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First Lady Michelle Obama's designer at SCAD this week

Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett and Hillary Swank have something in common. Actually they have someone in common: Bibhu Mohapatra.

The designer will appear Thursday as part of the Savannah College of Art and Design's 2013 SCAD Style program, first at a a free panel discussion at 6 p.m. at SCAD Atlanta and then at a solo appearance at 7 p.m. The events are free and open to the public.

"Inspired by the sumptuous fabrics and vibrant colors of his native India, Mohapatra is known for his innovative garment construction, attention to detail and exquisite, richly developed surfaces," SCAD said in a statement. "This presentation highlights the diverse use of color, pattern, texture and embellishment seen in Mohapatra's ready-to-wear dresses, elegant cocktail dresses and glamorous evening gowns."

His appearance, at Gallery 1600 at  SCAD Atlanta's main campus at 1600 Peachtree St., is free and open to the public.

We  spoke with Mohapatra by phone about both his celebrity clients and his advice to aspiring young designers.

"In the last 10 years fashion design as a business has had a lot of exposure," he said. "A lot more young people are actually hoping for that as a career option. Growing up in India people didn't think one could actually make a living by being a fashion designer and that it was only possible in a faraway Western country. It was a very difficult path."

His hard work, clearly, has paid off. His message to others who wish to follow in his successful footsteps: give it your all, and then some

"You have to make sure you are 200 percent passionate about it," he said. "If you do a great collection you have to really work hard and believe in yourself. You will not always meet people who will tap you on the back and say 'good job, good job.'"

As simple as it sounds, Mohapatra also advises young designers to just be pleasant.

"This industry isn't always known for kindness," he said. "If you are nice it does not go unnoticed."

Celebrities such as Glenn Close come to him for fittings but others work through stylists. He hasn't yet met Mrs. Obama, shown here in one of creations, but admires her sense of style."

"Dressing Michelle Obama is super exciting," Mohapatra said. "She's amazing. Her eye for detail, how she can see herself and know exactly what looks good on her."

He hasn't met Jolie, either, but did work personally with Selma Hayek.

"She's a riot," he said.

His advice to everyday women interested in a little red-carpet glam?

"Invest in key pieces," he said. "Always look at your wardrobe. Spend some time with what you have. Edit. Eliminate. Before spending any money investigate how you're going to find multiple looks out of it. Overall, understanding your own style and dressing accordingly is the key. And smile. That's the best look."

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