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On the Town: Talking Design & Dames with Bibhu Mohapatra

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bibhu Mohapatra and two of his Fall-Winter 2017 looks on the CFW runway; photographs (3) by Jason Benjamin & Michael Wiser,

March 24, 2017

Talking Design & Dames with Bibhu Mohapatra

Before his Charleston Fashion Week (CFW) show last Friday, the New York-based designer shared his thoughts on inspiration, Charleston, and strong women like Martha Lou

written by Stephanie Hunt

With his satiny Indian accent and gentle presence, Bibhu Mohapatra is as suave and magnetic in person as his designs are on the runway. His debut as a CFW featured designer last Friday was also his first trip to the Holy City, and his first time participating in a fashion week in the U.S. (outside of New York Fashion Week, of course). Before he wowed the crowd with 20 pieces from his fall collection evoking, in his words, “a theme of women’s empowerment” (or in mine, a gorgeous riot of smart voluptuousness), the New York-based designer of dresses worn by Michelle Obama and many A-list celebs took time out with us for a quick chat with us:

CM: You’ve described your Fall 2017 collection as inspired by Vanda in David Ives’ play Venice in Fur—basically a strong, subversive character. For those who might not know the reference, what do you hope your collection conveys on the runway?

BM: The story I want to tell recognizes the particular time we live in now and how important it is for all of us, and for me personally, to respect and relay the distinct voices of women. I have been shaped by the women in my life: I learned to sew from my mother, who wore beautiful Indian saris. My clothes are meant to empower, not by decorating a woman but by becoming an extension of her true self. I want her to be comfortable and feel good in them, and for the clothes to have longevity.

CM: What’s your favorite part of creating a new collection?

BM: I love the whole process, that’s why I’m so hands-on. But I think what I love best is the beginning, when I’m trying to find my muse. I see something new through my lens and base a collection off that, in this case the character from Ives’ play. Once I find that muse, I build an altar of images that becomes a magnetic rope to keep the collection in line.

CM: What have you enjoyed most about CFW?

BM: Mentoring is something I take seriously and take pride in. I love learning from students and emerging designers about their process. There are wonderfully distinct voices represented here. I like learning about their processes, and I can fill in some things they may have missed, for example, how important it is for them to attend events like this and network, and how super important it is to work for someone before starting their own brands, to gain real experience. I love that I get to learn from them and support these young talents at the same time.

CM: Do you select your own models? What are you looking for?

BM: I select them. The CFW models have such great energy. I always cast my models from all different types, shapes, and ethnicities; I like having the full representation. And for this show, we kept their hair just as it is, maybe added a little texture, but didn’t do any uniform style. It’s all about the celebration of individuality.

CM: What are your observations about Charleston, and has anything here inspired your creativity?

BM: I know a lot about Charleston’s history and culture and food, but it’s been wonderful to get out and walk around the neighborhoods, see the incredible architecture first-hand. Walking down King Street, I can see there are serious brands represented here, some quality shopping. And I’m looking forward to trying more restaurants. I had lunch today at Martha Lou’s—seriously, talk about strong women!

If you missed it, check out Bibhu Mohapatra’s CFW runway show here.

See more photos from the CFW 2017 runway here.