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.”
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews
@prada is introducing a new project at its men’s fall 2018 show this Sunday: “Prada Invites.” The fashion house invited four celebrated creative minds – @ronanaerwanbouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, @herzogdemeuron and @rem.koolhaas – to each create a unique item with its iconic nylon material. The designs will be unveiled on the runway show, which will take place at the company’s warehouse in Viale Ortles 25. #wwdfashion #mfwm (📷: @martinocarrera)
@kering_official is spinning off its stake in puma in an effort to focus on its luxury brands, the brand operator announced yesterday. “We are proud to have supported the turnaround of Puma, which now has unrivaled capabilities to take full advantage of the specific dynamics of its global markets and is poised to achieve substantial growth,” said François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chief executive officer and chairman. Artémis will become a “long-term strategic shareholder” of Puma with a 29 percent stake. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
The fashion world mourns for celebrated street style photographer, Nabile Quenum, who died at age 32 in Paris.
Quenum, creator of the fashion blog “J’ai Perdu Ma Veste,” was a fashion week fixture, and regularly shot for New York magazine’s The Cut, among other outlets, and brands such as Louis Vuitton, Moncler and Adidas. He was also actively involved in the #NoFreePhotos initiative, which kicked off in the fall. Read more about Quenum in @kbsmoke's story on WWD.com. #wwdnews
@verwanggang and @maisonladuree have teamed up on a dessert collab called Vera Wang Pour Ladurée. The collection, which launched this week, features a specialty macaroon, as well as a wedding cake inspired by one of the designer’s gowns. “I could not imagine a more delicate or sophisticated creation to grace any couple’s celebration,” said Wang. #wwdfashion