Bibhu Mohapatra, an intimate interview

During his visit of the Istituto Marangoni in Miami, I had the honor and privilege to have an intimate conversation with Bibhu Mohapatra. Before he enchanted a full house students, admirers, press and industry professionals.

Bibhu is a man of storytelling, a curious traveler (every year he tries to visit a new country), he is an observer, a supporter (from a trip to Laos and a local workshop encounter, came a special material for his collection inspired by Nancy Cunard, leather woven with silk that was used to replicate in a Bibhu way her leather jacket) a cross-cultural enabler.

 Images courtesy of www.worldredeye.com

FB - EVOKE - You a story teller, what’s the process of your story telling?

His biography and career trajectory are influenced by a sheer admiration for a strong, thought-provoking female lead character that surpasses frontiers. From a traditional household in the East Coast of India to dressing First Lady Michelle Obama, women have been at the center of his life. His mother loved sewing and taught him how to, a new development of the collection of knitwear and separates was born last year dedicated to her. Empowering women with what they wear by inspiring them to be leaders? Most of the times from an image, a documentary, a trip, comes the woman that will be the inspiration for the next collection. “She is not necessarily a fashionista, she is not always living” but she is always a woman defined by her mission, image and sense of style. His intent, mission and message are clear, he wants to “empower women with authenticity.”

 

FB - TO EMERGE YOU HAVE TO LEAD – What was the moment or the event that made you choose to move out on your own?

“I knew I had to work if I wanted to keep a roof over my head”, his honest and authentic way of being is the force that motivates him, and always did, from the moment he left his town for America, the land where “You can make your dreams come true, if you work hard”.

After years of designing for Halston and J. Mendel, he launched his eponymous line because he had a message he wanted the world to know. Although he knew he was never going to have the unlimited budget like when designing furs (“all you had to do was create the best, doesn’t matter how much it would cost”) with the strong support system of friends, colleagues and family that exhorted him it was time to design, the Bibhu woman was ready. Was he scared, thrilled, intimidated, excited? All of the above, FYI he would be drawing the sketches on the wall to be able to make all the changes before cutting the patterns. He is always been aware of the balance between commerce and creativity, he first majored in business, after all.

 

HERITAGE

E. Hughes: “What makes you special?”

B. Mohapatra: “My parents”

He told us of the moment his family accompanied him at the airport, first time traveler flying to America as a freshman. “You have to remember where you come from and be grateful, my father recommended. My story is authentic and it’s reflected in my craft.”

Culture defines us”, Eva Hughes suggested. That was the center topic of the conversation with Mohapatra and if there was one solid take-away, especially for the students, was the encouragement to “remain true to yourself. After I left, I held on to ideas, memories.”

 

FB - ARE YOU A ROMANTIC? The foundation of your collections is on evening wear in a world dominated by streetwear.

“Fashion has become fast, quick, but longevity is what I want to see in my clothes. The timelessness that gives my pieces longevity.” He is a designer known for his eveningwear, but with the new collection that will be presented February 2019 there will be an evolution with knitwear and separates that will serve as a transitional pieces from evening looks to daywear. Now don’t expect the white tee, I have heard that knits will be made in Italy, in other words, the Bibhu touch will keep the DNA alive.

 

FB - BALANCING ACT precious materials, vibrant colors and articulate garment construction is your heritage which you respect and honor in you collections. How do you balance heritage with cutting edge technology.

“Cutting edge doesn’t exist without heritage”

Think of what he said right here and realize how privileged.

 

FB - LUXURY IS A STATE OF MIND: you went from furs to evening wear to dressing our former First Lady to diamonds. Is the road to luxury a “sky is the limit” for you?

Again, he brings it down to extreme humbleness. His jewelry collaboration with De Beers and Forevermark sparked at a White House black tie event, after having designed an outfit for Michelle Obama’s first state visit to India. “I never worked with diamonds, but my mother always had a satchel with heirloom jewelry, those that are passed generation after generation. One day I asked to show it to me” and many of the pieces that belonged to his grandmother and great grandmother have been now reproduced in this new collaboration. He is interested in the process, whether it’s embroidery or diamonds and casting precious stones. He doesn’t deny that there will be a shoe line in the future, neither he confirms, but if there will be, it will be based on exquisite craftsmanship. New fresh crop of designers, take note: keep a constant curiosity for craft, learn the art, and when the moment of the collaboration comes, you’ll be ready.  

