Exclusive! Fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra imagines a Durga Puja look for Michelle Obama
New York based fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra tells Indulge what's in fashion this Durga Puja and how he would like to style former First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama for the Pujas
Bibhu Mohapatra needs no introduction. A man with humble origins in Odisha’s Rourkela, the New York based couturier Mohapatra is the only Indian fashion designer to have dressed former First Lady of the US Michelle Obama for many an occasion. With many Hollywood actors and socialites of Washington and New York, wearing his designs, Mohapatra surely is at the top of his game. The busy designer, despite a punishing travel schedule, took some time out for a trans-continental chat with Indulge. Excerpts.
You've been busy with your new collections lately. Tell us something about them?
I have been very well and very excited to be connected with Indulge magazine. I am currently busy on many projects but mainly focusing on my 10-year anniversary collection for Fall 2019, I will present this collection in New York and Paris during fashion week.
You are one of the most sought-after designers in the world, having dressed former First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama, among others. What draws you to women of power?
I am all for women. I am driven and inspired by women, without my women muses, my creativity doesn’t exist. I strongly believe that women are the source of everything. Not only they are the creators, they are also the main source of strength and power for any young life. Whether it is my beloved mother or my sister, women in my family or my women friends who live all over the world, I owe a lot to them. I am shaped by the women in my life.
Who, in your view, is the most stylish woman around, today?
Style is empowerment and through individual style, that message of strength can be communicated easily. More than ever, in today's world, individuality, strength, courage and empowerment are the true sense of style. Clothing is just one of the many supporting aspect of one's style. The indomitable Malala Yousafzai is one of my new favourite stylish young women.
When was the last time you came down to India to attend the Durga Puja festivities?
It was about eight years ago, when I came down to India for Durga Puja. It is one of my most favourite holidays ever. It always will be. I clearly remember, I was so excited the days before the Pujas, I could hardly sleep. I believe I went to all the Puja pandals in every sector in Rourkela (Bibhu’s hometown) and ate street food at every stop, till I turned blue in the face. There are no other festivals or holidays in any part of the world that excites me like Durga Puja.
Tell us about your earliest memories of Durga Puja.
As a young kid we had the best Durga Puja experiences. People in Odisha and Bengal celebrate the Pujas with a special enthusiasm. Everyone stays in a good mood. Between the new clothes and school holidays and a plethora of special food that was available, the Pujas were definitely the most anticipated and exciting event of the entire year. If I had a time machine, I would love to go back to the Puja times with my family when I was growing up in Rourkela.
Can you tell our readers about the trendiest fashions this Puja?
Colours and more colours that symbolise power and strength. Traditional hand woven textiles in modern silhouettes and intricately embroidered saris are always sought after.
Which colours are in this season?
Jewel tones. Reds, emerald, chartreuse, navy, cobalt, plum, fuchsia and gold are the colours of this season.
What kind of saris can women opt for during this festive season?
I encourage them to invest in traditionally hand woven saris from one of our many states with incredible weaving crafts. A traditional Sambalpuri sari from Odisha that is overlaid with fine Kantha stitch in metallic thread would be a wonderful fusion.
What about cuts in blouses that can look gorgeous on young girls?
On today’s ladies, I love a blouse that is closed neck with sharply tailored shoulders and sleeves. A well-tailored shoulder symbolises strength and determination. The look is modern yet it sends a 1930s Kolkata high culture vibe.
What is the best way to drape a sari? Can one experiment with sari looks? How?
Best is a blend between tradition and improvisation. Start with some traditional draping techniques, and then finish with the right underpinning (that are not too ‘matchy matchy’) and an unconventional pallu drape. To me the sari is the most sensual piece of clothing that can be very versatile and fitting for every occasion.
How would you dress Michelle Obama, if she were to go pandal hopping in Kolkata during the Pujas?
In a sand colour, silk churidaar kurta with red and pink jamdani work and with gold accents. I would have paired that with a gold and red tissue dupatta.
Can one assimilate Western styles in Indian fabrics? Will you give us some tips?
Absolutely! That is when things get real interesting. In India we have a vast wealth of textiles and they can be used for any modern/western shapes and silhouettes. One just has to select the right fabric with the correct behaviour for the appropriate shapes. Some fabrics are for flowing and organic shapes, and then there are many tightly woven fabrics that can be for more structured and geometric shapes.
And, what are your tips for accessories?
Less is more, really. If you have the right clothes you really need the minimum of accessories to make it look finished. Again, Pujas are a celebration. It is not a wedding. During the Pujas the message is the celebration of victory of good over evil. We celebrate strength and encourage empowerment, mainly of women as we worship warrior goddess Durga, aka, Adi Shakti.