This week has been a huge one for Bibhu Mohapatra. And it’s all thanks to Michelle Obama and the one knee-length floral dress the US First Lady wore, with matching coat and black pumps, to be precise.
Michelle looks stunning in practically anything she dons. But, we all had a Michelle Obama moment on Sunday, as she descended from Air Force One dressed in a bright black-blue-white ensemble in Delhi.
She must have heard that we really wanted to see her in a sari during her three-day India trip with husband, US president Barack Obama. Because, she did the next best thing: wore a bang-on-trend outfit by an Indian-origin designer from America.
And why did we care? Because, although she's not an actress or supermodel, Michelle has first dibs on any dress and any designer she wants, and she wanted Bibhu. Oh the joy, the glory, the fame!
While India is no stranger to impressive Michelle, it was Bibhu who stole the show.
His name was the talk of the town (actually the entire nation) after Michelle chose to wear his now never-to-be-forgotten outfit. You’ll recall, for the entire weekend, the eyes of India bore witness to his talent.
Raise your hand if you too thought Michelle was the picture of chic and glamour in the Bibhu creation. Michelle is cool, alright, but let's give this spontaneous and free-spirited designer a bit more credit, shall we?
Here's what the world-famous designer, who lives in New York but was born in Rourkela in Odisha, had to say about dominating the headlines: "It is super-thrilling, like one of your wildest dreams coming true."
Having dressed the First Lady on previous occasions, Bibhu said designing for her this time around was different since “it was for India”. Michelle was seen wearing a Bibhu creation in 2012, during an appearance on The Tonight Show.
“I feel honoured and humbled that my outfit became part of an historic trip. I am proud to have connected India and US in a small way through my work,” said the designer.
While designing the outfit, Bibhu said he was aware the dress was being made for the First Lady's trip to India. He, however, did not know any details about when and how it was going to pan out.
"That's the fun part of it, we find out when everyone finds out.”
In case, you're interested, we ran a background check on the man of the hour and this is what we found: Bibhu was born and raised in Odisha, before he decided to study Economics in the US. After earning a degree from the Utah State University, Bibhu moved to New York and pursued a degree in fashion design at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, or FIT as it is popularly known as, in 1997.
There’s more: In May 2010 he received the Young Innovator Award from the National Arts Club and in June 2010, he became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He also received the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award in January 2011.
Today, the designer might wear his “sudden fame” in homeland India with humility. But make no mistake: whether he had dressed Michelle on her recent trip or not, Bibhu (Odia for omnipresent or god) is still a person of interest; and with good reason.
Outgoing (he isn't shy anymore, he tells us), nice (he insists) and creator of magically haunting, audacious (that’s how he describes his fashion) and gorgeously-constructed pieces, Bibhu has designed for everyone. From Hollywood femme fatales Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez and American sweetheart Oprah Winfrey to desi babes Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, to just name a few.
Of course, the biggest draw for this fashion whirlwind is the high-profile, admired power-dresser Michelle. Getting to design for Michelle is the fashion industry’s equivalent of hitting the lottery, but the importance of Bibhu's career cannot be measured exclusively through Michelle.
Soon, his list of impressive clients could boast of Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
“I want to design something for the Prime Minister. It would be really special and meaningful. I am very keen to meet him some day,” says the designer, who’s known for his fashion’s contemporary aura of sleekness and glamour.
"When such leaders wear my clothing, it’s a big thing for me."
Hearing Bibhu talk about his plans to dress Modi paints an image of a dreamy 24-year-old boy; rather than a 42-year-old head of a fashion label that has presence in North America, Europe, Russia and the Middle East. FYI: He is currently working on his fall collection for the upcoming New York Fashion Week.
Again: Why don’t we know this guy, already?
But, here’s a chance: The indefatigable designer, beloved by fashionistas everywhere, shares his thoughts on George Clooney, his 'favourite' Sonam Kapoor, his life mantra, his big turning point, being 101% desi and future India plans, (mum's the word on what he's planning), right here.
Read his rapid interview below and then see some of the best looks from his latest collections.
One word that defines your fashion?
Two words actually: Empowering and audacious
Who inspired you to get into fashion?
Again, two very important people: My mother (who taught him to sew) and sister (he made clothes from a very young age for her, out of tablecloth and old scrap. Finally, she wore one — “a beautiful yellow and gold jacquard and a yellow chiffon skirt” — to a wedding and all eyes turned)
If not a fashion designer, you would be...?
Did your family support you?
I am extremely lucky to have a super supportive family. My parents were with me the entire time, as I was starting to take steps towards realising my dreams. They are very proud.
Why did you get into fashion?
It seemed all glamour and no (hard) work. (Sigh!)
Where is India in your scheme of things?
Right in the centre. I am 101% desi.
One famous personality you want to dress for sure?
Our PM Narendra Modi
The best-dressed female celebrity is…?
And male celebrity…?
What about stereotypes? Face any?
With my heritage, people are surprised that I am a fashion designer, and not a techie.
The most fashionable woman ever?
What does Michelle Obama tell you when you discuss an outfit?
What’s going on in your head, while designing for a famous personality?
Focus on the person, her needs and taste.
Your favourite client?
Of course, Michelle Obama.
Any designer whose work you follow or admire?
Biggest turning point in your life?
When I moved to New York City.
What’s your life mantra?
Kindness breeds kind Karma
Christy Turlington and Shyamoli Verma
One person from history you would’ve loved to dress?
Maharani Gayatri Devi
Can we afford you?
With lots of love, yes!
You're too renowned a world designer to not have an 'official' presence in India.
It’s all in the works. 2015 will see some solid collaboration projects in India.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Padma Lakshmi, Deepika Padukone, Frieda Pinto, Mallika Sherawat: Your favourite red carpet diva from India?
Sonam and Deepika
And someone who needs a stylist - quick and bad?
Can’t talk about them publicly, must remain anonymous.
Best-dressed Indian celebs?
Arjun Rampal is always appropriately dressed and, of course, Sonam is my favourite.
25 Any message for young designers eyeing the international fashion scene?
Aim high, dream big, work hard and be nice to others along the way. A little bit of niceness goes a long way.