 

FB - MENTORING you have been nominated a SUPIMA mentor, beside empowering women with your designs, you give back to young and emerging students. “I enjoy supporting young talents, give them a hand” and he definitely has much experience and suggestions to give, but he also says “I take more from them, I learn as well.” And that is the best part of what he does. I was told the school visit in the morning was a wealth of information.

When empathy is at the base of your actions.

Mohapatra is that gratefulness whisperer.

 

Little that we knew, fashion icon Barbara Hulanicki, OBE was in the house and with Istituto Marangoni’s Director of Studies Massimo Casagrande, Ms. Hughes, Bibhu and husband Bobby Beard, we all ended up on the 6th floor balcony (because Miami) closing down the house, way after the cocktail was supposed to finish.

The conversation was already off-records, I didn’t take notes, but truly I should have (#notetoself for next time). If those planters could talk.

The 2018 Edition of the Miami Fashion Film Festival




September 20 through the 22 the Miami Fashion Film Festival celebrated its 6th edition with a series of lectures such as Beyond Biba, a portrait of Barbara Hulanicki in collaboration with the Miami Fashion Institute, documentaries such as The Gospel according to Andre Leon Talley and award ceremonies at the Miami Beach Cinematheque.

What’s the Miami Fashion Film Festival?

Bringing attention to the historical interdependence between art and fashion and its influences, the Miami Fashion Film Festival adds to the “fashion is art” narrative with local and international films that highlight fashion design through storytelling, graphics, sound, and motion, in real and digitally imagined environments. Fashion Inspires More in a non-profit organization that expands the fashion dialogue through art, technology and education.

I have been a member at large of the jury for two years and this time I was honored with introducing the 5 finalists that were Made in Italy.

There were some common elements that made them current and actual, despite being produced in different moments by different teams. A raw state of feelings: Love, fear, joy, youth, authenticity, uniqueness. Individuals with strong personalities spanning social, economic and cultural diverse realities, whether in an urban, suburban or natural setting, characters are real, living, working and doing wheelies. The runway is not anymore the glitzy set during fashion week, it blurs to the streets, the desert, the beach, the block where you grew up, the bus, the subway, the body shop, the backstage.

Fashion is a form of art.

And here I am quoting the book: “yes, I take Fashion seriously. Fashion is a loaded word. Fashion is dream, storytelling, a slow process, emotion, inspiration. Fashion is performance, a transmitted and decoded heritage.”

After watching these films, fashion comes across as that silent partner that accompanies other forms of art like dance, film making, painting, music, it’s the background, the contour that unifies craftsmanship, techniques, research, heritage, sartorial skills.

And here I am closing with a quote from esteemed New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman: “the whole point of fashion should be about giving people what they never knew they wanted - what they couldn’t imagine they wanted – until they saw it.”

Once again, I find myself empowered every time I am surrounded by fashion and women who inspire me to do more.


NYFW highlights

I tell you already: I still despise any form of ugly sneaker.

I am glad that athleisure has gone into extinction. I will not incorporate flip flops into the wardrobe, despite the Olsen twins endorsement and Copenhagen Fashion Week shenanigans.

Alexis Carrington power-dressing is the password for next spring.

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Ralph Lauren celebrated its 50th year in business, hard to imagine America’s fashion before Ralph. It was the event of the year, so good that even New Yorkers were impressed, showcased a first class and American (fashion) royalty of the likes of Hillary, Donna, Michael, Calvin, Carolina, Oprah, Pierce, Bruce.

Collections I loved.

The Row and Marc Jacobs, could they be more distant in esthetics? Yes, but they have one element in common: sartorial, one in an exuberant kind of way and one in the most understated way possible. And I’d wear both, not the flip flops though. #sorrynotsorry

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Savage x Fenty was the bomb, it celebrated women, their wholeness and diversity in the most inclusive way. To the point that model Slick Woods went down the runway in labor, look at this girl??? Victoria Secrets is a case of Bye Felicia.

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Sustainable collection not to keep under watch Mara Hoffman and the exquisite Gabriella Hearst.

