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Designer Bibhu Mohapatra Suggests A Remedy For Fashion's Diversity Problem

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Julee Wilson

Tackling the diversity issue within the fashion and beauty industry has largely been focused on injecting more color on the runway and into the images we see every day through ads, campaigns and commercials. But in order to see the type of change we desire, the spirit of inclusion needs to extend to positions of power -- the people making the decisions when it comes to this forward-facing imagery. 

This was a point made by fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra on Monday night at the "Pratt Presents: Diversity In Design" and Steelcase panel discussion in New York City (which also featured luminaries in the world of product design, architecture and tech innovations -- including Lou Switzer, CEO of the Switzer Group; Eddie Opara, partner at Pentagram; and Erica Eden, director of global design innovation at PepsiCo.).

Mohapatra, who is a native of India, acknowledged that there is a a void in proportionate representation of designers of color.  

"I think there's still a lot of work that has to be done. Not only on the high level as actual established fashion designers, but getting students into this country and making it easier for them to bring their cultural heritage when they come."

 For this particular discussion, which was moderated by Fact Company's senior associate editor J.J. McCorvey, the topic of diversity extended beyond race and touched upon gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status as well. Mohapatra joined the chorus of fashion notables like Bethann Hardison and Robin Givhan, who are speaking up about fashion's lack of color. 

"There are multiple reasons for this -- one, fashion design still is a less exposed field as a viable profession in many cultures," Mohapatra told The Huffington Post after the panel discussion. "However this is changing fast and more and more international students are getting into the field and embarking on their careers in fashion. Awareness and exposure is the ultimate remedy for lack of diversity in any field."

 Mentorship is another avenue that the New York City-based designer says will make a difference. "I make it a priority to support young designers if they represent any minority groups. I help them as much as I can by sharing my experiences and connections with them."

To hear more about Pratt's commitment to diversity head over to their website. 

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