A large world to travel

ASmallWorld (ASW), an exclusive invitation-only luxury travel website was recently re-launched with a new membership policy, where people can apply and a membership committee will review all the applications. Other than meeting like-minded people, members can also enjoy perks at top local and global travel, fashion, and lifestyle brands — like free hotel room upgrades, VIP amenities, and special deals.

Designer Bibhu Mohapatra walks the runway at his fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014 Pic/AFP

One such new special association to the site will be Odisha-born, globally-acclaimed designer Bibhu Mohapatra who speaks about his work, his home state and his love for travel.

How essential is travel for you creatively?
For me, travel comes after air and food. I love seeing new places, exploring new cultures, people and I creatively draw inspiration from these travels.

Recently, I went to Istanbul, found out this nice village on the road map, rented a house on the mountain where I would get the mountain and the sea breeze.

My Fall 2014 collection is also related to travel and culture. This capsule collection is inspired by falconry in Leh and Ladakh.

We don’t see you regularly on the fashion circuit in India. Are you currently working on any projects here?
I am working with the government of Odisha on a textile revival project. I visited five villages in the state and noticed that each village had its own different type of crafts and textile. Though there wasn’t anyone from the current generation keeping the craft alive. The co-operatives are doing a good job, but this isn’t enough.

It’s when I spoke with the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, who’s a friend; I started working with these craftsmen. It’s still in the development stage and once ready, I would want to market these textiles to designers all over the world.

Indian couture goes back to our roots and tradition. The textiles we are working on are different types of Ikat, Bandha work, Tussar silk, Jacquard and different blends of cotton. I am also working towards providing affordable coastal housing in the state which is frequently hit by natural calamities.

I am also in talks to create an exclusive collection with Mumbai’s Bungalow 8.  

ASW CEO Sabine Heller on the change in membership policy
When and why did you decide to change the application format of ASW? How will it help add to the benefits and the output of the company?
This was a recent decision. We want to ensure that we're not closing our doors to qualified people in local communities with few existing members. Improving our geographic distribution -- with particular emphasis on India -- means that our small world is there to welcome a member wherever he goes whether at home or abroad. We were also sympathetic to someone who might be the ideal member but who, due to his geography and our now smaller community, may not know an existing member to invite them in.

Sabine Heller, CEO, ASmallWorld
Sabine Heller, CEO, ASmallWorld

How dependent are luxury travellers on social network for their travel itineraries?
We believe ASW is replacing the travel guide. Most of our lives are somewhat unremarkable on a day-to-day level, and we travel to have experiences that are unusual and open ourselves up to surprise and serendipity. When doing that through a guidebook, that doesn't really happen because you lack that human element. Social media is now creating ways where people can find each other when they are travelling and get recommendations that are based on what other people like them suggest. Our focus is to give members a sense of belonging wherever they travel -- and to help them find those places to travel. 

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