Prairie dresses, Americana and cowboy boots still going strong. We shall see how long will it take for the Jaws T-shirt of the Calvin Klein’s collection to be duped. This look was fierce and it was quite the message in these moments of fear.

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Hedi Slimane's first bag for Celine

Hedi Slimane, newly appointed creative director of the French house Celine, has dropped the first bag he designed for the brand. Dropped is the new word/concept adopted in fashion lingo for what used to be presented or launched. In true Slimane fashion, the bag popped in the arms of Lady Gaga who toted it as a trophy in Paris.

Under the elm of Phoebe Philo, Slimane's predecessor, Celine became the Millennials cult brand: linear, French and influencer driven, relatively affordable, coveted, perennially knocked-off by the likes of fast-fashion bulldozer Zara. As much as Phoebe was Celine, it's likely that we can expect Hedi to do just Hedi, what he does best. His number one asset is his Hollywood-based cohort and the strategy in the 4 years at YSL procured stellar sales. 

What now?

As for the use of a diva like Gaga, where can it ever go, other than down? The girl is that talented that after retiring from music stardom, reinvented herself as actress, filmed her first movie that was selected at the Venice Film Festival and got a standing ovation at its screening wearing the most outstanding Valentino Couture pink feathered gown. Do I have to mention, her director is Bradley Cooper debuting in the role? In a place like Venice, where beauty is all around and everybody is gorgeous, these two surpass the human scale.

See what happened? An hyperbole in which the bag would already be forgotten if weren't that she made a statement with it, or several. This is statement bag marketing 101 like it was 2009 allover again. Watch it: after the red carpet teaser, a slightly different model will make its appearance on the runway during fashion month and then, in a matter of weeks it will pester ubiquitously all our Insta feeds. In case you hadn't noticed, it happened in July with the Dior Saddle bag. Although a corroborated formula that worked for Slimane, from a creative director of his caliber, the fashion cognizant were expecting something a bit more modern and aligned with the current state of affairs of an ever evolving fashion world. 

As a related note, these days have resurfaced many iconic images of the late Princess Diana with the recurrence of the accident that took her life 21 years ago. I couldn't help but wonder, there were no social media nor influencers and her looks in and out of the gym or the tennis court made quite the statement. For your eyes only.

I leave it to your judgement.

I am blunt, transparent and honest, usually it's what appreciated of me. I am easy with agreeing with disagreeing and hope, for the sake of the brand, that I will be made wrong by how things will evolve. 

Meanwhile, hold on to your original Celine pieces, shop in your closet, check on re-sale websites like The Real Real or your local consignment store which sounds much more Fashion Revolution-ary. 

Copenhagen Fashion Week, the minimalist Nordic Pitti with a twist

It's in the middle of the summer, when there used to be no fashion week on the horizon, but times have radically changed and Copenhagen has entered slowly but surely the calendar with a series of strong and up-and-coming Nordic designers and the creme de la creme of the fashion circus. The city has become the capital of sustainability and innovation with its Copenhagen Fashion Summit, also known as the Davos of fashion. Its fashion flora and fauna is flourishing, and shows knowledge and style.

Noticeable were the swathe of influencers, fashion shows, editors and the subsequent pictures flooding one’s Insta feed.

Think a minimalist northern Pitti with a twist, or, as per The Rake,  “flair, individuality and inventiveness”.

Scott Shuman reported the coolness, sheerness or “pretty with an underlying sense of challenging the norm.” In other words, bedroom dressing.

The highlights.

Men wore bandanas, twisted thin like they were in the Cote d’Azure in the 50s, and white tee shirts

Women wore sheer, revealing boudoir-inspired dresses. 

Fanny packs or die. 

 

The revival of the Havaianas: apparently Pernille Teisbeck wore them in Paris after Miu Miu because she had too many blisters and then she realized they were too comfortable not to keep wearing. My style heroine Sophie Fontanel has been wearing them religiously all summer long. Two women I admire for their style, wit and for being trend setters have launched and I personally hate them. Look, I’m all for high/low, contrast, borrow from the boys, flats, but the plastic flip flops I can’t seem to bring my eyes to be pleased with. I used to wear them all the time, right after a terrible accident, for wounds, therapy and stitches forced me to.

