What do celebrities Michelle Obama, Hilary Swank, Gwyneth Paltrow, Glenn Close, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Rita Ora and Lupita Nyong’o have in common? Well, they have all been dressed by Bibhu Mohapatra. This New-York based designer has collaborated with Forevermark to come out with a fascinating jewellery collection called the Artemis collection, which is inspired by women around the world.
Growing up in Odisha, Bibhu Mohapatra had a keen eye for fabrics, colours and textiles even when he was very young. Post shifting to America in 1996 and graduating from Utah State University with a Master’s degree in Economics, he moved to New York City in 1999 and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology and simultaneously honed his skills as an assistant designer at the iconic American fashion label, Halston.
After this, he was hired by Gilles Mendel, CEO of the iconic French furrier J Mendel where he worked for nine years as Design Director before deciding to work independently. Starting with designing custom couture for a select group of private clients in New York, Europe and India, he launched his label Bibhu Mohapatra’s first collection during New York Fashion week in 2009.
Bibhu has also been associated with Forevermark and has collaborated to launch Artemis, a fine jewellery collection crafted in Forevermark diamonds. He has just launched his second collection and says, “Our second offering of Artemis is a journey that started four years ago for both Forevermark and my brand Bibhu Mohapatra. We are extremely proud of this particular collection of Artemis which comes from nature and women in my life. And it is particularly a very elegant collection and it has a lot of details of calla lily flower that has a lot of specific reference in different cultures, but some of the key attributes are the shape, the colour and the overall sort of femininity of the flower. And that combined with my usual geometric lines made this collection a very delicate balance of organic with geometric patterns. This is the first time we have used yellow diamonds with the white diamonds to create shavings on the petal details that we have.”
Bibhu’s design philosophy overall has always been to say something new. “That is the very reason I resigned from my previous, well-paying job. I decided to walk out of that and start my own brand because it was very important to say something that is unique, that is hundred percent of my own.
So, anytime I design, I really need to be hundred per cent sure that whatever I am designing is not a derivation of anything but is something that is completely unique and something that I can feel proud of, not just today, but for years to come. So, creating something unique and authentic in everything I design is always my goal.” Incidentally, Bibhu’s designs are patronised by several celebrities and most recently, actress Radhika Apte wore him for her appearance at the recently concluded International Emmy awards. “She wore something from my Spring 2020 collection. It was a beautiful orange silk top with a silk and tulle pleated skirt which had a lot of sheerness, making it a sort of sexy outfit.”
Indian actresses like Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja too have patronised his designs. Ask him if it is harder to work with celebrities and he says it is not really so. “If you are willing to work with the celebrity, it is like working with any client really. Celebrities have their unique characteristics and quirkiness and you have to understand that and sort of play the game. I only work with people who inspire me, whether they are writers, actors, singers or dancers. So yes, they can be sometimes challenging because their schedule is very tough and you do not get them for fittings and stuff like that, but that is always there.”
For someone of his body of work and experience, he says that jewellery trends are becoming more practical. “I think those transitional pieces that will take you from day to evening and the ones that are more wearable, are the key trends in jewellery. I think more of these kinds of pieces are going to be combined in a component with the unique pieces.”
And in spite of being based in New York for a long while now, his Indian roots are strong and he admits he never has to try to make any effort to incorporate them in his designs. “I don’t intentionally do it but it’s within me and it comes out as I am putting pen to paper. I was born and raised here. My sensibilities and my Indian heritage is within me and I don’t hold back or don’t make any extra effort to bring it out, it’s always there and it is subtle, so it gives an edge to my work.”
His future plans are much like his personality — to keep on learning. “I want to grow the Bibhu Mohapatra brand in collaboration with brands like Forevermark and take Artemis to the biggest of audiences,” he signs off.