Bibhu Mohapatra

“To me [fashion’s] a marriage between art and commerce. It starts from art and then depending on how far you take it, it could be anything. Fashion has to go beyond the gallery. For me fashion has to go beyond art into a common person’s life. If it cannot do that, then its just art. I want it to touch someone’s life every day.”

-Bibhu Mohapatra

 

Mohapatra was born and brought up in Orissa, India. America became his home when he moved there in 1996.

“I can never have enough of Indian influences in my design. But sometimes I have to tone it down because I am trained in the west and my clients are from the west. In many subtle ways though, be it the fit, the drape or the colour, the jali work on modern materials- all of it, it’s very Indian. The juxtaposition of opposites is my design philosophy. Taking something old world to make something modern, or taking something very masculine to make it very feminine,” Mohapatra said.

He received his Master’s degree in Economics from Utah State University. In 1999, Mohapatra moved to New York City; he balanced his job as an assistant designer for the fashion company Halston with his design classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

French furrier J. Mendel’s CEO Gilles Mendel hired Mohapatra after his graduation, where he designed furs and gowns for nine years as the Design Director for the brand.

He also designed for many celebrities including Demi Moore, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Sienna Miller, Salma Hayek, Rita Ora, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o, Hillary Swank, Glenn Close and Ciara.

“My client doesn’t just care about her appearance…She cares how her clothes are made. She respects the craft,” Mohapatra said.

The recognition he gained and the “rapidly increasing demand for his work” motivated him to “[move] out” to try his own thing-for a “select group of private clients” in Europe, India and New York, Mohapatra created furs, cocktail dresses and “custom couture evening gowns.”

He dabbled into Bollywood by playing a cameo in the movie Teen Patti, directed by Leena Yadav; the film also featured famous stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley.

In 2009, he made his breakthrough in the fashion scene by launching the “Bibhu Mohapatra” label’s first collection in New York Fashion week.

“You know every time a collection is out; it’s critically acclaimed or trashed out. Whatever it is, it gets tougher even if you’re doing well because you have already set the bar higher. Then, the only choice for you is to perform better. If it’s not that, then there is no challenge. I’m happy to take on bigger challenges. I am true to my craft. I believe in small things: getting my fabric, draping it, creating the shape, making paper dolls. People think I’m a control freak,” Mohapatra said.

Customers can see his collections at “select specialty boutiques” in the Middle East, Europe, Russia and North America and at Neiman Marcus, Lane Crawford and Bergdorf Goodman.

When Michelle Obama met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on her visit to India, she was seen donning Mohapatra’s designs from his spring collection; she had worn a “printed crepe dress and a silk and wool cut-away jacket,” which Mohapatra had specifically designed for the “first couple’s trip to India.”

“This is a major moment for me and my brand…I feel like I now have come full circle, with Michelle Obama arriving in my homeland in clothes designed by me,” Mohapatra said. “[This is] one of the biggest dreams that has come true for me.”

For The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Obama again sported Mohapatra’s designs-a “citrus print dress.”

In 2014, the designer signed his “first licensing deal” with BC International for his “namesake fur collection,” which is now sold in Saks Fifth Avenue.

In collaboration with De Beers, Mohapatra introduced ARTEMIS, his first fine jewelry collection, in 2016.

“It is extremely tough to stand out and say something important. But it isn’t as much difficult if you have something new and exciting to say, through your work. What’s tough is the commercial aspect of it. The nitty gritties, the real business side of it- that’s tough. I am very hands-on that way. I take out the garbage at the end of the day; sweep the floors when I come in the morning. Every small thing is a part of the whole process and I love it. Finances, running the business – to me that is the biggest challenge of all,” Mohapatra said.

In 2017, Mohapatra “[cited] just over $1 million in debt” in his file for “bankruptcy protection”; he believes that he will get the opportunity to introduce a “lower-priced line” and that “his label [will be] more attractive to outside investors” with the “forthcoming debt restructuring.”

Some of the awards and recognitions Mohapatra received:

  • One of the finalists for America’s International Woolmark Prize in 2014
  • The Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award in January 2011
  • A membership in the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America in June 2010
  • The National Arts Club’s Young Innovator Award in May 2010
  • Finalist for the Fashion Group International’s Women’s Apparel 2010 Rising Star Award in January 2010
  • The Critic’s Award for Best Evening Wear Designer for his “design skill and aesthetic” during his senior year at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Mohapatra is married to Bobby Beard, an artist and decorator.