I look at the picture and think they have just left the beauty salon, nail polish still feeble on their toes. Also, if the influencers has set them and they became a trend, does it mean we have to follow? 

On a similar note, heels are relatively kitten-ish or architectural. No platforms, semi-platforms on sight. 

Sir Hardy Amies: 10 lessons I have learned

What happened.

In the last couple of weeks I finally watched Phantom Thread and coincidentally stumbled upon the autobiography of Sir Hardy Amies, a fashion institution of many facets, from couturier to the Queen to the man who pioneered the democratization of menswear and author of the ABC of Men’s Fashion.

Some more explanation. And coincidences.

Haute couture had just showed its marvels in Paris, after sharing an image of a Schiaparelli gown somebody told me that haute couture is “for old ladies” and this story how a millennial got himself closer to the world of couture.

Here’s what I learned. You can take notes, if we get one more couture lover it’s only extra good we do to the world, nothing bad will happen.

On style vs. chic

If you are still team chic.

On zippers.

“Few things bother me more than hearing the sound of a zipper closing in the final stages of a [theatrical] piece: usually, it comes from the bag of a woman whose intention is to communicate her husband that she wants to leave and get a taxi before anyone else.”

I mean, just in case you were a lover of bags with zippers, seriously.

 

On chocolate.

“I adore dark chocolate only with a sweet filling. If it were for me, I would ban milk chocolate illegal.”

I knew it. It all started when I was 12 and we spent a summer in Lausanne and I developed this sweet tooth for dark chocolate with raspberry filling. I must have been a couturier in one of my past lives.

 

On gold chains.

“It think it was Michael Roberts, the journalist, who defined the stacks of gold chains popular years ago ‘status identifier’. Personally, I don’t believe that gold chains enhance the status of a man, of any age.”

 

On gardening.

“I find all plastic [gardening] utensils utterly horrible, to the touch and to the sight.”

 

On working.

“Designing garments, since 1934, gave me the greatest pleasure”

(when you have a passion, stick to it, ignore the naysayers, jealous and detractors)

 

On tailoring.

“Tweed, first of all”

The sleeves in the jacket must be narrow

The waist is essential (this is something Oscar de la Renta always said)

For all the (single) ladies: “Often the ladies needed to be reminded not to wear jackets that fit too tight.”

And for all the men out there: ''I hate strapless bodices, for example, because any man looking at one thinks, 'How does she keep the thing up?' ''

“The simplest suits turned out to be the most successful.”

This makes all the sense, from a man who believed that “A man should look as if he bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.”

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On mini-skirts.

“It’s really minimal the number of women that look good in a miniskirt. Too many women have big knees. Let’s not forget that miniskirts are still around us: perfect to go dancing, when we are younger. Or go to the beach, for the less young.”

Shade.

 

On clothing.

“I love thinking at clothing as not something that is worn, but something that is used.”

 

On being a snob.

''Being a snob simply means that I think the top is the best.''

 

 

That time that Big Dick Energy rocked Miu Miu Croisiere 2019

 It's The Summer of Rage, says Rebecca Traister on The Cut, and white men are the minority, they feel threatened, challenged and uncertain. 

In times when we are happy to count calories (bathing suit test anyone?), carbs and BDE as in Big Dick Energy, it all makes total sense. 

BDE is a quiet confidence and ease with oneself that comes from knowing you have an enormous penis and you know what to do with it.
— The Cut

Good thing, you don't have to have a D to possess some BDE

I'm going to show you via the Miu Miu Cruise 2019 show that just happened in Paris how much BDE was in the room. Some show notes, first.

The show space designed by 6-time Academy Award nominated designer Sarah Greenwood (maj BDE crush) , bathed with infused light to emulate the twilight atmosphere known to cinematographers as the Golden Hour. The contrast between the cinematic set design, a Belle Epoque luxury hotel setting, and an ancient symbol of radical resistance (hello, la signora is living through these words) perfectly sets the stage for the Miu Miu collection.  

