RUBINA’S RADAR | FROM RED SOLED LOUBOUTINS IN NEW YORK TO THE CANNES RED CARPET IN THE FRENCH RIVIERA

RUBINA’S RADAR 

Fashion’s boldest bodies and brains know how to work the fiery haute month of May, especially on the French Riviera. The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France is on fire, the summer temperatures notwithstanding, with beautiful and glamorous women walking the red carpet in breathtaking couture and bespoke jewels at the world’s biggest playground for photo-ops. Cannes is truly all about women, with men in tuxes running behind them, holding up their dresses and patting and settling them down to picture perfection. And what’s the most photographed fashion parade in the world without a wardrobe malfunction, inadvertent or otherwise? Day one saw Bella Hadid in a champagne Alexandre Vauthier gown with an underwear flash that was blinding. Eating an icecream cone in the gown after her red carpet strut, cemented Hadid’s nonchalance at the gaffe, that seemed more designed, than accidental. The red silk “barely there” gown, by Vauthier again, that she carried off so elegantly on the red carpet last year, clung on to her like second skin, with no slip up. That’s the reason Hadid stole the show primarily because nothing happened to the dress that everyone thought, or was hoping rather, would fall off her, and it pushed the fledgling model’s career forward the way it was orchestrated to. Just like this year’s “malfunction”.

Bollywood’s most poised actor, Deepika Padukone made an absolutely stunning debut at Cannes this year as part of L’oreal’s international glam girl squad. On opening gala night, Padukone looked fresh and completely at ease as she worked the red carpet statuesquely in a jewel-toned Marchesa gown with a seductive glimpse of her derrière and legs through the sheer of the fabric, for the screening of Ismael’s Ghosts (Les Fantomes d’Ismael). The following day, she wore a dark green Brandon Maxwell one-shoulder gown with a thigh-high slit for Loveless (Nelyubov) and Wonderstruck. With bold green eye makeup, green velvet heels, and her hair in an updo, it was impossible not to love her chic style, despite being head-to-toe in one solid colour.

Cannes’ most beautiful habit for the last fifteen years, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan seems to have gotten her fashion game on this time around. She pleased everyone, well almost, as she walked the red carpet in an icy blue Michael Cinco ball gown from his Impalpable Dream of Versailles collection, looking effortlessly flawless! But interestingly, about two weeks ago, Cinco, a Dubai based designer with an atelier in the Dubai Design District, was in fittings with the Swarovski heiress and singer, Victoria Swarovski for the same dress in the exact same colour, so it wasn’t exactly a couture debut on the Bollywood star. Though, Bachchan took Cinco’s creation from mere princess level to Disney queen, if there ever was one in the fairytale kingdom of dreams. Her daughter Aaradhya must have loved seeing her looking like a beautiful Elsa in the ball gown. Bachchan was definitely in a royal state of mind given her wardrobe choices thereafter, with her engine red Ralph & Russo gown on day four of the fest. It was just another red dress with frills and stones, with a clumsy fit on the sides, sans any custom couture attributes, aside from the famous face wearing it.

While in New York, Fern Mallis the award-winning creator and organiser of New York Fashion Week and now a Director of the Fashion Institute of Technology Foundation, interviewed Paris based shoe designer, Christian Louboutin. The conversation took place at the prestigious 92nd Street Y on Wednesday, May 17th, for her Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis ticketed series. Needless to add, it was a sold out event that was live streamed as it always is, for those who want to listen in. This conversation will undoubtedly find its place in Mallis’ second edition of her first book, Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, published by Rizzoli in April 2015. It was a marvellous interaction between Mallis and the shoes designer of Egyptian and Lebanese descent, wherein he talked about his soul, and his famous red soles.

