Designer Bibhu Mohapatra’s poignant ode to Amrita Sher-Gil for SS21: lockdown series

As fashion is an ever-growing emotion, and with time it has learned to adapt and evolve. Despite Coronavirus adversities, designer Bibhu Mohapatra believes that “to change, we must move, be it awkward, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and (hopefully) enlightening. Because standing still is no longer an option.” With an impressive client list that includes iconic women like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Gwyneth Paltrow, the New York-based designer revisits his roots this season as an homage to legendary Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil for his Spring-Summer 2021 collection. The stunning creations were digitally showcased at the New York Fashion Week along with a short film that celebrated the life of Sher-Gil depicted in Bibhu’s central theme. A candid one on one with the celebrated designer on his latest work in the pandemic.

Designer Bibhu Mohapatra

  1. Please tell us something about your latest collection and how did you think of incorporating the artwork from Amrita Shergil with your signature style? What is the name of the line? 
     This is my Spring 21 collection which is inspired by the life and works of legendary artist and trailblazer, Amrita Sher-Gil and her “Fundamentally Indian spirit”.  Amrita was not only and artist, she was a change maker and an activist for women’s rights and equality.  We returned this year with exclusive fine jewellery partner Forevermark. There some stunning
    earrings are made with some of the most beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced Forevermark diamonds that were used in the collection that helps complete the looks with incredible finesse.  We used two unique earrings from Forevermark, a pair of oversized teardrop Diamond Earrings and a pair of chandelier earrings from the Forevermark Black Label Collection.
Actress Ariana DeBose in Bibhu’s digital movie for SS21

2. Could please tell us something about the movie created by Shruti Ganguly and photographer JD Urban for the show? 
 When I decided that Amrita Sher-Gil is the muse of my collection, I saw the presentation as a cinematic experience for my audience.  I wanted to say something loud and clear that with change comes freedom and hope.  I wanted to make a film that brings artists of various fields come together
to inspire each other and have a common goal of ultimately lifting each other up. The short film is a depiction of a day in Amrita’s life in her painting studio with her muses.  Ariana DeBose plays the main muse.  Ariana is a lead cast from the famous musical Hamilton and the lead (Anita) of Steven Speilberg’s much anticipated West Side Story, which releases in December 2020. Role of Amrita is played by actress Surina Jindal.  The film also has two other casts, Michelle E and Leah Brown who play the additional muses.  The film is directed by my friend Shruti Ganguly and JD Urban.  The film is shot at the opera house in Hudson, New York and at the Olana estate. I was so excited when I discussed this project with Ariana, she immediately understood about the mission of this film as a statement from an artist who is a person of colour I believe that this
collaboration will have a lot of meaning and define we are as artists and we did that with the help of beautifully crafted clothes.

3. How did you spend your lockdown? Since the pandemic, there is a drastic change in the way fashion industry is evolving in 2020 ..what are your thoughts of the future of fashion ? 
I was fortunate to spend the entire time of lockdown in my country house in the village of Stuyvesant in upstate New York. Being in the nature our side of NYC was a blessing.  I had a lot of time in reflecting about my work, my process which allowed me to prepare for the new normal in our industry.  I think this is the time we need to be open to all ideas and accept and nurture any change that is need as the future of our industry.   It will going to be all about connecting with the ultimate consumer and have a sustainable approach to the entire practice of the operation.

4. With most fashion outlets and shows getting digitalized for maximum outreach, what’s your take on digital innovations in fashion industry? Do you think the glam factor associated with fashion will be affected if it’s not exclusive anymore? 
 I think Innovation and technology is the way fashion industry will head.  Virtual reality, holograms, simulated touch will be the way forward.  I think Fashion is about telling stories of the craft and artisans as well as the brand. As long as the story is authentic, there will always be glamour. Whether it’s a full-on fashion show or a digital presentation, as long as the collection is presented to the audience with proper narrative, it will retain its magic.

5. In the West, fashion industry is going through some very important changes and people are talking about colourism and black lives matter etc. Do you think similar changes are being seen in Indian context as well? Here, Bollywood plays an important role in promoting fashion trends so do you think the Indian movie and fashion industry would be forced to rethink their work and make it more unified without hurting sentiments?
I think we are in the middle of a major global shift. There is a lot of attention to inequality and injustice, racism and sexism that have been eroding our society.  Sometimes they are so deeply embedded that some social changes can only happen over a long period of time and with a lot of
education.  I believe in order to sustain the future, every archaic patterns and practices will need to change, be it Bollywood or global fashion industry.

“So Why I wanted to collaborate and join voices of artists of different genres this season? I wanted to see change and make change an inspiring process. I wanted to collaborate with artists of different genres to articulate my craft.

 So often, it is the work of artists confronting the darkness and obstacles in our world that can ultimately (and occasionally abstractly) help us make sense of our place within it. And maybe, more importantly, how we can see with new eyes and a new perspective. This moment in history—if we are listening and looking deeply with our whole selves—has the power to permanently shift our perceptions and relationships with race, privilege, equity, empathy, and hope. Through art, and, in this case, through dance and movement, we can observe how physically—and compassionately—confronting barriers and blocks can profoundly push us to reassess, improvise, and find a way forward…in our work, our art, and in ourselves. To change, we must move, be it awkward, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and (hopefully) enlightening. Because standing still is no longer an option.”

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