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Gwendoline Christie'

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Uma Thurman 

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Naomi Campbell

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Chloe Savigny 

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la signora

 

 

DIOR CRUISE 2019, WHERE FEMININE AND FEMINISM MET

There's never really a quiet time when you live by a fashion calendar, January is men, February is women, March is Couture, then we have awards and red carpets and then the cruises, those collections that were born to serve customers that used to hop on around the world cruises and needed those mid season novelties. 

Cruise collections are the best sold in the market these days, they are vivid and colorful, bold and big houses like Chanel, Dior and LV bring the fashion caravans of editors and stylists and magazine honchos in the most exclusive locations. 

Maria Grazia Chiuri has been at the helm of Christian Dior for a little less than 2 years, sent down the runway already 6 to 8 collections, not quite sure, the point here is that I was disappointed. Her first Dior collection was the equestrian, all white, what a contrast when at the same time we were under the Alessandro Michele's Gucci spell of all the colors all the shapes everything goes, add sparkles and Jared Leto.. 

After that it was a blur to me, all the same sameness, monochromatic tulle everything, logoed strings, the saddle bag revamped (John Galliano anyone?), kitten heels with bows and when the graphic T-shirt came out I shut down. It was the vulgarization of the codes of la Maison. When it comes to the fashion houses that have made the history of Fashion, whose head of the house had muses that inspired generations, they are venerable and almost untouchable to me. Leave LouLou de la Falaise to YSL, Valentino for the Radziwill sisters in Capri and there's no Hubert de Givenchy without Audrey.

Strange feeling for a liberal feminist as I am when the "we should all be feminist" graphic shirt didn't speak to me, while I had devoured and highlighted the entire book that Cecilia had bought at the local indie bookstore. She is a 50-something Italian woman leading a French house, what's wrong? 

Not interested. I thought it was a commercial choice, she had to resurrect the numbers, sell sell sell, she wanted to appeal to the Millennials, but why? these Millennials are making tabula rasa, too affordable, too available, here and now, too knock-off-able, why? The inspiration were all good, feminist, powerful, relevant, but somehow the final result wouldn't deliver.  You know how I am obsessed with reading the show notes or trying to grasp words from the press presentation in the backstage before the show, a collection for me is not complete if I don't know what's in the mind of the designer. 

Still, not interested.

Could it be that during fashion month there are other fashion shows happening almost simultaneously and I had more choice to go "next"? Whatevs, this Cruise was on Memorial Day Weekend, that is "get locked in, don't get out for the love of your life, plus there's a tropical storm coming" weekend in Miami. As my IG feed started trickling down images of women in a rodeo dressed in folk dresses, wearing cowboy boots and embroidered full skirts, and the models walking under the rain, something caught my attention. And it wasn't the fact that in Chantilly it was raining like in Miami, I still didn't feel in a castle, but all of a sudden the tulle was feminine yet the boots meant power, the Bar jacket suited with the long pleated skirt was fascinating and that raincoat in toile de Jouy. 

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One of the captions said Chiuri's  daughter was the catalyst of her inspiration, that made her a badass woking mom, yes please, go, Maria Grazia, go! you can do this! Apparently the teenager on the eve of her internship at Dior was intimidated and “had this idea that she wouldn’t be able to dress like herself – that there was some mould she had to fit,” says Chiuri. 

Women always feel they have to change themselves to get on in life. I wanted to show that there are so many different ways to be strong.
— Maria Grazia Chiuri

Very interested. 

Alexander Fury writes on AnOther: "the notion of the Amazon woman was something of an anathema to Dior – he wanted to dress women not as wartime Amazons but as flowers, he stated – but he did dedicate styles to the elegant notion of the Amazone, the French female horseback riders" and truly it reconciles with the Saddle bag and plenty of equestrian hints in the history of Dior, from Ferre to Galliano. 

Chiuri’s message was one of strident, strong femininity – motivated, militant, and free.
— A. Fury - AnOther

Could it be that finally feminine and feminism reconciled? There was power and feminine in the Bar jacket with the plissee asymmetrical skirt, the strength of the military boots was smoothened by the tulle, leather and lace would coexist under the trench coat. 

A week ago we saw a woman become the Duchess of Sussex, walk the aisle alone, wear a dress made by a woman for a woman, catapult the British Monarchy to the most modern and feminist version of itself. And now a woman putting down a show to show her daughter glass ceilings are there to be crashed.