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Christian Louboutin and Fern Mallis | Photo: Michael Priest Photography

Expelled from school at age 16, Louboutin went to work as an intern at the famed Parisian cabaret Folies Bergère and did odd jobs for the dancers, but the one that fulfilled his dream was making shoes for them, he told Mallis. “I was all about shoes; I was not about fashion. I had cinema and music but not fashion. When I first started I wanted to design shoes for showgirls. But it was a very good way to learn about shoes because for showgirls, they’re very important. They have very little costumes in general, so shoes are a strength, a weapon, a posture,” he said. He was curious why all the dancers ate veal carpaccio, and he was told by them, “You’re so stupid. We’re not eating it. We’re putting it in the shoes,” rolling it up for cushioning, explained Louboutin.

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Christian Louboutin and Fern Mallis | Photo: Michael Priest Photography

At 18, an interview at Christian Dior led him to an internship with Charles Jourdan in the early 80s, wherein he learnt about the business of shoes, followed by design stints at Yves St Laurent, Chanel and Maud Frizon. Along with two of his friends, he opened the first store in Paris in October 1991, with $150,000, including the price of the lease. Louboutin found the inspiration for his trademark red soles in 1993 in red nail paint. The inspiration he describes as “a courtesan living out her life in a circus” turned his surrealistically beautiful shoes into an international success story. Known for his sky-high heels, he thinks flat shoes can be sexy, as proven by the legendary French actress Brigitte Bardot. He went on to tell Mallis that his “Love” flats were created after he saw a photo of Prince Charles staring at Princess Diana’s size 42 shoes.

Today Louboutin also has his own beauty line of nail polishes and lipsticks. “You have to give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The red sole, which is my trademark and a sign of my ambition, started with the nail polish. It’s nice to remember in your flesh exactly where you started,” he said.

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©Rubina A Khan 2017

From Couture To Carats, Bibhu Mohapatra Designs His First Jewelry Line, Artemis For Forevermark India

Each season, New York based, Indian fashion designer, Bibhu Mohapatra’s collections play out a new, olde world story on the runway, a historical throwback to some of the most fascinating men and women that ever lived, and this year is no different.

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       Fern Mallis with fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra 

Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a journalist and photographer in Europe during the 30s fueled his Bauhaus inspired SS 16 line and the audacious Empress Dowager Cixi, a concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, who went on to become a ruler of the Chinese Qing dynasty, his Fall RTW16 collection with dominant hues of red, at New York Fashion Week in February this year. He couldn’t be more paradoxical in his design approach, elegantly consummating the past with the contemporary, with the visual flourish of an artist. What made him embody the spirit of Empress Dowager Cixi in his collection this time around? “Courage and confidence are the two qualities that I admire the most in people. My muses always have these qualities in common and Empress Cixi was a dreamer. With her focus and perseverance, she went from being a young concubine to a ruler of the Chinese empire for half a century. My clothes, inspired by her, are meant to bring out those qualities in women and empower them,” said Mohapatra of his current muse.

Mohapatra is not the biggest name in the fashion business, yet, or the go-to designer for the coveted Met Gala or the Cannes red carpet photo-ops, but his designs are worn by some of the most influential and ingenious women in the world – the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Priyanka Chopra, New York Fashion Week creator, Fern Mallis and the stunning model du jour, Kendall Jenner. It is an incredible triumph for his young eponymous fashion label that launched its first collection in Fall 2009.

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Kendall Jenner in a Bibhu Mohapatra outfit (2015) Picture Credit Unknown 

From dreaming up fashion runways in his hometown Rourkela, in Odisha, India, to designing for Halston and J Mendel, his Economics degree from Utah turning fashionably expendable in the interim, to settling down in New York with his own atelier in the Garment District, Mohapatra’s heart is “most humbled and gratified” with the distinguished set wearing his designs. Interestingly, it was fashion connoisseur Fern Mallis and author of Fashion Lives – Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis, who suggested his name to Michelle Obama’s stylist when they were exploring young, new designers, making the initial connection for Mohapatra, and that’s how the most famous woman in the free world came to wearing, and loving his designs. “I love Fern! She is one of my closest friends and a huge supporter,” said Mohapatra, who recently launched a jewelry line, his first, in collaboration with Forevermark India called Artemis in Mumbai.

