Bibhu Mohapatra designs clothing with assiduous attention to detail. With just two seasons under his belt (he unveiled his Spring 2010 Collection last Monday), one would be hardpressed to believe this was only the designer’s second namesake collection.
“Fall is a juxtaposition of opposites where form follows function,” said the Indian-born Mohapatra, “Meaning the tailored and the draped, the hard and the soft, the light and the dark, and the masculine and feminine.”
Wares from his luxe fall collection range from body skimming shift dresses with boning and exposed zippers to coats and dresses comprised of hand loomed peacock feathers with imperial blue edging. “The royals and monarchs in India used these feathers in their clothes hundreds of years ago, and it takes months to make,” the designer said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
If fur is what you’re after this winter, look no further. The designer’s ample selection includes an oversized black mink vest, a wool vest with gold buttons and a fur collar, a gray mink coat, and an outrageous leather motorcycle jacket with a navy dyed fin raccoon collar. There is also the Samurai dress, comprised of a charcoal wool bodice, a bell-shaped skirt with a wool gauze hem, and a sharp edged double layer patent belt. Not too shabby for a first collection.
Mohapatra had three very different inspirations for said collection: a trip to London, lady-about-town and newfound perfumer Daphne Guinness, and German-French painter Hans Hartung.
“I was traveling in London last summer and I went to all the museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum spoke to me in particular- the 16th and 17th century Japanese warrior costumes were so beautiful and decorative. They were made out of metal, leather, silk, cotton, iron, gold, and silver- everything is there to protect the warrior,” Mohapatra, holding up a lacquered wool coat, explained. “It’s like armor to guard your body. It fits very comfortably and close to the body. It also has decorative details like buttons made of pyrite and a silk and satin lining. This whole coat was done in one piece- the engineering of it is interesting.”
Mohapatra’s extreme attention to specifics and knowledge of construction can be credited to the nine years he spent at J. Mendel, rising from assistant designer to design director, a post he held for the last five of those years. While still a student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Mohapatra interned and later worked at Halston. Ever the dedicated apprentice, he was offered a job at the fashion house while still in school and worked after school and on weekends through graduation. Surprisingly, when Mohapatra relocated to the United States in 1995, it was to pursue a master’s degree in economics at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. Needless to say, he veered away from his original path of study and began taking art and design classes to prepare to move to New York and immerse himself in the world of fashion.
With an industry climate currently resembling a sartorial minefield, it’s harder than ever for both new designers and seasoned talents trying to make it on their own. Talent and beautiful clothing aside, Mohapatra has an understanding of the woman he is designing for and a firm grasp of what’s going on in the world around him.
“It’s about being real and being in real situations. We are going through a rough time and everyone is anxious,” the designer said. “These are clothes for the tough times and have a life that’s more than just one season. For me, every piece needed to have a purpose.”
Photos: Mark Iantosca