“I’ve always believed it’s never about one person, it’s about teamwork. Whatever small team I have, without their support and input, the clothes could not be what they are,” Mohapatra said.

 

References

“Bibhu Mohapatra.” NYFW: The Shows, nyfw.com/bibhu-mohapatra.

“Bobby Beard and Designer Bibhu Mohapatra.” New York Social Diary, 27 Apr. 2012, www.newyorksocialdiary.com/party-pictures/2012/medal-of-excellence.

Dadyburjor, Farhad J. “Hollywood’s Haute-Stepper, Bibhu Mohapatra.” Daily News and Analysis, Diligent Media Corporation Ltd., 15 June 2010, www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-hollywood-s-haute-stepper-bibhu-mohapatra-1396563.

“The Designer Sits Proudly in His New York Showroom, Showcasing an Array of Spring and Resort 2013 Collection Pieces.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

Ellis, Kristi. “Michelle Obama Picks Mohapatra for India Trip.” Women’s Wear Daily, Penske Media Corporation, 25 Jan. 2015, wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/michelle-obama-picks-mohapatra-for-india-trip-8143581/.

Fenner, Justin. “Meet the Designers in America’s International Woolmark Prize Finals.” POPSUGAR, POPSUGAR Inc., 8 Apr. 2013, www.popsugar.com/fashion/US-Finalists-2014-International-Woolmark-Competition-29198705.

Fernandez, Chantal. “Bibhu Mohapatra Files for Bankruptcy.” The Business of Fashion, The Business of Fashion, 12 Jan. 2017, www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/bibhu-mohapatra-files-for-bankruptcy.

“First Lady Michelle Obama Wears a Bibhu Mohapatra-Designed Frock on The Tonight Show.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

Kumar, Vipin. “InStyle.com.” InStyle.com, TIME INC., 26 Jan. 2015, www.instyle.com/news/michelle-obama-wears-trio-vibrant-ensembles-india.

“Mohapatra Drapes with Laser-Cut Leather.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

Preiser, Amy. “HOUSE TOUR: Inside Bibhu Mohapatra’s Stunning New York Home.” ELLE Decor, ELLE Decor, 2 Apr. 2014, www.elledecor.com/celebrity-style/celebrity-homes/news/g834/bibhu-mohapatra-home/?slide=1.

Shining, Stewart. “BM.” BM, www.bibhu.com/the-story/.

Sloley, Emma. “Bibhu Mohapatra Rises Through the Ranks.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

“THE STORY.” BM, www.bibhu.com/the-story/.

Sunadh, Latha. “Fashion Portfolio: Bibhu Mohapatra.” VOGUE India, VOGUE India, 20 July 2010, www.vogue.in/content/fashion-portfolio-bibhu-mohapatra/#bibhu-mohapatra-aw-10.

“Teen Patti (2010)-Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt1183917/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm.

Tsui, Diana, et al. “Nine Designers to Watch This Fashion Week.” The Cut, NEW YORK MEDIA LLC., 3 Sept. 2010, www.thecut.com/2010/09/designers_to_watch_3/slideshow/.

Shining, Stewart. “BM.” BM, www.bibhu.com/the-story/.

“The Designer Sits Proudly in His New York Showroom, Showcasing an Array of Spring and Resort 2013 Collection Pieces.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

“Mohapatra Drapes with Laser-Cut Leather.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

Kumar, Vipin. “InStyle.com.” InStyle.com, TIME INC., 26 Jan. 2015, www.instyle.com/news/michelle-obama-wears-trio-vibrant-ensembles-india.

“First Lady Michelle Obama Wears a Bibhu Mohapatra-Designed Frock on The Tonight Show.” Gotham Magazine, Niche Media LLC, 12 Mar. 2013, gotham-magazine.com/bibhu-mohapatra-rises-through-fashions-ranks.

“Bobby Beard and Designer Bibhu Mohapatra.” New York Social Diary, 27 Apr. 2012, www.newyorksocialdiary.com/party-pictures/2012/medal-of-excellence.

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