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A piece from Bibhu Mohapatra’s Artemis line

Mohapatra is ecstatic about this new creative dimension his design sense is roused by. He finds designing for both, couture and carats, “very different, with the only similarity designing for both being the ultimate target consumer who wants the same finesse, style and quality in the fine jewellery that is intrinsic to the garments I design. I have always dreamt of working with diamonds and designing a fine jewellery collection and this collaboration came about from a casual meet and greet with the Forevermark team in India about two years ago. So, before I actually got around to discussing this opportunity with the Forevermark team, I was reassured by the brand about the responsible sourcing of its diamonds, which was one of the most important and key deciding factors for our collaboration. It took more than a year to put the Artemis collection together and we have about 35 pieces in all and the collection is growing.”

Is the Artemis line an extension of his creative pursuits as a women’s wear designer? “Artemis is an extension of my brand as a lifestyle brand. When I had my first meeting with the Forevermark team, it became apparent to me that not only will I get to work with the finest of diamonds to create some unique pieces, but I will also get the opportunity to create something that will be available to a broader clientele, rather than just to a select few. Artemis is a collection of iconic pieces that are eternal. The sun, the moon and the stars play a powerful role in our lives and our loves and all creations in the world. For over 5,000 years, Vedic Astrology has provided a method of understanding the compatibility of couples. I have combined the forms and phases of the sun, moon and the stars to create a sensual, romantic line that brilliantly comes to life in the Artemis collection. The different shades of gold represent the sun, the moon and the stars and the Forevermark diamond at the heart of this collection embodies all the closely held secrets of the universe. The muse of this collection is someone who is well exposed to the world and appreciates the craft of fine jewelry and believes that these pieces are not merely for decoration; but that they represent a state of lives together.”

There is almost always a celebratory female power, barring the odd male, in the characters Mohapatra picks out from historical archives for his mood board that resonate in his arresting, structured designs that stems from a deeply personal, feminine chord. “I have been shaped by women in my life, namely my (late) mother and my sister. My mother gave me everything I have today. She not only taught me how to sew, but she instilled the design sensibility in me. My sister indulged me by wearing my hand-stitched designs at home, but it was a gold jacquard top with a pale yellow chiffon skirt that she wore out at a function that got people talking and gave me the feeling that I was doing something right. I was so proud of my tailoring in that outfit. My sister has refined taste and she only wears select pieces of mine that suit her lifestyle. I am always inspired by women, not only professionally and creatively, but also personally,” said Mohapatra, who likes to describe himself as an “emotional designer”. “I call myself an emotional designer because I see clothes as tools to improve and empower the lives of the wearers by providing them with confidence. I am inspired by real people and deeply moved by their stories. The stories that shape the character of a person become my key sources wherein I draw my references from whilst working. Sketching and designing are both emotional processes for me.” If he had no creative or financial restraints and were asked to run free with his imagination to create a spectacular dress, who would he make it for and how expensive would it be? “Well, it would have to be for someone really special and the value would be priceless.”

Mohapatra is the only Indian designer based in the United States with an atelier in New York’s Garment District, an enviable international clientele, and stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford in China retailing his designs, but he does not have flagship stores in India or anywhere around the world, yet. “It’s in the pipeline. It’s my dream to open my first store in New York. All good things take time,” says Mohapatra, who desires “to be present in many parts of the world, touching as many lives as I can with my clothes, jewellery and other products.” Given that he loves cooking and traveling his “two passions after designing”, he could very well expand his brand into a home and living line soon.

The designer finds the fashion sensibility of the Middle East “incredibly refined and interesting”. Will the Artemis line retail in Dubai soon? “We just launched in India and our focus will be the Indian market for now. Dubai is a great city and the women there have such a definitive style. We will definitely look at launching Artemis in the Middle East in the future.”

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 25 May, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Disclaimer: Kendall Jenner’s picture is from an unknown source on Google. If you own this picture, we’ll be happy to rightfully credit it to you. 

Award Winning Creator & Organizer Of New York Fashion Week, Fern Mallis, With Her First Book, Fashion Lives – Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis

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Fern Mallis | Mumbai

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Fern Mallis | Mumbai

Fern Mallis | Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015