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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

FAB Exclusive: Bibhu Mohapatra Studio Tour

It is rare to fall in love in the fashion world. Once in awhile, you do meet that one designer who makes you feel the passion for a great gown.

I met that designer last month at the National Arts Club. He was being honored as a “Young Innovator”. He had two pieces on display, which were simply sublime, and luckily, we had a chance to see these at his studio again. His name is Bibhu Mohapatra.

Vogue named him one of the “New Guards” of fashion. The CFDA awarded him a coveted space at the Fashion Incubator among other up-and-coming designers like House of Waris, Alice Ritter and Prabal Garung. I was invited for a behind the ‘seams’ studio tour before his trip to India.

Bibhu greeted us promptly at 3:00 PM for our interview before apologizing to check in on a fitting. I was excited to have a few minutes alone to delve into his Fall 2010 collection and explore the pieces individually. The first test of a good quality garment is to look the inside of the piece. A good design is as beautifully constructed inside as it is outside, and his collection was beautifully executed.

While I waited, I saw his inspiration wall covered with collages of 1920’s flappers and 1930’s ladies in cloche hats. As I peered closer, I saw the film Metropolis, one of my favorite movies of all time.

As we walked into the studio, a dressmaker was meticulously hand sewing geometric pieces on a gossamer evening gown. The yellow dress was stunning, and light as a summer day. It instantly reminded me of Katherine Hepburn...

I asked Bibhu about it in our interview:

Bibhu M: It’s from our Spring 2010 collection. It was inspired by x-rays. The ability to look through them. This is dress is being made for a client - a mother of the bride.

MsFAB: How many sketches/designs does each collection start with? I remember from FIT that we had to do hundreds of mini sketches to develop ideas for each collection.
BM: Each story starts with 300-400 sketches and these are distilled to 26-27 pieces.

Depending on the inspiration, I have specific pieces in mind, then I sketch. Sometimes the material is so beautiful, we design based on it “ outside in “ with shapes and fabrication.

Take simplest fabric and create texture out of it. Create dimension and geometry.

MsF: Are you a draper or a patternmaker. (for our readers, designers essentially like to drape on a ‘body’ or dress form or they like to make patterns on papers and then make the piece. Both M and I are drapers)
BM: I am a draper. This piece for example had 39 different pieces! A pattern production nightmare.

MsF:How do you balance creativity/design and making your collections sell thru?
BM: We are sensitive when we price these products. We definitely do not make it cheaply!

Fashion is a business. Fashion without commerce is just art. It should be a viable business and striking a balance is key.

MsF: How do you like your new space provided thru the Incubator program. You had mentioned your former studio was on the west side?
BM: This space is amazing. It’s nearly three times bigger. We are in here for two years.

MsF: What piece was the one you loved most?
BM: This shirt is my favorite from the collection.

(The designer pulled out a simple, boxy shaped silk and wool inset top in muted shades of navy and brown .The fabric was light with a mod look)

MsF: The fabrics are so beautiful. Did your days with J. Mendel help get contacts and where are your fabrics sourced.
BM: The fabrics are from Japan, Italy and Asia. Yes, I do have access to European mills and developed relationships with them. Working at J.Mendel definitely helped.

MsF: Who were your favorite or influential professors at Fashion Institute of Technology as you studied design there?
BM: Professor Joe Maria and Professor Diorio. She was so very good to all of us and made me work harder. She always knew if the pins on the muslin were not in perfectly!

MsF: Professor Diorio was my professor too! It turns out we were at FIT at nearly the same time and had Professor Diorio. What was your inspiration for Fall 2010 collection?
BM: Fall 2010 is lots of plush clothing. Velvets. Definitely furs. Lots of old world glamour and is also about practicality and purpose.

(Bibhu pulled an anorak from Fall 2010 with fur lining which in production will have a rainproof reversible shell.)

MsF: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out?
BM: Just be aware of working as a team. Everyone deserves equal amounts of respect.

MsF: Please tell us who are your ideal muse(s)? I know you mentioned you want to dress Frida Pinto.
BM: I would like to dress her – Frida Pinto.
Lauren Santo Domingo (contributing editor of Vogue magazine) is a constant muse in my mind. She helps style my shows.
Cate Blanchett – her personality and dress meet in the middle and meld. It’s a happy union of craft and person. The dress does not wear her.
Tilda Swinton – it’s all about her persona.

At 4:00 PM, a blonde with an enviable size 0 figure walked in for her fitting for a dress I had been eyeing. Bibhu went into work mode. He came in between the fitting to continue speaking with us to share favorite books from his library.

I thanked Mr. Mohapatra for the interviews. Bibhu replied with a smile, “ How about making it dinner. I will get the fish from Jackson Heights – hilsa”. Fantastic! I planned to soon make an authentic Bengali dinner for Bibhu.

I walked out lusting every piece in his elegant Fall 2010 collection and was charmed by the man driven by purity of design and respect for others.

The next week, I was in Soho covering a different story when I ran into one of Bibhu’s muses on Mercer Street – Tilda Swinton!

I quickly walked over, introduced myself and informed her of our meeting with Bibhu and that she was an inspiration to him. Playing fashion matchmaker, I asked if we would be able to get her connected to him somehow? She said, “Yes, I will have someone look into it and get back to you” and took our card.

Ms.Swinton – if you are reading us in Europe, we are certain you will fall in love with his work!

As they say, there is still a bit of luck and magic left in this city. If you see Ms. Swinton wearing Bibhu Mohapatara, I will feel like my fashion fairy dust has succeeded…

Photos by Mariana L.


Mairy said...

Lucky interviewer!!! She seems such a nice person to talk with!!

Anonymous said...

The belt at the table is SOOOOOO nice!!!!!!

Kelly said...

Lauren Santo Domingo is a muse for everyone I guess :D

Linda said...

Look at all those designs she has drawn!

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