How Odisha’s Son Bibhu Mohapatra Put His State on the Fashion Map

Drawn to colours, textiles, textures and prints since the beginning of time – 13-year-old Bibhu Mohapatra was oblivious to the fate in fashion that awaited him when his mother taught him how to sew. To this day, his choices, designs and inspiration radiate the magic of Odisha and his mother’s handwoven ikat sarees and heirloom jewellery. After graduating from Odisha and getting his Master’s degree in Economics in Utah, he pursued fashion at FIT. Having moved to New York in 1998, he commenced his tryst with the world of glitz and glam by working with labels like Halston and J Mendel for a decade followed by launching his very own label that marries the functionality of clothing to the symbolism of power, confidence and expression.

Bibhu’s art is deeply rooted in his culture and is influenced by the colours and arts of Odisha. He never just wanted to design clothes but lay the foundation of a fashion and design company that has deeper principles and values and helps women attain a deeper sense of self-assurance that reminds them of who they are – confident, strong and beautiful on their own terms. For this ideology and authenticity, Bibhu is loved for more than just his art – for the person he is.

First Lady Michelle Obama in Bibhu Mohapatra
Michelle Obama dons a Bibhu Mohapatra Original

Ever since he’s set foot in the industry – he’s shone like a vibrant star. What started as a private order for just three coats went on to become an eponymous label which then went on to bag the attention of famous personalities like Lupita Nyong’O, Viola Davis, Gweneth Paltrow and the former First Lady Michelle Obama, who decided to don a Bibhu Original during her first visit to India. On his quest to create beautiful things, Bibhu has garnered awards and recognition from Ecco Domani, The National Arts Club and the CFDA.

Recently, Bibhu Mohapatra was featured aggressively for designing costumes for Washington National Opera’s concert called Come Home – Celebration of Return at Kennedy Centre which was the first to reopen the national opera after a two-year hiatus. These costumes celebrated Odisha’s textiles, especially Ikat for opera stars Isabel Leonard and Lawrence Brown Lee, under bright lights in all their glory.

In the past, Bibhu has served as the primary designer for the Verdi opera Aida in 2012 at Glimmerglass Opera, New York. He has designed several collections of handwoven silk sarees to lend a hand to traditional handweavers back in Odisha. He also launched a collection of diamond jewellery with Forevermark in 2016. His work, on multiple occasions, has been featured by illustrious magazines like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Gotham, Vogue, Time, Touch Weekly, DNA, New York and more. His Spring 2021 collection was inspired by Amrita Sher-Gil and in the same year dressed June Ambrose – Puma’s creative director for the Met Gala.

Bibhu Mohapatra draws inspiration from everything and everywhere and has refined his vision for his designs – ones that are more mindful of what women need than want – designs that they find themselves in, rather than just finding themselves wearing them. His ‘firmly-on-trend’ styles ooze Odisha and pay an ode to ancient craft and seamless tailoring. All in all, Rourkela’s prodigal son, with his expanding spirit and unwavering creativity isn’t just making the East Coast proud but is leaving behind a trail of inspiration of budding designers who are tingling to make a mark in the world of fashion.

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