Please be advised that this podcast recording, the content included and imagery captured and featured in this article, took place pre Covid-19 and before social distancing measures were put in place
From Sari’s to diamonds and everything in between, in this episode, Indian fashion designer, Bibhu Mohapatra, speaks to editor and broadcaster, Mimma Viglezio about stepping away from a traditional Indian role to pursue his career in fashion. They discuss his childhood on the East Coast of India, the initial exposure and influence of his Indian heritage and the importance of staying true to who you are.
The conversation begins with Bibhu explaining where his love of creativity and design was first brought to life, in Eastern India, as a child. “When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I saw my mother on a sewing machine making things and I showed a lot of interest and one day she said, you want to try? And I said yes, so she got up and taught me how to sew.” Enthralled by the vivid colours and craftsmanship, this is the moment that sparked Bibhu’s creativity, from then on, with his family’s encouragement, he would cut up his mother’s old saris and bed sheets to experiment with and create a range of different and exciting shapes and designs.
It was then, a few years on from this, that Bibhu realised the true power that his clothing could have on people. “It was at a reception evening, my sister was sixteen or something and also very shy but I remember her walking into that hall, so confident and every head turned because she looked very confident and beautiful.”
That’s when I realised clothes could empower.
As a designer, Bibhu pulls so much inspiration from his Indian heritage, whether it’s through the vibrant colours that he uses or the beautiful pattern of the embroideries. “My heritage is always there, but when I process it through and I put pencil to paper, it comes out in some modern version of it.”
One traditional Indian craft that Bibhu feels particularly passionate about, is Ikat, a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles. Having grown up around this craft, with its bright colours, it has helped form Bibhu’s design aesthetic today, so he feels particularly passionate about reviving and keeping this technique alive.
With this in mind, Bibhu plans on continuing to use this ancient craft within his designs, supporting and commissioning the small villages that still continue to make the craft. This showcases how these Indian traditions can stay alive and transcend into modern designs today.
As well as the bright colours and bold fabrics within Indian culture, jewellery is also a huge part. So, considering this, and Bibhu’s strong passion for the longevity of traditional crafts, it was only fitting that Bibhu’s first fine jewellery collection, in collaboration with De Beers Forevermark – The Forevermark Artemis™ collection – heroed natural diamonds that are billions of years old that will live Forever.
By staying true to his heritage, it was Bibhu’s stunning Indian inspired designs that helped lead him to his big break and a turning point in his career. Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States of America at the time, wore one of his designs on a visit to India and every news media covered it. This high-level exposure helped bring Bibhu’s designs to the forefront as well as making him a world-renowned fashion designer and highlighting the creative talent in India.
I always say my heritage, gives me my edge.
Through this inspiring podcast, Bibhu takes us on a journey of his life, showing us the importance of staying true to who you are and your values, encouraging us all to take inspiration from where we come from.
Photographs taken before social distancing measures
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