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.”
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)