Celebrating heirlooms, Mohapatra partnered with Forever mark in 2016 and launched an iconic jewellery collection-Artemis; drawing upon the illuminating presence of the sun, moon, and stars, thereby establishing harmony. All his pieces were replete of the same. In 2019, they launched their second collection.
Speaking of couture, our favourite two picks from his plethora of designs have to be his Fall 2020 collection and the post-pandemic ‘stronger than ever’ Spring 2021 collection. In the former, he marvellously arrayed the confluence of the East and the West by incorporating Mughal architecture-embroidery on a chiffon pink strapless skirt for instance, to having a Madame Grès hued, cape-backed, drape gown on the other. The 2021 collection definitely showcased the human fortitude with what we all had been through the past year, calling it “a dark place”. Colour, pomp, and extravagance were the themes showcased- amongst the models and designs. A hot favourite was the enhanced and puffed sleeves and the fringed detailing.
BIBHU MOHAPATRA: His Better Half; His HOME away from Home
Even though his parents are no more, his siblings continue to be his pillars of strength. But, the love of his life arrived much later. Married to his husband Robert Roane Beard since 2014, theirs is ‘an eternal union of two souls’, he describes. An artist by profession (well, the like-minded mentality, is not astonishing, is it?), his husband complements him just beautifully. The mutual respect and love are for the keeps. With such a celebrated career, Bibhu loves to spend time at their hideout with his beloved- a Farm House in upstate New York. It’s just an extension of their vivid personalities with an eclectic mix of décor and artworks by Beard and their friends. In fact, in one of his interviews, he acknowledged and thanked his husband for bringing stability into his life, and making his house a home (Awww, aren’t y’all getting a wee-bit teary-eyed? We sure are!)
To conclude, we hope you enjoyed traversing through the glorious journey of Indian born-New York-based fashion maven, Bibhu Mohapatra. He is an inspiration for us all, fashion enthusiasts, or not. Be it his humble attitude, to his persevering success story, or his love and upliftment of all things local– he has rocked the red carpet time and again!