By Zainab Koli
In a land far far away, in a special exhibition at The Museum at FIT, there is a world where fairy tales come to life. This “Fairy Tale Fashion” exhibit, organized by associate curator Colleen Hill and on display until April 16, 2016, draws a connection between the magical gowns that grace the runway and classical fairy tales. Taking inspiration from early versions of 15 fairy tales by prominent writers such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, the collection features over 80 designs that illustrate characters from these tales. The designs date from the 18th century to the present day, highlighting exceptional 21st century designers including Dolce and Gabbana, Giles, Marchesa, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Rodarte, and many others. Some of the designs are directly inspired by their respective fables, while others can be linked by their representation of key motifs from the stories.
Included in the exhibition are two extraordinary Indian designers: Manish Arora and Bibhu Mohapatra.
Manish Arora’s bright blue mini dress was directly inspired by Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film. The dress is adorned with playing cards and paired with harlequin tights and a rabbit head, referencing the Queen of Hearts and her playing-card army. The theatricality of the design is characteristic of all of Arora’s designs, allowing them to stand out both in India, where he is based, and internationally (wherever he has represented India) in London, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Miami. He has collaborated with various well-known international brands including Reebok, MAC cosmetics, and Swatch.
Bibhu Mohapatra, an FIT alum himself, is featured for his breathtaking white evening gown. In the exhibition, it is linked to a lesser known fable by Brothers Grimm called “Furrypelts,” in which the princess asks for three dresses that look like the sun, the moon, and the stars. The creamy-white color of the gown and its shimmering silver circular detailing draws a resemblance to the surface of the moon, and has thus been included as an interpretation for one of the princess’ dresses. Mohapatra’s designs all exude this feminine elegance and have been seen on numerous celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o, and even Michelle Obama on her trip to India. Although Mohapatra is based in New York City, his connection to India is still strong. He derives a lot of inspiration for his collections from his motherland and has plans for collaboration projects to finally have an official presence in India.