In an interview earlier this week, Bibhu Mohapatra had zero to say about how Michelle Obama’s wearing one of his dresses on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” helped raise his profile. Then again, he had plenty of other benchmarks to talk about.
The 40-year-old designer is making fast tracks with his four-year-old, $1.5 million signature label. The search for his company’s first president has narrowed and a second round of financing for his business will soon be finalized. At his Feb. 13 runway show, models in his Man Ray-inspired pieces will also be displaying the geometric handbags he created with London-based Bracher Emden.
Back in India, where he was born, Mohapatra initiated the Odisha Handloom Textile Revival Project with help from the Indian government and nongovernmental organizations. Committed to rejuvenating the craft of ikat dyeing in Odisha, Mohapatra has already commissioned fabrics from artisan co-ops in five villages. He will return to Odisha in March to help roll out the project’s second phase. “Each village has its own craftspeople but the average worker is in their 60s. And most of the younger generation has moved on,” he said.
Accustomed to hectic workdays, Mohapatra is also talking with Taj Hotels about a potential collaboration. In 2014, he will design the costumes for the Glimmerglass Opera, but he “would really like to do a ballet.”
As soon as he graduated from the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Incubator, he tried to think long-range, leasing a 5,000-square-foot West 38th Street space “with room to grow.”
While seamstresses worked on his fall collection, Mohapatra said he was inspired by Man Ray’s photographs of Lee Miller and Nancy Cunard. “I like the responsibility of these women who had a very completely different mission than just being fashionable,” he said.
Although the designer earned a master’s degree in economics at Utah State University, he is looking forward to handing over the day-to-day responsibility of running his business.
But it is not as though he shirks hard work. While studying for his master’s, Mohapatra took art classes and worked 20 hours a week (the maximum time allowed for international students) in the only job he could find — a janitor.
After relocating to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, Mohapatra used a different kind of elbow grease to get his name out there. He printed out 30 copies of his résumé and went door-to-door at 550 and 500 Seventh Avenue leaving them with receptionists at the better-known fashion companies. “I was literally in the lobby writing down the floors of different designers. I went to each floor and dropped them off like Chinese food menus. Some people were cool and some looked at me and said, ‘You don’t do that.’”
His perseverance paid off with a job at Halston, where Frank Tignino put him through the paces. A year later, he started an eight-year run at J.Mendel before venturing out on his own. With the support of key retailers and 25 private clients, Mohapatra’s business is gaining steam. But he walks with measured steps, noting that every morning as he passes by the Fashion Incubator he checks his watch and looks up to see whose light is already on. “For me, each of those steps has mattered. I am happy to see people working hard. I want to be supportive. Look, many people have been very kind to me.”
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion