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Fashion
April 19, 2016

Bibhu Mohapatra on Designing His First Jewellery Line

Text by Tanisha Choudhury

The master designer talks about why the collection has been two years in the making…

Ace New York designer Bibhu Mohapatra, who has dressed many A-list celebrities from Michelle Obama to Gwyneth Paltrow and Priyanka Chopra, has collaborated with Forevermark to create an exclusive line of fine jewellery called the Artemis collection. He talks to us about the inspiration behind it and his design philosophy.

On collaborating with Forevermark…
“Some friends have done similar one-of-a-kind collaborations, so it was on my radar. Two years ago when I was in Mumbai, a friend arranged a meeting to brainstorm with Sachin Jain (President of Forevermark, India) and his team. This collection is the product of that meeting. The idea was to take the world’s finest diamonds from Forevermark and create a sensibility of design that appeals to a whole range of people. The aim is to start a new DNA in fine jewellery that people not just aspire to get, but can actually buy.”

Inspiration behind the Artemis collection…
“I wanted to do something that was deeply rooted in our culture, so I looked into some of the ideologies that come from Vedic scriptures. One of them was the idea of cosmic alignment, of the sun, moon and stars determining people and their compatibility with each other and how their lives can intertwine with each other to tell new stories. That was the core idea behind Artemis.”

Admiring the famous women he dresses…
“There are people I look up to for their work and what they stand for, whether they wear my clothes or not. Glenn Close is an amazing artist and I love to collaborate with her. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, inspires so many people and she’s so kind, generous and gracious. People like that really make me want to be a better person.”

On being star-struck…
“It happens every time I meet Bollywood celebrities. I have a funny story about this…My friend tricked me into playing a cameo in a movie and I found myself here in Bombay on a set, sitting next to Mr. Bachchan. I had dialogues. I don’t think I’ll ever have that kind of a moment again. All his movies were flashing by in my head and of course, I was messing up my lines. He kept telling me, “Just be yourself”, and the scene kept getting delayed because of me. That was really special and I enjoyed meeting him.”

Design philosophy…
“I always like to bridge the gap, in the sense that my design is always a study of the juxtaposition of opposites – whether it’s masculine versus feminine or tailored versus draping or organic versus geometry. It’s about including and not excluding people. The whole idea of luxury being synonymous with excluding people is so passé. My designs could make luxury accessible because the product has integrity and a unique design DNA.”

Designing jewellery versus fashion…
“It’s similar because I believe they both do the same thing, which is empowering people and making them feel right about themselves. But technically it’s very different and the way the fine jewellery calendar works is very different from ready-to-wear.”

A trend that works for Indian women…
“Colours are a big strength in India. Other than that, whether it’s the comfort and ease that we have in a saree or kurta pajama or a beautifully draped top with nice details, I think transitional pieces that could take you from day to evening are the key. People here also have a much faster life than they used to 10 years ago, they have less time. Hence, transitional pieces work well.”

On the make in India emphasis in fashion…
“I think it’s a great movement, but a lot more work has to done. Especially because not much is being said about the artisans or the weavers who actually do the work and bear the burden of carrying the legacy they have inherited from their forefathers. What is being done for these weavers’ communities who are struggling or have been exploited for decades? I have worked on similar projects in Orissa and I went to five villages. My heart was shattered by what I saw there. There are no young people. There are talented craftsmen keeping these skills alive, but they have not more than 15 to 20 years before they retire. They barely have electricity in these villages and the conditions are unbelievable.
However, it’s a great initiative that the designers are going back to the unique crafts that are the true meaning of couture, to me. And I hope this movement will gain greater momentum and open up bigger discussions.”

The Artemis collection:

(Click on any image to view in larger gallery.)

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